Kenya’s Foreign Minister Wetangula resigns amid corruption charges
Special to USAfricaonline.com
Nairobi, Kenya (AFP) – Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula has said he was resigning amid allegations of corruption against him in the latest sign of a crackdown following the adoption of a new constitution.
“I have made a personal decision to step aside as minister of foreign affairs to give room and pleasure to those who have been haunting and tormenting me, and to give room for the investigation,” he told reporters.
“I can assure you I will be back to the cabinet once the investigations are completed because I know I am innocent.”
Wetangula, 54, was speaking the day after being grilled by members of parliament over an alleged irregular purchase of embassy land in Japan and other deals.
He is the latest top Kenyan official to come under the shadow of corruption involving land purchases.
Higher Education Minister William Ruto was suspended last week by President Mwai Kibaki last week as he faces trial for allegedly receiving a 96-million-shilling (1.2 million dollar, 870,000 euro) bribe over the 2001 sale of 100 acres (40 hectares) of land outside the capital Nairobi.
Nairobi Mayor Geoffrey Majiwa was arrested Monday and charged with conspiring to buy a graveyard outside Nairobi for 3.5 million dollars although its value was around 300,000 dollars.
Wetangula’s case centres on his decision to refuse an offer of land from the Japanese government in central Tokyo for a new embassy, opting instead to pay 13.6 million euros for a building further away, against the advice of an estate agency.
Although he has not been charged with any offence, he also had to explain to rowdy MPs other questionable land or building transactions made by his ministry in Brussels, Islamabad and Lagos.
He cast blame on his subordinates, saying: “Ministers don’t deal with transactions, we deal with what we are given. Ministers only deal with policies.”
He told journalists Wednesday, “Political responsibility does not mean that when you are a politician you carry the crimes of another person or a group if it has been committed, unless there is proof that you acted in unison”.
A few hours earlier, the ministry’s top civil servant, permanent secretary Thuita Mwangi, also announced that he was resigning to allow parliament to continue its inquiries.
Suspended higher education minister Ruto, the political leader of Kenya’s large Kalenjin tribe, appeared in court on Tuesday after the constitutional court overturned his challenge of the case and ordered him to stand trial.
He has denied any wrongdoing, saying the case is politically motivated.
Ruto, 43, is widely believed to be a key suspect in the International Criminal Court (ICC) probe into the violent aftermath of Kenya’s disputed 2007 elections.
Ruto campaigned vigorously against the new constitution adopted in August. The new charter spells tough measures against corruption which Kenya has been repeatedly accused of failing to tackle.
Corruption watchdog Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index, released on Tuesday, showed Kenya had fallen to joint 154th place out of 178 with a score of 2.0, on a level with Russia and Congo.