Githongo, Ruto meet on maize

Published on 27/03/2009

By David Ohito

Agriculture Minister William Ruto secretly met former Ethics and Governance Permanent Secretary-turned-whistleblower John Githongo on Wednesday night, fuelling speculations on what they could have discussed.

The two met in a Nairobi hotel in the Kilimani area, where they, according to Githongo, discussed details of the maize scandal that plagued the Ministry of Agriculture and depleted the national grain reserves.

Ruto and Githongo also discussed efforts to create the Special Tribunal to try post-election violence. Githongo, a former journalist now famed for his unwavering stand on graft said: “We discussed two subjects — maize and Waki Report.”

“I wanted to meet Ruto one-on-one so that I understand these issues which are very close to my heart. I wanted to understand his position on these matters and get the deeper details,” Githongo said.

He divulged that he met Ruto in his capacity as an “ordinary citizen” concerned with the queries raised about maize and the slow pace in the implementation of the Waki Report.

The secret meeting has raised eyebrows over what would be afoot.

Yesterday, Githongo and Ruto confirmed the meeting, but declined to give details of their discussions.

Ruto said: “How did you know of the meeting? Anyway, on that front I have no comment. Ask me about any other issue?”

When asked about his particular interest in the maize scam and Waki Report, Githongo said: “He (Ruto) was faced with many unanswered questions Kenyans continued to pose over the maize industry. We went into the details.”

On the Waki Report, Githongo maintained that the country was in a dilemma. He said: “On the one hand as Kenyans we have a duty to deal with these issues ourselves and therefore the domestic tribunal should be the ideal instrument.”

“On the other hand, a local tribunal would suffer a major credibility crisis at inception because of the prevailing low trust environment,” he added. Githongo said he is opposed to taking post-election violence suspects to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, saying it should be the last option. Ruto, on his part, has been advocating for trying the suspects at The Hague and said he is ready to face the law should any evidence be adduced against him.

Thrown out

Githongo, however, maintains that the Waki list should be made public. “This would allow society at large, media and civil society an opportunity to engage the issues systematically and to conduct their own inquiries.”

Last month, Ruto won perhaps his biggest political battle in Parliament when a censure Motion against him in Parliament, was thrown out.

The censure Motion by Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale failed to secure support to force Ruto to step down from his ministerial position. He secured massive support from MPs.

Githongo similarly said he would not divulge details of the meeting, arguing: “I cannot speak on behalf of Mr Ruto. You better seek his comment. I do not want to speak for him.”

His silence spoke volumes only opening another frontier of speculations. Ruto, however, took issue with a section of the media, accusing them of attempting to tarnish his name by insinuating he was the Cabinet Minister barred from going to the US.

“I know many of my enemies are not happy that I am not the minister, who was banned for life from setting foot in the US,” Ruto said by telephone. The Special Tribunal Bill failed to garner the requisite numbers in Parliament for a Constitutional Court after a section of MPs spiritedly campaigned against it.

The meeting came against Githongo’s announcement that he would not be keeping quiet longer over mounting allegations of official corruption.

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