Kenyan President Blocks Prime Minister’s Suspension Of Two High-Ranking Officials

Kenya seemed headed for another political tangle on Sunday after the prime minister suspended two high-ranking ministers recently implicated in multimillion-dollar corruption scandals and the president immediately annulled the suspensions.

Kenya seemed headed for another political tangle on Sunday after the prime minister suspended two high-ranking ministers recently implicated in multimillion-dollar corruption scandals and the president immediately annulled the suspensions.

The moves, which came in the form of dueling public statements by Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki, seemed destined to provoke yet one more political crisis in a country that has recently been hit by staggering corruption allegations, drought, a languid economy and an investigation by the International Criminal Court that could culminate in some of Kenya’s most powerful men being hauled away to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Part of the problem lies in the fractious power-sharing government that was set up, under intense international pressure, in 2008, after a disputed election in Kenya burst into a bloodbath. Supporters of Mr. Kibaki and his campaign rival, Mr. Odinga, battled in the streets, killing more than 1,000 people and displacing hundreds of thousands in a country that had been considered one of Africa’s most promising. In early 2008, Mr. Odinga became prime minister, and other leadership positions were split between Mr. Kibaki’s loyalists and the opposition.

On Saturday, Mr. Kibaki suspended eight senior officials for three months over corruption allegations, including two senior aides to Mr. Odinga, according to the BBC. On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Odinga said he was suspending the ministers of agriculture and education for three months because two recent reports, including one completed by the auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, “have laid credible foundations for the two ministers to be investigated.”

Mr. Odinga also said he was referring the files to criminal prosecutors.

But a few hours later, Mr. Kibaki weighed in, issuing a statement that said that he had not been consulted, as the law requires, and that the two ministers therefore remained in office.

The president added that his decision “should not be interpreted in any way as undermining the ongoing war against corruption.”

It is not clear what is going to happen next, and some political analysts in Kenya believe Mr. Odinga may soon resign to position himself as the leader of the opposition for the next presidential election in 2012.

Source : http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/15/world/africa/15kenya.html