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Kenya PM stands by besieged deputy

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 10 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has defended his Deputy and key political ally Musalia Mudavadi over his alleged involvement in the multi-million shilling cemetery land scandal and shrugged off resignation calls saying “the government was still consulting on the matter.”

Mr Odinga told Parliament on Wednesday that a report by the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission had clearly stated that investigators had not been able to ascertain a claim linking Mr Mudavadi to the scam, adding that Newton Osiemo who is alleged to have acted on the DPM’s behalf is missing.

“They have also stated clearly in their report that they had not taken a statement from the Minister,” said the Prime Minister (Mr Mudavadi was however interrogated by KACC detectives on Wednesday).

The KACC report quoted the suspended City Director of Legal Affairs Mary Ng’ethe saying that Mayor Geoffrey Majiwa introduced Mr Osiemo as a business associate of Mr Mudavadi. It was claimed that Mr Osiemo was “to take care of the interests of the Minister and his Permanent Secretary Sammy Kirui.” The report added that Mr Osiemo received Sh59 million in the transaction which was unaccounted for.

The Premier who controversially suspended Ministers William Ruto and Sam Ongeri a few weeks back instead urged Kenyans to exercise patience and wait for the outcome of ongoing investigations into the scam

Mr Mudavadi on his part read ‘political mischief’ in the matter. He wondered why the report by KACC was leaked to the media and also circulated to MPs with the page where he was mentioned “circled for members’ attention.”

“People should be tabling a cheque to show I received the money,” he said, while reading a Personal Statement in the House.

Mr Odinga on his part used his allocated time in Parliament to detail out the measures the government was taking to address corruption. The debate went on for close to three hours with tempers flaring in the House as members accused the government of failing in the fight against graft.

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“When you steal you are arrested.  There is no need for consultations.  Now I appears if you steal mangoes there will be consultations,” Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo told the House.

On his part, Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale wondered: “Is the government sacrificing civil servant for politicians while we all know that they only act in collaboration of their ministers?”

A section of legislators raised issue with Mr Odinga’s stand on graft accusing him of doublespeak when it comes to ministers from his political party.

“You suspended Ministers Sam Ongeri and William Ruto on the basis of investigations that were being carried out. You were asked whether your Deputy will step aside as investigations are been carried,” charged Nominated MP George Nyamweya.

Members wondered whether the disagreement between the PM and President Mwai Kibaki on the earlier suspensions was a hindrance to the fight against graft.

“I cannot suspend another Minister when we are still in consultations on the other suspensions,” the PM admitted.

Garsen MP Danson Mungatana and his Ikolomani counterpart Bonny Khalwale said there was need for all those mentioned in graft to step aside pending investigations.

It is alleged that the involved officers overvalued the cemetery plot by Sh259 million. The plot was valued at Sh24 million but Sh283 million was paid out. President Kibaki on Monday suspended Mr Kirui and 12 other officers linked to the scandal.

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