Thursday, February 19, 2009




February 18 2009
Agriculture minister William Ruto decisively beat back an attempt to have him censured by Parliament over the mismanagement of maize stores. Mr Ruto got the support of 119 MPs to defeat the motion brought by Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale which was supported by only 22 MPs.

Four decided not to vote. The vote reflected more the complexities of the politics of the day than the merits of the motion.

Cabinet was split with Justice minister Martha Karua joining those against her Cabinet colleague while Energy minister Kiraitu Murungi supported Mr Ruto.

Displays of temper

Similar divisions emerged at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday where ministers clashed in the presence of President Kibaki.

Mr Ruto had clearly built sizeable support ahead of the debate. His supporters raised numerous points of order in an encounter full of emotion and displays of temper.

Dr Khalwale (New Ford-K) was unable to exhaustively move the motion because of interruptions from MPs on the opposition benches who appeared to be totally against it.

Kimilili MP Simiyu Eseli (Ford-K), who seconded the motion, told the House that he had been threatened in the precincts of Parliament by fellow lawmakers when he declared that he was going to support the motion. Education assistant minister Kilemi Mwiria was accused of supporting the motion because of personal interests allegedly because he was denied maize by the minister.

It was the day of reckoning for Mr Ruto whose management of maize from the National Cereals and Produce Board is said to have caused a shortage of food.

Dr Khalwale faced hostility from MPs who were sitting behind him on the opposition benches as he rose to move the motion. The Ikolomani MP said the House in its history had passed two motions of censure in former Agriculture ministers. The ministers were Paul Ngei in 1965 and John Osogo in 1979.

“Those of us who love the Republic of Kenya, those of us who love the future of our children, and the welfare our society will not wait for a revolution. Matters of hunger affect us all,” he said amid boos from MPs.

Not a personal attack

The New Ford-K MP said the motion was not a personal attack on the minister but a query on the manner in which he had handled the maize issue leading to the shortage. This, he said, had forced the country to seek Sh36 billion to save 10 million Kenyans facing hunger.

“At the end of this motion, the House will have to take a vote. This House will either vote for the welfare of the minister to keep his job or the welfare of hungry Kenyans. This vote is between Hon Ruto and innocent Kenyans who are starving,” he argued. His attempts to display in the House pictures of people faced with starvation were stopped by Mr Maalim.

Dr Khalwale was interrupted several times by assistant ministers Aden Duale, Charles Keter, MPs Millie Odhiambo (Nominated, ODM), Musa Sirma (Nominated, ODM), Olago Aluoch (Kisumu Town West, ODM), Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu, ODM), David Koech (Mosop, ODM) and Julius Kones (Konoin, ODM).

They challenged him to explain his motives for moving the motion. He was also pressed to explain claims that maize was exported to Sudan, selling of subsidised maize, the role of people linked to the minister and the failure to sack managers of the cereals board.

Dr Khalwale accused Mr Ruto of importing only 1.5 million bags of maize instead of the three million bags; raised the question of 6,500 tonnes of maize held at the port and the alleged allocation of maize to favoured millers. The MP said since the forensic audit ordered by the Prime Minister were investigating the matter, the minister should step aside. Interruptions compelled Water assistant minister

Mwangi Kiunjuri to remind the deputy Speaker that Dr Khalwale had not been able to move his motion “because of numerous points of order.”

Dr Eseli said that a precedent had been set for ministers accused of graft to step aside and warned that should Mr Ruto be let off the hook, then MPs will be applying double standards.

Naivasha MP John Mututho (Kanu) said he was convinced that Mr Ruto and Special Programmes minister Naomi Shaaban were innocent. He accused Dr Khalwale of using the floor of the House the malign the integrity of others.

Ms Karua challenged Mr Ruto to take political responsibility for the questions raised by MPs and the House in relation to the maize controversy.

“The role of Parliament is to be a watchdog while that of the government is to serve the people. When a query relating to a ministry is raised, the minister responsible must not take it as a challenge, unless he has something to hide,” she said.

She said it was clear that subsidised maize was misused by the Ministry of Agriculture and asked the minister to explain to the House what went wrong.

“This is not a criminal trial but a matter of political responsibility. Let us not go into our tribal cocoons and friendship clubs because of this as Kenyans are watching,” she said. Assistant minister Omingo Magara dismissed the censure motion as a witch-hunt.
Retain dignity

“Lets us not try to look good. We must retain the dignity of this House. Let us leave Hon Ruto to his conscience and to the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission,” said the Planning assistant minister.

The debate, which saw ODM MPs vote as a bloc, was preceded by a demonstration by NGO activists who clashed with the police outside Parliament. Some of them were arrested.

In Parliament, Mr Ruto defended himself and took the MPs through a step-by-step process of efforts he allegedly made to protect the country from looming famine, soon after his appointment to the Agriculture docket. He tabled Cabinet memos, minutes of food security meetings, records from the cereals board and copies of the Hansard showing inconsistencies in Dr Khalwale’s statements in an attempt to exonerate himself.

