Kenya’s embattled Finance Minister Amos Kimunya resigned on Tuesday amid pressure over his handling of the sale of a five-star hotel. The resignation came hours before Prime Minister Raila Odinga was due to make a statement in parliament over the sale.
“I wish to be allowed to step aside to facilitate this inquiry,” Kimunya said in his resignation letter and ignored questions from journalists, citing instructions from his lawyers to the effect that he must not make any comments on the sale.
Prime Minister Odinga was expected to appear in parliament to provide a ministerial answer concerning the sale of the hotel, which has been under the management of the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) after it was repossessed in the late 1990s.
The Grand Regency hotel, formerly owned by business tycoon Kamlesh Pattni, was officially handed over to the CBK and the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) in May this year in what the anti-graft body termed as the biggest repossession ever.
However, it immediately came to the limelight that the hotel had been sold long before the business tycoon formally handed it to the KACC and the CBK.
Kimunya, accused of selling the hotel at Ksh1.8 billion (US$28 million), against the report of the independent valuers who had placed its value at Ksh2.4 billion (US$37 million), has come under intense public pressure to resign over the scandal.
Last Thursday, parliament passed a vote of no confidence on Kimunya, after it discovered the minister had participated in a possible cover up of the sale.
Initially, the minister had said the sale of the hotel to the Libyan firm was above board and was expected to enhance bilateral ties between Kenya and Libya.
Kimunya becomes the second Finance Minister under President Kibaki’s leadership to resign over a financial scandal.
David Mwiraria resigned over another scandal in 2005, to facilitate investigations into his role in the Anglo-Leasing scandal which involved an order for the purchase of passport printing machines at inflated costs
Kimunya came into the limelight in 2002 when he was elected a member of parliament. He is President Kibaki’s closest political confidant and his resignation is likely to prove a major test to the stability of the ruling Grand Coalition government.
On Tuesday, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka accused parliament of failing to give the Finance Minister adequate time to defend himself.
The VP also accused those calling for Kimunya’s exit of harbouring a plan against Kibaki’s government. Panapress