, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 22 – Newly appointed Higher Education Minister William Ruto has vacated his office at Kilimo House but vowed to continue with his No campaign against the proposed Constitution despite his demotion.
A day after he was moved from the prestigious Agriculture Ministry to the lesser docket in a Cabinet mini-reshuffle, Mr Ruto said he “will not be cowed” from exercising his democratic right.
“If the aim is to push me to change my stand then that bid will fail,” he said at his last press conference at Kilimo House.
“Like every other Kenyan, I have a position on the proposed Constitution and my stand must not be similar to anyone else.”
The Higher Education Ministry is a low key portfolio in charge of three parastatals compared to the Agriculture docket that controls about 30 State corporations. Mr Ruto has come out as the leader of the No camp against the Yes camp of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Political observers see the reshuffle as an attempt to tame his opposition to the draft and rebuke him for defying his ODM party leader Raila Odinga.
The Eldoret North MP has been a vocal critic of the PM and has previously disagreed with him on the fate of post election violence suspects and the relocation of illegal settlers from the Mau forest.
Mr Odinga had attempted to suspend Mr Ruto over the multibillion-shilling maize scandal in the Agriculture Ministry in February but this was overturned by President Kibaki. The PM has however remained determined and reiterated in numerous forums that “errant ministers” from his party will be dealt with.
Mr Ruto was candid in his interpretation about whether he had been demoted. “You live in this country and your guess is as good as mine,” he said.
The ODM deputy leader said he was proud of his achievements at the Agriculture Ministry and said he would transfer his energy and passion to serve his new docket.
Achievements he outlined included the revival of irrigation schemes across the country, jumpstarting the privatisation of government owned sugar companies and provision of free farm inputs to farmers to boost food production.
“I am looking forward to work with the academia, the professors and the students. It is an opportunity I am looking forward to,” he said.
His position at the Agriculture Ministry has been taken over by ODM colleague Sally Kosgei.