African Press International (API)

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Posted by African Press International on July 7, 2008

Kimunya: Id rather die than resign

By Beauttah Omanga And Antony Gitonga

I would rather die than resign: That was Finance Minister Amos Kimunyas answer to those who have been clamouring for his resignation.

The embattled minister came out fighting and accused Prime Minister Raila Odinga of being part of a wider scheme to bring him down.

Kimunya said if he had to resign, then Raila, Attorney General Amos Wako, Lands Minister James Orengo and anti-corruption commission director Aaron Ringera must also step aside to allow for investigation.

Kimunya, who has been in the eye of the storm over the Grand Regency Hotel sale, dug in and refused to step down saying: “I would rather die than resign.”

Finance minister Amos Kimunya and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta at Miharati Stadium in Kipipiri constituency, on Sunday.

The minister, who has been elusive since Parliament passed a Motion of no confidence in him on Wednesday, retreated to his Kipipiri constituency to launch a fight back at a rally at Miharati Stadium, less than three kilometres from his rural home.

The minister said he was a wrong target. Said he: “Instead of teaming up with me to catch the thief, they are targeting the wrong person.”

Bribes

Kimunya claimed that the PM was fully briefed prior to the transaction, but “ducked and set Orengo and Wako to implicate him” in the alleged scam.

The battle over the sale of the hotel promised to turn murky as the Finance minister sensationally claimed that Orengo blew the whistle after “his bid to solicit a Sh3 million bribe from a legal firm involved in the sale was turned down.”

“Orengo went public after he was denied a bribe of Sh3 million he demanded from a Mr Adan, one of the lawyers involved,” Kimunya said.

He challenged Orengo to deny ever making the bribe demand.

Kimunyas claims drew quick fire from Raila, Wako, Orengo and lawyer Ahmed Adan who dismissed the allegations.

“Prime Minister Raila Odinga categorically denies and condemns Minister Kimunyas allegations,” said a statement from the PMs spokesman Salim Lone.

Mr Lone said: “The PM took up the issue of corruption allegations on Grand Regency forcefully when they surfaced in April and immediately addressed a letter seeking answers from KACC on a host of issues mentioned in the media.”

The statement added: “The PM was subsequently reassured, at least in part, when Mr Kimunya publicly dismissed talk of the Grand Regency sale and when news of the sale broke. The Cabinet committee on Finance that he chairs set up a team that produced a factual report on allegations of corruption within a day.”

Lone said Raila would issue a comprehensive statement today.

Reached for comment, Wako said on the telephone: “The Attorney General cannot be used in the manner in which the minister is claiming. My job is to safeguard the interest of all Kenyans. I deny completely, in the strongest possible terms, his allegations.”

Wako said a Central Bank of Kenya board of governors meeting had resolved that the AG be involved in the sale transaction, which he said he was not.

“The issue Kimunya should be telling the public is why Treasury and CBK bypassed the AGs office after it had been resolved to involve it. That is what should be a big part of the investigation,” Wako said.

Adan said in a press conference he called after Kimunyas allegations: “Orengo is a close friend, a polished lawyer I have worked shoulder to shoulder with. Kimunyas allegations are falsehoods, baseless and the bribe theory totally unfounded.”

Raila refused defend him

Kimunya said: “Raila was very much briefed of all the transactions as regards Grand Regency. I suspected all was not well when he failed to come to Parliament to defend me on the very crucial day I was being discussed.”

The minister said he had personally been to the PMs office where he briefed him and pleaded with him to prevail upon Parliament to defer the censor Motion until the following day.

But despite an assurance, the PM did not live up to his word.

In Parliament on Wednesday, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka unsuccessfully tried to convince Parliament to defer the censure Motion, saying Raila had requested so.

The hard-hitting Kimunya said: “I got an assurance from the PM that he had even talked with the Chief Whips and asked them to have the matter discussed the following day. But while in Parliament, I did not see Raila whom I expected to defend me,” said Kimunya.

The Finance minister said Orengo was informed of the deal on April 23.

He dismissed the team that was formed by the PM to investigate him, saying: “They have no moral standing to investigate me. If I am guilty, they too are. If the CBK official made a mistake and they are under me, Lands officials also did the same and Orengo should carry the burden too.”

He went on: “I am being crucified for what I never did. I will also quit my Kipipiri parliamentary seat if I am found guilty of any wrongdoing. There is no way Kipipiri people will be represented by a thief.”

Hire foreign investigator

He asked President Kibaki to summon foreign investigators to investigate the Grand Regency saga, saying he had no confidence in Kenyan sleuths.

“I am asking the President to invite internationally-recognised investigators to investigate the whole saga,” said Kimunya.

He claimed that a few days before the matter was raised in public by the Lands minister, the PM was first briefed and allegedly gave Orengo the go ahead.

“Orengo was at the Treasury to brief the PM. I was also at the Treasury. Why didnt he brief me, too, or even ask for details of what he had found out before rushing to the Press?” asked Kimunya.

Reached on the telephone, Orengo reacted angrily, saying he had instructed his lawyers to sue the minister for defamation.

“Kimunyas strategy of fighting back is backward and primitive. He should not try to pull along other people to sink along with him. Let him not trivialise an important national issue,” said the Lands minister.

Orengo added: “I have struggled for this country for a very long time. I cannot betray the cause and comrades we fought with while Kimunya was nowhere in the political radar.”

Its politics

On the composition of team headed by the AG to investigate the saga, Kimunya said it was “suspect”.

“If the same people who have been complaining that we (PNU) shortchanged them are the ones to investigate me, then I am sorry, they cannot be fair no matter what,” said Kimunya.

The Finance minister said he had acted in good faith and wondered why the AG had disowned him too.

“The AG has failed since 1993 to repossess the hotel on behalf of the Government. I, the CBK and the KACC teamed up and salvaged the hotel. How can he now turn and say I am wrong. Is he sincere?” he asked.

He said he was being fought because of his firm stand against corruption at the Treasury.

Said he: “I am being targeted because I am against corruption. Our rivals (ODM) went out during the campaigns and promised contractors that if they took over power, their pending bills would be cleared. I have said No until they show me justification. That is why I am being fought.”

He said he was as clean as snow and even invoked Jesus name, saying: “I am clean. Even if Jesus comes today, he will find me innocent. Even Jesus was crucified for sins he never committed.”

He took a swipe at leaders from Central Province, who had disowned him, saying: “They are rejoicing when I am in hot soup. But what will they do when the truth comes out?”

He was apparently referring to leaders, led by Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua, who have demanded accountability from Kimunya over the saga.

Kimunya said he was not given enough time to defend himself in Parliament when the matter came up for debate.

“The speed at which the matter was rushed proved that it was a pre-determined Motion. I was meant to be censored no matter what happened,” said the bitter minister.

—————

API/Standard.ke

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