, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 27 – The trial of suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto over the alleged sale of land in Ngong forest has finally kicked off.
A former chief government valuer Joseph Kiamba Mwaniki was the first witness in the case.
He told the court that he was asked by the then Lands Commissioner Wilson Gachanja to urgently carry out a valuation of 28 plots on the edge of Ngong forest off Langata Road near the Bomas of Kenya and others near Lenana School.
Mr Ruto is charged alongside Sammy Mwaita and a former personal assistant to retired president Moi, Joshua Kulei, who is negotiating an out-of-court settlement in the case with the Attorney General.
The court however declined a request to suspend the case against Mr Kulei, despite the fact that he is in the process of negotiating a plea bargain.
Under the Criminal Procedure Act 11 of 2008, a suspect in a criminal case can enter into plea bargain with the State to have matters settled. However lawyers say that such a party must first plead guilty to the charges and agree on either restitution or any other settlement.
In his evidence Mr Mwaniki that the land which is estimated to be 37.55 hectares was valued at Sh143.7 million.
The court last year ruled that Mr Ruto had a case to answer over the controversial sale of the forest land to the Kenya Pipeline Company 10 years ago.
The suspended Minister had moved to court to block the fraud case arguing that it was a violation of his fundamental rights and was also meant to curtail his political ambitions.