Monday, February 23, 2009



By Standard Team

Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo has sensationally claimed that he organised night meetings between Justice Minister Martha Karua and her Agriculture counterpart William Ruto, leading to the Grand Question: Just who is telling the truth?

Mr Ruto was the first, two weeks ago, to come out and claim that Ms Karua had sent an emissary over the possibility of joining hands ahead of the 2012 General Election. Karua, who has declared her intention to run for president in 2012, responded at a Press conference where she hit out at Ruto, saying she would not want to go into an alliance with a politician whom she claimed has "a lot of baggage".

Ruto added more mystery to the spat when he claimed that the censure Motion against him over the maize scandal, and which was overwhelmingly rejected in Parliament, was a consequence of an alleged fall-out between him and Karua.

Ruto had then asked: "Why would a Minister of Justice use night meetings to sort out issues with suspects, when she has the whole justice system at her disposal?"

But it was Mr Jirongo’s claim on Sunday that he organised three meetings in his New Muthaiga House in Nairobi that is likely to draw more fire.

Jirongo claimed the two politicians discussed resettlement of internally displaced people and helping Ruto over a corruption case in court.

Jirongo distanced himself from attempts to rally support for Ruto or Karua who have their eyes trained on higher offices in 2012.

When asked if they discussed 2012 as alleged by Ruto, he said: "Hiyo ni uongo (That is a lie)."

He went ahead to claim that Ruto had shifted his political focus to a another politician from Central Province who, he claimed, was more powerful and had easier access to State House than Karua.

"The meetings in my house were aimed at defusing tension between two communities in the Rift Valley following the clashes," he claimed.

Jirongo went on: "Ruto should not allege that the meeting in my house was aimed at marshaling support for the 2012 race.

"When I invited both to my homecoming party, I made them aware that they were going to meet. From then on, they ate and talked together when I hosted them. I cannot explain the reasons behind these hostilities."

Jirongo said Ruto avoided answering questions about notes he issued to help people acquire maize irregularly.

Looking for favours

It is understood this was the subject of ongoing Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (Kacc) investigation, which targets 15 people, including MPs.

Last night, Ruto swiftly countered Jirongo’s claims, saying: "If I was looking for favours as they (Jirongo and Karua) purport, why wouldn’t I have been the one looking for them not the other way round?"

He went on: "We talked about 2012. Let them tell you because they know the schemes of what we wanted and discussed. The censure Motion against me was a product of the disagreement at the meeting. The public should now know the real sponsors of that censure Motion."

The minister asked: "Karua had denied she ever met me. Why is Jirongo betraying his soul mate?"

Karua confirmed last night "attending that meeting but it was about IDPs, not 2012".

It was not immediately clear the number of times Karua may have attended as she declined to comment further, saying she would have to first review what Jirongo had said.

Karua and Ruto have recently been in the news over their political differences after the Justice minister demanded that her Agriculture counterpart take political responsibility for the maize scandal. Grains worth millions of shillings were irregularly sold from the National Cereals and Produce Board.

Night meetings

Last week’s Cabinet meeting degenerated into chaos as the two bickered over the maize scam that has made flour prices shoot to an all-time high. The subsidised maize and flour promised by the Government is not available in stores.

But Ruto demanded concrete evidence linking him to the scandal before he could resign. He survived the censure Motion when 119 MPs supported him against a paltry 22 MPs who sought his resignation.

The Motion was preceded by night meetings drawing MPs from Central, Eastern, Central and Rift Valley provinces.

This was seen as a contest with succession undertones, as regional supremos threw their weight behind Ruto to suppress competition in their own backyards.

Apart from Karua, his internal security counterpart Prof George Saitoti has also declared his intention to run for presidency in 2012. Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, Deputy Prime Ministers Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta, and Ruto are also expected to stake a claim.