The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Coast University Dons Quit Their Lecture Halls to Run for County Top Jobs

Several Coast scholars have quit their jobs to contest for various political posts in the coming general elections. Their entry, in a political arena perceived to be run by leaders most of whom are semi-literate, is a phenomenon that will be watched keenly.

In Kilifi county, Prof Gabriel Katana quit his job at the Pwani University College, a constituent college of Kenyatta University to contest for the governorship. He is facing Immigration assistant minister Francis Baya, Fisheries minister Amason Kingi among other politicians.

Katana, who served as registrar at Kenyatta University before he was transfered to Pwani University as the college principal says time has come for the local scholars to give elective leadership a shot and change the situation on the ground.

"Kilifi county has vast resources that need (to be managed) by an educated workforce to benefit the residents fully. We need leaders who will give education a priority and make it mandatory for all form four graduates to pursue post-secondary education," he said.

The scholar said reviving industries in the county, resolving land problems and improving agriculture in the region, will be among his top priorities if he is elected governor.

Katana, who took over the reins of Coast-based Kaddu-Asili party from Baya, has been criss-crossing the vast county wooing voters. He accuses the current leadership of failing to assist needy but bright students in the county.

"It is sad to note that students are frequently sent home for school fees and other levies yet there is the Constituency Development Fund to assist them. This assistance should be made available to all so that we turn the fortunes of this area through developing human-resource," he said in Rabai recently.

But Baya, a former provincial commissioner and ambassador to India, defended the local leaders saying they had tried to increase the transitional rate from primary to secondary school to 70 per cent up from 40 per cent.

"The transition rate from primary to secondary in Ganze alone has risen from 40 per cent to 70 per cent in the last four years. This was after the establishment of 17 secondary schools that have absorbed the students who have also been benefiting from CDF bursaries apart from our own resources," he said.

In Taita-Taveta county, Elijah Mwandoe quit a lecturing job at the Taita/Taveta campus of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology to joing a crowded race for the county's governorship.

The contest has attracted a number of heavyweights who are mostly technocrats. Mwandoe, a geo-physics expert will square it out with former Central Bank deputy governor Jacinta Mwatela, former Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited general manager John Mrutu, former PS Mwinyingali Ngali and former Kakamega East DC Wisdom Mwamburi.

Mwandoe, who has been to several universities in the world including Italy's University of Rome, says what inspired him to vie for the seat is the fact that the county has vast mineral deposits that have not been fully exploited since the leaders have no knowledge about minerals.

"I feel that being a consultant in geology, I am best-placed for the position because it involves resource planning and development. This being a mineral-rich zone, my expertise will come in handy to turn the region's economy around," he said.

Among the mineral deposits in the county are gemstones, iron ore, limestone, tanzanite and sand. The southern county of Kwale has Kassim Riga, formerly a lecturer at the Mombasa Polytechnic University College.

He has declared interest in the governorship. He faces stiff competition from seasoned politicians. Riga says education will be on top of his priorities as the county has the highest level of illiteracy in the Coast region.

He faces former Kinango MP and Kenya Ports Authority managing director Simeon Mkallah, former Forestry and Wildlife PS Mohammed Mwachai and NGO director Michael Nyanje Chidzao.

"As we hit the road, we need to encourage residents to embrace education because that is the only way we are going to manage our mineral resources, tourism and agricultural fortunes in the county. Kwale has abundant resources that need good managers to benefit all," Riga said.

Kwale county boasts of world class hotels that sprawl along its shores from Tiwi to Lungalunga at the Kenya/Tanzania border, and mineral deposits such as titanium and niobium in Maumba and Nguluku areas which remain untapped to date.

Tana River county governorship race has attracted former JKUAT don Dr Bakari Badhiribu who quit teaching management and entrepreneurship at the Mombasa campus to battle it out with MPs Danson Mungatana and Dhadho Godana.

Badhiribu, 54, who holds a PhD from the Leicester University in England, says time has come for scholars to take up leadership of the region to bring innovative ideas which will improve lives of the residents.

"We are not saying that scholars can change the landscape of the region but innovative scholars can. We need leaders who have the practical ability to convert the semi-arid area of Tana River to be a land of fortune, not guys who scream the loudest for government relief food. Those have not helped us," he said.

Badhiribu, whose entrepreneurship spans for two decades said land is an asset to the residents if it is converted to be agricultural viable a trend he says is possible for he has personally managed to do it at his farm within the county.

"Land is an asset and if Israel among other desert countries can export farm produce, we too can. There has been a clash between communities for the Tana Delta but we need to re-direct our energies to our land. We have gypsum mineral used in cement industries only in Tana River that is another opportunity," he said.

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