African Press International (API)

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Wako team wants NSIS chief to step aside, while Kimunya prays for mercy from Kenyan rioting MPs in Nairobi streets

Posted by African Press International on July 4, 2008

Kenyan MPs yesterday rioted in Nairobi streets demanding to have Finance minister Kimunya fired by the President for his involvement in the sale of Regency Hotel. This time, the MPs did the rioting themselves. Normally they call on the members of the public to do it for them while they lunch in expensive hotels and do their own private businesses. Are they doing this because they have a grudge with the minister because he has not given them a raise? (API)

A scheduled Cabinet meeting was called off suddenly. Then the Wako Committee summoned the National Security Intelligence Service chief and grilled him for hours before returning the same verdict: He should step aside.

On the streets of Nairobi and Mombasa, teargas was thrown to disperse protesting university students and civil society members as the push for the resignation of officials linked to the sale of Grand Regency Hotel went a notch higher. Three protesters were arrested and locked up.

The committee met the Intelligence chief and he denied intimidating or threatening any official over the sale of the Grand Regency hotel.

He is accused of being the one who brokered a meeting between the hotel owners and Central Bank.

Sources said he the earlier recommendation that he steps aside for investigation still stood.

It was also a day when protests calling for Kimunyas resignation or sacking intensified in Nairobi and Mombasa and were dispersed by the police. Religious groups, students and professional organisations also added their voice.

Leaders in central Kenya, MPs and former legislators, also told Kimunya to throw in the towel.

A flurry of meetings also took place: By the Cabinet sub-committee appointed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the Wako committee investigating the controversial sale of the hotel.

Members of Parliament march in the streets of Nairobi to push for the resignation of Finance minister Amos Kimunya over the controversial sale of Grand Regency Hotel to the Libya Arab African Investment Company (K) Ltd. Last night, a defiant Kimunya was insisting he would not quit.Picture by Stafford Ondego

However, an expected Cabinet meeting did not take place and State House explained that it was postponed because the President had a busy schedule.

Kibaki was expected to chair the much-awaited Cabinet meeting where Kimunyas fate was to be decided.

Director of the Presidential Press Service Isaiah Kabira said on the telephone: “The President has merely postponed the Cabinet meeting, but did not cancel it as such. A new date will be fixed soon.”

But other sources said the meeting was postponed due to discordant voices and divergent positions taken by some ministers over Kimunyas action over the Grand Regency.

Divided cabinet

Ministers who talked to The Standard said Kibaki could not chair a divided Cabinet in which ministers had taken positions against a colleague.

Sources said that soon after the censure Motion against Kimunya on Wednesday evening, some ministers, mainly on the PNU side, met to strategise how to save the minister.

“Some met late into the night and it was agreed that those willing to stand by Kimunya convince the Cabinet, and the President in particular, that the deal was in good faith and for the interest of the country,” said a source.

“If the plan worked, the Cabinet would have issued a statement rendering Parliaments censure irrelevant and giving the President grounds to retain the Finance minister,” said another minister.

However, the plan, the sources added, did not work because some ministers stood their ground and promised to table more evidence before the President and the entire Cabinet to support Parliament that Kimunya was the wrong person at the Treasury.

“Those against Kimunya were prepared to produce dossier that would have instantly compelled the President to ask Kimunya to step aside,” said the sources.

It was after he was briefed over the opposing views in the Cabinet that the President decided to postpone the meeting through Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Muthaura.

Wildlife and Forestry ministry Noah Wekesa said he received a call from his office that the meeting had been cancelled.

But he said many things could have led to the cancellation.

Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua told journalists at his weekly briefing that the President had a busy schedule in the morning.

“It is the prerogative of the President to call Cabinet meetings or reschedule them. He had a very busy morning and this afternoon (yesterday), he is scheduled to meet a group of Democrats from the US,” said Dr Mutua.

Mutua also announced that the Government had registered a caveat on the land on which the Grand Regency stands to protect the property until investigation was completed.

I am clean

Meanwhile, a defiant Kimunya said he was not in a hurry to resign even as protests raged in the city and Mombasa.

“I am not resigning,” the minister said curtly when reached on the telephone.

He was waiting for the outcome of investigation by the Cabinet sub-committee. Kimunya insisted that he was clean and his accusers must prove him otherwise.

“Where is the evidence that the hotel was sold at the figures being widely claimed? My hands are clean. All my accusers are not pointing to any truth. All relevant offices were aware of this deal,” he said.

Kimunya said he was consulting friends and close confidants over the matter before issuing a statement.

“I am very okay and my conscience is clear. This is political propaganda, but the truth will finally come out,” he said.

Speaking to the Press, Raila said the Grand Coalition Government had no room for corruption, adding that Kimunya was in office until he resigned or was sacked by the President.

He directed Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Director Aaron Ringera to re-open corruption cases related to Goldenberg.

But pressure continued to mount, with religious leaders and professional organisations calling for Kimunyas sacking.

MPs from central Kenya told the minister to step down to avoid further humiliation and embarrassment should the President finally decide to relieve him of his duties.

Members of the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA) called on Kibaki to act tough on corruption. They called on those adversely implicated in the saga to step aside for investigation.

“We cannot really say whether Kimunya should be censured or not since we are not privy to all details. But we support a community (East African) that is free of corruption,” said Mr Otieno Karan on behalf of the legislators.

“All those mentioned in corrupt deals should step aside to allow full investigation just as it happens in neighbouring countries.

“We see that in Tanzania. Anybody mentioned in corruption steps aside. We want a similar situation in Kenya,” he said.

The Parliamentary Committee on Security added its voice to the saga and called on the Government to investigate whether the minister had acted with social and financial propriety.

The controversy over the hotel took a different turn when one of the two former receiver-managers went to court seeking to stop the sale.

Mr Hezekiah Gichohi is demanding more than Sh34 million which he claims the Grand Regency owed him before he was removed in April when the hotel was handed back to Central Bank.

He sued Uhuru Highway Development Company, the Central Bank and Libyan Arab African Investment, the company that is said to have bought the hotel.

Gichohi was appointed by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission as receiver-manager in June, 2003, while Mr Peter Ndaa was picked by Uhuru Highway Development.

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API/Standard.ke

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