Sunday, August 3, 2008



August 3, 2008
By Oscar Obonyo
Sunday Standard

Last Saturday, former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya talked himself into trouble again, just when the high drama around him was dying down.

Ironically, the man who tongue-lashed him last Thursday is the Speaker of National Assembly Kenneth Marende, whom the Kipipiri MP had earlier praised for being forthright and objective.

Speaking in Kinangop during the homecoming party of area MP David Ngugi, the former minister accused his colleagues of taking advantage of Marende’s absence to censure him over irregular sale of Grand Regency Hotel.

The sentiments drew the ire of MPs who accused Kimunya of demeaning the integrity of the Speaker.

Marende himself castigated Kimunya for portraying him as weak and using a language not befitting of MPs.

Speech aside, a couple of other political and public relations gaffes appear to have isolated the MP.

Initially, the Grand Regency saga seemed under control, until Kimunya opted to retreat to his Kipipiri backyard to stage an ethnic and political fight back.

This was a miscalculation considering his colleagues had just lauded him for resigning to pave way for investigation.


Apparently, the straight-talking MP did not learn from this first slip-up.

In Kinangop, in the presence of Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, he took his war to the people.

Nonetheless, the all-important question remains: is the former Finance minister guilty of impropriety in the sale of Grand Regency Hotel? May be yes, may be no, but his perceived arrogance complicates his bargain.

Is the wrong man therefore being crucified on the account of perceived arrogance and proximity to the President and not tangible evidence?

This possibility is summed up by confessions of Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee Bonny Khalwale. The Ikolomani MP, who moved the censure Motion, said the Kipipiri MP was targeted partly because of "arrogance demonstrated by his disrespect for fellow Cabinet members and misleading the House".

Indeed, the issue of language is one that unsettles Kimunya. For instance, he is accused of having a condescending attitude owing to his characteristic style of punctuating his speech with the question, "Right?" more like a teacher addressing a pupil. In one of his spats with Prime Minister Raila Odinga over the Safaricom IPO, Kimunya reacted bluntly that, those opposed to the sale of the firm’s shares were doing so out of ignorance as "the Nairobi Stock Exchange is not a fish market".

And when news of the Grand Regency Hotel sale filtered through, he dismissed MPs advancing the debate as "acting out of ignorance" prompted by mere "bar talk".

An accountant, Kimunya has often defended himself against charges of arrogance, arguing his career demands he speaks straight and accurately.

Kimunya’s situation is not helped either by his proximity to the President, which makes him target of political envy.

His current problems notwithstanding, Kimunya may want to hide behind the fact his docket is jinxed, with a history of scams and controversy.


Virtually all his predecessors have been dogged by multi-billion financial rip-offs and the drama revolving around the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel is accordingly not a crime "out of the ordinary".

Finance ministry is riddled with controversy in financial undertakings. So delicate is the office and vulnerable are the ministers. Last year Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua sprang up a "list of shame" that linked all former Finance ministers who served between 1989 and 2003, to scandals.

The eleventh Finance minister since independence, virtually all Kimunya’s predecessors, including President Kibaki (1969-1981) and Nambale MP and Chairman of Parliamentary committee on Finance Chris Okemo (1999-2001), had a series of scams executed during their tenure at the Treasury.

As for Okemo, he found himself entangled in questionable Forensic Science Laboratories and Export Lease Purchase deals that he signed on January 16, 2001.

Kimunya’s actions are subject of investigation by the Okemo-led committee and retired Chief Justice Abdul Majid Cockar commission President Kibaki appointed.

In the meantime, the rude entry of the Libyan Government officials into the saga complicates the matter, more so Kimunya’s role. The Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi’s apparent involvement in deal contradicts Lands Minister James Orengo’s assertion the hotel was sold to individual businessmen, some from outside Libya.

But last Tuesday, a top Libyan Government delegation led by head of Public Service Bashir Saleh Bashir, arrived to declare at a press conference Grand Regency Hotel was sold, "gone and file closed".

Having all along insisted there was no deal as yet and the hotel had not been sold, why did Kimunya concede and play catch-up only after Orengo’s exposure?

Just whose shadow is Kimunya?