Ruto survives censure motion

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By Standard Team

Agriculture Minister William Ruto survived a censure Motion in Parliament, amid heated debates that delineated succession wars and regional supremacy.

The 22 MPs who voted against Ruto proved faint for the massive 119 MPs who voted in his support, galvanising unlikely alliances beyond party and regional lines.

The debate at certain times got quite heated as speaker after speaker was interrupted by numerous points of order. Accusations and counter-accusations flew across the floor as tempers flared.

Eldoret residents follow parliamentary debate during a censure Motion against Cabinet Minister William Ruto by Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale, on Wednesday. [PHOTO: PETER OCHIENG/STANDARD]

Justice and Constitutional Minister Martha Karua supported the censure Motion, excitement in the house only a day after she and Ruto were reported to have had an acrimonious verbal exchange over the maize debacle at a Cabinet meeting that was chaired by President Kibaki.

At one point, Energy Minister Kiraitu Muriungi challenged Karua to tell the House what she had done in the fight against corruption.

In response, Karua retorted: “Is it in order, Mr Speaker, for a minister who has been linked to an oil scandal worth billions of shillings to use me as a scapegoat?”

Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale — who moved the motion with an eloquent chronicle of the famine that has ravaged the land — faced stiff opposition from MPs from Rift Valley, North Eastern and Nyanza, who kept interrupting him from pushing his point against Ruto.

The vote, when the division results were announced shortly after 7pm, extending Ruto a lifeline, proving his efforts at mobilising support from MPs had borne fruit.

The Agriculture minister was reported to have met about 60 MPs from Rift Valley and North Eastern provinces on Tuesday night to rally support.

House business

Had the minister been censured, he would not have been legally compelled to resign, although he would have been technically incapacitated in transacting House business.

Coming to Ruto’s rescue were Naivasha MP and chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Agriculture John Mututho, Assistant Minister Omingo Magara and Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi, who lamented that he still bore the stigma of the Anglo Leasing scam even after having been cleared.

In his presentation, Khalwale noted that the maize scandal started with an executive order to import three million bags, adding that to date 650,000 tonnes of maize were still being held at the port.

Khalwale said middlemen were allowed to make a killing by selling maize at Sh2,500 for a 90kg bag while farmers were earning Sh1,750, and the extra cost borne by the consumer.

Khalwale also accused the minister of appointing a miller by the name of Mohammed Aslam Ali, a director at Mombasa Maize Millers, thereby occasioning a clear conflict of interest.

In his defence Ruto clarified that the National Cereals and Produce Board Act required that one of the directors be a millers’ representative.

Kimilili MP Dr Eseli Simiyu who seconded the motion, caused a stir in the House when he said he had received death threats when it emerged that he was the one who was going to second it.

Sacked officials

Eseli accused Ruto of misleading Parliament when he purported to have sacked officials at NCPB because of the maize scam.

He said the officers at NCPB were fired owing to an internal audit that had been carried at the board and not as result of the scam.

Naivasha MP John Mututho while defending Ruto and opposing the motion said the amount in dispute was 100,000 bags, a meager fraction of the annual maize deficit.

Those who made their contributions in support of the motion included Karua and Assistant ministers Mwangi Kiunjuri and Kilemi Mwiria.

Supporting the motion Assistant Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri said questions of governance and economic crimes are never addressed while matters of public interest take too long to determine.

He said he had come to vote on the motion as a young person who had a future in the country and also against corruption.

He said Khalwalwe had taken a bold step to bring the motion on the floor of the hour as a first step to fight corruption.

In his defence Ruto, who spoke immediately after Karua, said the Strategic Grain Reserve (SGR) from where thousands of bags of maize disappeared was not under his ministry.

He said SGR fell under the Special Programmes docket in line with a special gazette notice that required the board of trustees to report to the Office of the President.

“If you want political responsibility there is a minister responsible” Ruto responded.

He added: “I am prepared to take political responsibility. I have discharged my duties as a minister to the best of my ability. If there is reason for me to resign I would not hesitate but it will be unfair to do so and dignify the allegations.”

Karua fought off claims that she was motivated in her campaign against Ruto by the 2012 succession politics.

Speaking to his supporters outside Parliament later, Ruto described the vote as a triumph over a political scheme to destroy him.

Accompanied by ODM Rift Valley MPs Ruto said Parliament has exonerated him from a “political conspiracy” that had nothing to do with his tenure at the ministry and alleged that Parliament has restored public confidence in him.

Reporting by Martin Mutua, Alex Ndegwa and David Ochami

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