Kenya’s embattled Finance Minister, Amos Kimunya, caught in a hotel sale scam and censured by parliament last week, added a new dimension to the saga Sunday when he demanded that Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the attorney general step aside.
Kimunya, grappling with a stinker in which he is heavily implicated in the sale of the state-owned, five-star hotel to what appears to be a dubious Libyan investor, dug in for a fight Sunday and demanded that his lands counterpart, James Orengo, should be probed for demanding a bribe.
At the centre of the political heat which threatens the stability of the Grand Coalition Government is the alleged sale of the hotel, owned by the Central Bank of Kenya, to the purported ‘Libyan investors’.
It has since been established that two of the three directors of the Libyan Arab African Investment Company (Kenya) Limited are Kenyans and the third a Libyan.
The finance minister, a professional accountant, claimed that the prime minister, Attorney General Amos Wako, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) Director, Aaron Ringera, were all in the picture and kept abreast with the transactions .
“I briefed the prime minister 23 April, and he told me that he saw nothing wrong with the Central Bank selling the hotel to the Libyan investors. He should come clean on this matter,” charged the abrasive Kimunya who is also accused of arrogance by fellow legislators.
The ‘Libyan’ firm was incorporated and registered in Nairobi, where it has an office.
Kimunya is accused of sealing the deal with the firm without following the rules governing the disposal of public property.
The Libyan Embassy here added a new dimension to the saga when it distanced the Libyan government from the transaction.
It said the Nairobi firm was different from the state-owned Libya Arab African Investment Company and called the sale “a private deal between the Central Bank of Kenya and a private Libyan company”.
In Kenya’s Grand Coalition government in which Mwai Kibaki is the president, the prime minister is the overseer and coordinator of government ministries.
When the Lands Minister, Orengo, now being accused by Kimunya of demanding a bribe of Shillings 35 million, blew the whistle a few days ago, the prime minister formed a task force to probe the circumstances under which the hotel was sold.
The probe team headed by the attorney general presented its report to the prime minister who was to table it at an abortive cabinet meeting last Thursday.
The meeting was cancelled at the 11th hour and President Kibaki has remained tight-lipped since returning from the Africa Union Summit in Egypt Friday.
It is not clear why he has not sacked Kimunya, one of his most trusted lieutenants. And by Sunday pressure was mounting on Kibaki to fire the finance minister.
Kimunya’s cabinet colleagues, casting aspersion on the entire deal, also accused him of undervaluing the 220-room hotel and selling it secretly, without cabinet approval, for a paltry Kenya Shillings 2.9 billion as opposed to its value that was initially pegged at Sh 7.9 billion. (US$ 1=64 Kenyan Shillings).
Kimunya, serving his second five-year term at the Treasury, has denied any wrong doing and is challenging his cabinet and parliamentary colleagues to provide evidence of wrongdoing on his part.
He found himself on the receiving end last week when parliament passed a censure motion, essentially passing a no-confidence vote on him and demanding his resignation.
Cabinet Ministers, the civil society and legislators have been pressurizing President Kibaki to sack the glib minister, for his alleged role in the scandal in which Kenya’s intelligence chief, Major-General Michael Gichangi, and Central Bank Governor, Njuguna Ndungu, have been implicated.
Also implicated is President Kibaki’s nephew, the late Alex Mureithi, who died seven months ago.
Sunday, a fire-spitting Kimunya, asked the government to appoint “independent foreign investigators” to investigate him because he had no confidence in the locals.
“There is no way I will resign, I cannot resign because I am innocent, this is a political witchunt. I am not stepping aside, If I must, then the government should appoint the best (foreign) investigators in the world to probe me”, he said Sunday in Kipipiri, central Kenya.
Kimunya said he would rather die fighting than resign or step aside.
Political analysts here believe Kibaki is caught between a rock and a hard place because Kimunya is a close ally whom he finds difficult to sacrifice.
But under normal circumstances, a public officer, more so a cabinet minister, mentioned or caught in a scandal and accused rightly or wrongly, steps aside to facilitate independent investigation.
But this is not the situation in Kimunya’s case. Panapress .