He told Justice Minister Martha Karua to stop talking about “political responsibility” when in fact the Strategic Grain Reserve was not in his docket, but in the Special Programmes ministry.

Mr Ruto also tabled a letter which his Permanent Secretary, Dr Romano Kiome, had written to Kacc saying “this letter does not come from a person who wants to cover up or condone corruption.”

He defended his association with Amaco Insurance Company, which according to Dr Khalwale, was involved with another company that supplied maize bags to the cereals board. He said there were inconsistencies in Dr Khalwale’s submission “because he was in a hurry to fix me.”

“At no time did the NCPB sell maize at a loss,” Mr Ruto said. “I am prepared to take responsibility… if there was reason to resign, I would have resigned. But what if those allegations are engineered by people who want to bring you down?”

There was a brief stand-off between Ms Karua and Mr Murungi when the Energy minister called for Ms Karua’s resignation for failing to curb corruption. Mr Murungi supported Mr Ruto, dismissing the censure motion as a “political move to fix Mr Ruto”.

“This Motion is not about fighting corruption. Somebody somewhere has sat down and imagined a political scheme which he is trying to implement,” he said.

Mr Murungi, who was interrupted twice by Medical Services assistant minister Danson Mungatana and once by Ms Karua, went on to trash political responsibility as a “lecherous concept” aimed at clipping Mr Ruto’s political wings, by having him dismissed from the Cabinet.

Alluding to the Anglo Leasing debacle, Mr Murungi said it was “painful” to resign, be cleared and returned to Cabinet, but have a tag of a corrupt person still hanging on your neck.

“The bell tolled, Amos Kimunya (Trade Minister), Kiraitu, and now Ruto got themselves in the bad books. Dr Khalwale, never ask for whom the bell tolls, it might be tolling for you,” Mr Murungi said.


Submitted by MUINGAH
Posted February 19, 2009 09:06 AM

I am not surprised that the parliament didn't censure Ruto. Voices of impunity prevailed over those of reasoning and responsibility. That was and is a travesty of natural justice to the millions of Kenyans facing starvation and death. Kiraitu was not also honest in supporting Ruto because if Ruto had been censured, it meant that he was next due to the oil scandal in his docket. Shame on you MPs who supported corruption. The war on corruption is now simply defeated.

Submitted by peter_mbugua2005
Posted February 19, 2009 08:55 AM

It seems to me that some people are using public maize reserves for political wars. No need to hack people using machetes!! Just starve them to death and they'll come crawling to vote for you.

Submitted by swaji5950
Posted February 19, 2009 08:51 AM

Let us be real. Dr. Khalwale might have had good intentions, but yesterday he offered Hon. Ruto a platform to shine. That Minister showed every Kenyan intelligent enough to be objective that he has done an excellent work in that ministry.

Submitted by mwanji97
Posted February 19, 2009 07:49 AM

so kiraitu is stressed when his children asks him about corruption.Mr.minister we are more than stressed when our people die of hunger.

Submitted by wacjac
Posted February 19, 2009 01:46 AM

I would be interested to know how Raila voted. I have a sneaking suspicion that he was very busy and absent from parliament yesterday. Let us call a spade a spade: the only hope for Kenya is an exit from the political stage the likes of Kibaki, Raila, Saitoti, Ruto, Mudavadi, and Kalonzo. I saw Kibaki saying today that nobody will die of hunger. Someone should remind him that people have already died. They have been dying every day since he took office. Kenyans, please take responsibility and chose new leaders in 2012.

Submitted by wakandoma
Posted February 19, 2009 01:34 AM

just when you think these folks can't get any more unethical, they just seem to suprise us. this is not time for petty politics and tribal games. people are dying. mwananchi should stand up and be counted

Submitted by werssylwer
Posted February 19, 2009 12:16 AM

Like i had posted earlier, this deal was sealed by Kibaki and Raila last week. Kimunya comes back in the cabinet without opposition from ODM, Kiraitu is let off the hook in exchange for Ruto keeping his cabinet post. Coalition indeed !!! ODM and PNU are plunging kenya in a big hole it will never recover from.

Submitted by sam7
Posted February 18, 2009 11:56 PM

These crooks voted for the welfare of Mr. Ruto to keep his job rather than for the welfare of the hungry Kenyans who they rob everyday by taking money from them in the name of salaries for a job they never perform, leave alone attend parliament on a regular basis. They do not pay taxes unlike those hungry Kenyans who pay their share of the taxes without fail. And these are the same people who wants to have a say in budget preparations?

Submitted by jcliveth
Posted February 18, 2009 11:39 PM

Khalwale be encouraged you did your's always MPs against Kenyans..they supported you on Kimunya's case due to the tax proposals and not because of his impunity (which he truly exhibits).