Kenyan leader appoints acting foreign minister

15:41, October 29, 2010      

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Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has appointed Security Minister George Saitoti as acting foreign minister following the resignation of Moses Wetangula over fraud allegations. A statement issued late Thursday by the Presidential Press Service said the 65-year-old Saitoti will continue to hold his position at the Internal Security Ministry.

"President Mwai Kibaki has today (Thursday) appointed Professor George Saitoti as the acting minister for foreign affairs," the statement said. The development followed consultations between the president and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

On Wednesday, Wetangula stepped aside to allow for investigations into the embassy scam.

A parliamentary committee found that taxpayers lost some 14 million US dollars in the purchase of an embassy in Tokyo, Japan. The report highlighted similarly questionable transactions for the country's missions in Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan and Brussels.

The minister who is a member of President Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU) told a press conference he was innocent and was optimistic of returning back to the Cabinet once cleared by investigating arms of government.

"I have made a personal decision to step aside as Minister for Foreign Affairs to give room and pleasure to those who have been haunting and tormenting me. I have played no role in formulation, execution or in any manner in the transaction that has been mentioned," Wetangula said.

Three hours earlier, President Mwai Kibaki had accepted a request by Permanent Secretary Thuita Mwangi to step aside to allow investigations into the scandal that has rocked the ministry.

"I have decided to voluntarily step aside in order to allow the competent government organs to fully and without impediment investigate all matters of concern raised in the Report of the Departmental Committee on Defense and Foreign Relations on construction, purchase and disposal of properties abroad," said Mwangi in his resignation statement.

Nairobi Mayor Geophrey Majiwa finally stepped aside late on Thursday, three days after he was charged in court over 3.5 million dollars cemetery scandal.

"The Mayor has agreed to step aside following a request by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi," said a statement from the ministry of local government.

The statement said Mudavadi had sought advice from the Attorney General Amos Wako who advised him accordingly that Majiwa was indeed a public officer.

"His Worship Mayor Geophrey Majiwa of the City Council of Nairobi has agreed to step aside upon a request by Musalia Mudavadi, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister and Minister for Local Government following the concurrence of the Attorney General that civic leaders are indeed public officers," it said.

Majiwa was arrested on Monday and charged in court on Tuesday where he denied corruptly receiving 3.5 million dollars from the Nairobi City Council in the purchase of the cemetery land in the outskirts of the City. The mayor had earlier insisted that he will not vacate office saying he was not a public officer.

Last week, William Ruto, the higher education minister, was suspended from the cabinet after the courts ruled that he should stand trial for the allegedly illegal sale of forest land.

Analysts say the new constitution which was promulgated in August has made it easy for Kenyan authorities to fight corruption which has been blamed for slow economic growth in the East African nation. The departure of four senior political figures in the space of 10 days because of alleged corruption, including two cabinet ministers, is an exceptional event.

The latest purge is directly linked to the new constitution, introduced in August, which demands that public officials charged with corruption must vacate their positions. But analysts say much remains to be done. The East African nation is still one of the world's most corrupt nations, ranked 154th out of 178 countries, according to Transparency International.

Several scandals in the past decade remain unsettled to date, with the alleged perpetrators still holding public positions, including cabinet office.

Source: Xinhua


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