Kibaki suspends key minister

2010-10-20 07:37

Nairobi - Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki on Tuesday suspended his higher education minister, who faces corruption charges over an illegal land sale, a statement said.

William Ruto is widely believed to be a key suspect in the International Criminal Court's (ICC) probe into the violent aftermath of Kenya's 2007 elections and was also the leader of a fierce campaign against the new constitution adopted in August.

The constitutional court last week ruled that Ruto should be tried for receiving a 96-million-shilling ($1.2m) bribe over the 2001 sale of 100 acres of land outside the capital Nairobi.

"Following consultations with the... prime minister... the president has stood aside William S Ruto... from office of minister with immediate effect pending conclusion of the Nairobi chief magistrates case..," said the statement from Kibaki's office.

Ruto at the weekend denied any wrongdoing, claiming that the court's ruling was politically motivated.

"I am used to these things and those who took me to court said they were doing it because of politics," he told reporters on Saturday.

The new constitution, which Ruto opposed, bars any public official from staying in office when facing criminal charges.

Ruto, the political leader of Kenya's large Kalenjin tribe, was implicated by an official report into the violence that erupted following the 2007 elections, leaving some 1 500 people dead.

He is widely believed to be one of a handful of Kenyan officials who could be slapped with an ICC arrest warrant by the end of the year.

Although a member of the same political party, he has lately been at odds with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who tried to sack him in February this year over Ruto's alleged involvement in another graft case.

Ruto, a 43-year-old father of six, was removed from the agriculture ministry in April. He has been rumoured to mull the creation of his own political movement.