Nairobi - Kenya's eight presidential candidates were
challenged on tough issues like land reform and corruption Monday in the final
round of the country's first ever face-to-face debate ahead of elections next
The poll comes five years after the last vote in 2007-8
ended in bloody violence that claimed at least 1 100 lives and displaced
hundreds of thousands of people.
While two main candidates - Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga
- dominate the race for the March 4 election, all the hopefuls have potential
influence, especially if voting goes to a second round run-off.
Kenyatta, the deputy prime minister and son of Kenya's
founding president, faces trial with his running mate William Ruto at the
International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged roles in orchestrating
murder, rape and violence after the 2007 poll.
On Monday, Kenyatta, Odinga and the remaining six candidates
were grilled in a sometimes emotive debate on the economy, labour laws and land
reform - key issues that affect the daily lives of Kenyans.
Land, a cause of bloody ethnic confrontations in the
country's volatile coastal region and the expansive Rift Valley, elicited the
Kenyatta's family is one of Kenya's largest landowners - up
to 500 000 according to rights groups.
He insisted on Monday that all was acquired legally.
"Nobody has ever pointed out and said I have been
involved in improperly acquiring land. What we as a family have, has been acquired
on a willing buyer willing seller basis," said Kenyatta.
Past economic scams
He declined to divulge exactly how much land the family
owned overall, but said it amounted to at least 30 000 acres in Kenya's coastal
"You cannot allow a hyena to protect your goats,"
challenger Odinga quipped in response.
The other contenders are Martha Karua, Peter Kenneth, James
Ole Kiyapi, Paul Muite, Musalia Mudavadi and high school teacher Mohamed Abduba
All candidates were quizzed on past economic scams and said
they had either never been charged or had been cleared by official
Kenyans head to the polls next Monday to elect their
president and other senior representatives including a governor, a senator,
county representatives and members of parliament.
The first round of the historic face-to-face debates were
held two weeks ago.
In a joint rally on Sunday, Kenyatta and Odinga, who claims
he was robbed of victory in the 2007 vote, called for peaceful elections this
Odinga was on the other side of the political divide five
years ago and escaped indictment by the ICC, but a minister and a journalist
who supported him also face charges of crimes against humanity.