Kenyan authorities suspend official over fraud charge

By Mark Oloo in Nairobi – Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki has suspended a cabinet minister over criminal charges involving alleged illegal sale of a forest land at the capital Nairobi.

Higher Education minister William Ruto faces a Sh96 million (about 9.6m Euros) fraud case involving alleged sale of more than 100 hectares of land, part of Nairobi’s Ngong’ Forest, to the Kenya Pipeline Corporation.

Last week, a Nairobi court ruled the case, instituted in 2004, should proceed against the minister. He had moved to court in 2005 seeking to have it stopped.

At the weekend, a tough talking Ruto called a press conference in Nairobi and announced he would not resign or step aside over the fraud charge.

He claimed the case was a political scheme by rivals to block his presidential bid in the East African country’s next general election in 2012.

This evening, President Mwai Kibaki announced the minister’s suspension, saying it would allow for investigation. The president took the decision under the Kenyan law, whose Public officers’ ethics Act prevents those facing criminal charges from holding office.

Early this year, Ruto survived a no confidence vote in Parliament over a scam in which the Kenyan tax payer lost billions of shillings through importation of maize.

Ruto also survived the sack in August this year when he defied Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to mount an aggressive campaign against Kenya’s new constitution at the referendum.