Kenya’s foreign minister quits over Tokyo land purchase

By Mark Oloo in Nairobi – Kenya’s Foreign minister has resigned over alleged involvement in a scam in which the East African country lost Sh1 billion (about 1 million Euros) in an irregular purchase of land in Japan for an embassy office.

Mr Moses Wetangula announced he would step aside to allow for investigations following intense pressure from Parliament and the civil society.

The minister, who maintains he was innocent, was indicted by a parliamentary report which singled out a series of flaws in transactions leading to the purchase of diplomatic property in Central Tokyo, Pakistan, Egypt, Belgium and Nigeria.

The House report criticized Wetangula and Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Mwangi Thuita, who also stepped aside, for alleged blatant abuse of procedures governing the sale and purchase of diplomatic property abroad.

The two top officials were also criticized for ignoring advice from legal experts on the viability of the deal even after the Japanese government offered to accommodate the Kenyan embassy for free.

Yesterday, a fire-breathing Wetangula addressed the press in the capital Nairobi and claimed his hands were clean and that he had been pushed out of office.

“I want to assure the Kenyan public that I am innocent in this matter. I am confident I will return to the Cabinet once investigations are complete,” he said.

The embattled minister resigned shortly before MPs overwhelming voted to adopt a parliamentary report which squarely places blame on Wetangula and Mwangi.

Wetangula becomes the second Kenyan minister in less than two weeks to go over graft-related accusations.

Two weeks ago, Higher Education Minister William Ruto was sacked over alleged involvement in an irregular sale of part of a forest land in Nairobi to the Kenya Pipeline Corporation.

Prsident Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga fired Ruto after the Kenyan High Court ruled the fraud case against the minister, instituted in 2004, would proceed. He had moved to court in 2005 in a fruitless bid to have it stopped.

Ruto allegedly received more than Sh96 million (About 9.6 Euros) in the sale of several hectares of Ngong Forest land.