Susan Kihika skips gubernatorial debate

Nakuru Governor candidates from Left Elijah Chege(Independent), Lee Kimyanjui(Jubilee),Dr Stanley Karanja(Independent) ,Mr James Kiarie Mungai(Independent) and Mr Munyua Waiyaki (Independent) during the debate at the Midlands Hotel in Nakuru City.

Photo credit: Eric Matara | Nation Media Group

Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, who is seeking to unseat Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, on Sunday skipped a gubernatorial debate that was held at Midlands Hotel in Nakuru city.

Senator Kihika, who was supposed to share a podium with five other candidates, was conspicuously missing from the event organised by members of civil society.

His fiercest opponent, Governor Kinyanjui (Jubilee), James Mungai (independent), Munyua Waiyaki (independent), Elijah Chege (independent) and Dr Stanley Karanja (independent) took part in the debate.

The debate that aired live on KTN was organised by the Midrift Hurinet Centre for Enhancing Democracy and Good Governance, Centre for Transformational Leadership and Amnesty International Kenya.

Ms Kihika’s absence raised eyebrows, prompting her to explain on her social media pages why she snubbed the event.

She wrote that she had opted to attend a meeting with over 4,000 Nakuru County residents instead. 

"Between a prior commitment of a meeting of 4,000 people of Nakuru and a gubernatorial debate, I made my choice to be with the people!" she stated. 

The other five candidates used the Sunday evening event to sell their agenda to the electorate.

They engaged one another in arguments devoid of name-calling and personal attacks.

They were questioned on their manifestos and what they intend to do to address water, sanitation, infrastructure and city planning challenges.

Revenue collection, security, health, agriculture, Nakuru city management, debt, foreign trips and infrastructure dominated the debate.

Asked how they intend to increase their own sources of revenue, Mr Kinyanjui said the county seeks to take advantage of its rich tourism base, evergreen agricultural sector, geothermal energy generation, real estate and infrastructure to double its revenues.

The county has also initiated discussions with the Senate and State departments as it seeks to benefit from some of its abundant resources, including geothermal energy, agriculture cess from cut flowers, tourism and forestry.

"In my second term, I will seek to bolster and create a robust revenue base, which in a period of five years, between 2013-2017, was Sh40.9 billion cumulatively against a target of Sh44.5 billion,” Mr Kinyanjui said.

“We want to use information, communication and technology and integrate all own-revenue sources such as taxes, user fees and licences to ensure compliance.”

Mr Kinyanjui said the Nakuru County Revenue Authority had been established in an ambitious bid to increase its local revenue collection to at least Sh4 billion annually, up from about Sh2 billion.

Through the body similar to the national government's Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Nakuru wants to bolster and double its own revenue base and reduce over-reliance on the national government’s equitable share and other grants.

Nakuru County, home to Africa’s largest geothermal power plants in Olkaria in Naivasha and Menengai, near Nakuru City, is banking on steam power to drive its economy and support its revenue base.

The other candidates also seemed to read from the same script when asked how they would maximise revenue collection.

They agreed that automation of tax collection would help raise collections, as would stopping pilferage of funds.

But they claimed Governor Kinyanjui has not done enough to maximise revenue collection.

The issue of insecurity in Nakuru also emerged during the debate, with most of the candidates blaming the vice on unemployment and drug and substance use.

All the candidates promised to prioritise security matters to tame the resurgence of gangs.

"Why are criminal gangs thriving in Nakuru? It is because of unemployment, and they also receive support from some politicians who protect them,” said Dr Karanja.

“I urge Nakuru residents not to elect such leaders who protect gangs. My administration will prioritise the issue of security by ensuring youth have employment opportunities."

For his part, Mr Chege also blamed insecurity on lack of opportunities, especially for the youth.

"Insecurity is brought about by denying people opportunities. Let us give people resources and they will not engage in crime," Mr Chege said.

On health, Mr Chege promised to make Nakuru a medical tourism centre.

"Our patients do not need to go outside the country to receive treatment. I will make Nakuru a medical tourism hub, through infrastructure, employment of enough medics and drugs for our hospitals," he said.

Mr Mungai assured Nakuru residents that his administration would give health priority.

"I will ensure medics are paid on time. I will also employ enough medics and improve their salaries by making them permanent and pensionable," said Mr Mungai.

The issue of Nakuru city management also came up, with Mr Chege training his guns on Mr Kinyanjui over what he said is poor management.

"Why has the current administration introduced pedestrian walkways in Nakuru city and replaced parking lots. I do not find that prudent because it is limiting revenue collection," said Mr Chege.

However, Mr Kinyanjui was quick to defend the decision, saying he intends to make Nakuru a world-class city, well-planned and decongested.

Mr Chege promised to involve residents in critical matters like budget-making.

"Public participation will be part of my leadership. Governor Kinyanjui has not given it the seriousness it deserves," he said.

Mr Chege, Dr Karanja, Mr Mungai and Mr Munyua all promised to ensure equal distribution of resources and promote peaceful coexistence in the cosmopolitan county.

Other issues discussed were unemployment, agriculture and licence fees.

On the issue of creating pro-business and economic growth policies for the county, the candidates affirmed their commitment to making available a conducive environment for large industries and small traders, by providing the required facilities.

"I will encourage trade. My administration will put in place policies that will attract investors and reduce the cost of doing business. Essentially, I will provide a good environment for trade to thrive,” said Dr Karanja.

But Mr Mungai was at pains to explain why he was an 'absentee' senator and how he intends to clear the tag of absenteeism.

"My political opponents claimed I was an absentee senator. But there were three other senators from Nakuru in the Senate, all nominated. So most of the time I was out doing government work abroad. In my absence, they addressed any issues," Mr Mungai said.

"However, since 2017, I have been interacting with residents of Nakuru and I know and understand their needs," he added.


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