Kenyan President Suspends Minister Ruto in Reshuffle

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto pending the conclusion of a fraud case involving the sale of land to a state-owned oil company.

Ruto will be replaced by East African Community Minister Hellen Sambili, the presidency said in an e-mailed statement today from Nairobi, the capital.

Kenya’s Constitutional Court on Oct. 15 ruled that Ruto should face criminal prosecution over the sale of land in the Ngong Forest Sanctuary to the Kenya Pipeline Co. for 272 million shillings ($3.3 million), the Daily Nation, a Nairobi-based newspaper, reported yesterday. Ruto allegedly received 96 million shillings in the deal, it said.

Ruto didn’t answer his mobile phone today when called by Bloomberg for comment. Capital FM, a broadcaster in the city, on Oct. 16 cited Ruto as saying that he denied receiving any money from the Ngong transaction.

Ruto has sought to profile himself as a challenger for the presidency in elections scheduled for 2012, Global Insight analyst Gus Selassie said in April, when Ruto was replaced in a Cabinet reorganization and moved to the Higher Education post.

Ruto has previously clashed with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who suspended Ruto in February to allow a probe into a graft scandal that involved the re-export of grain to Southern Sudan to be completed. Kibaki overruled the decision hours later, saying that Odinga exceeded his authority by ordering the suspension. Ruto denied any wrongdoing and last year won a vote of no confidence in parliament over the matter.

Kibaki also announced today that Haron Mwau, currently the assistant transport minister, will swap roles with Simon Ogari, the deputy in the Trade Ministry. Ferdinand Waititu, a member of parliament and of Kibaki’s Party of National unity, becomes assistant water minister. Margaret Kariuki of Odinga’s party is now assistant housing minister, a post she previously held.

Mwangi Kiunjuri, the current deputy water minister, was appointed assistant public works minister.

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