Kenyan politics is really addictive - at the moment it's even better than the Bold and the Beautiful!
On Valentines day Prime Minister Raila Odinga stepped in front of the press and suspended two MPs from Parliament for three month, pending investigations into corruption scandals falling within their remit. Gasp - action against corruption was taken - watch while we fall into a dead faint. After making his statement, Raila then jetted off to Japan (those State visits can be timed so perfectly!) News filtered out. The MPs protested bitterly saying Raila Odinga had no right to suspend them. There was jostling and even a little protesting. Then, when everybody had just had time to absorb the news, right after the 7pm evening news, President Mwai Kibaki made a press statement - he discounted the suspensions saying that his Prime Minister had acted outside his powers of authority. The two MPs were reinstated. Sigh.
The MPs in question were William Ruto, Agriculture minister who was/is coming under suspicion for his part in last year's maize scandal that not only cost the country 6bn shillings, but also forced up the price of Kenya's staple commodity in the midst of a drought. Kenyans had to pay up to three times the normal price for a bag of maize flour. As I understand it, the scam came about when Government realised that the federal reserves of grain had been depleted somehow and so had to fill the deficit in a drought by buying it in. The Government imported millions of sacks of grain to. The usual millers and distributors found they were not contracted to deal with the new imports, instead many well connected ghost companies 'cropped up' and became middle men, passing on the grain at exorbitant prices.
The second MP is Sam Ongeri, education minister - who had yet to account for millions of shillings missing from the Free Primary education fund (much of which was given by the British/Dfid).
It all started like this. In Kenya's Coalition Government, one time enemies Prime Minister Raila Odinga is from the ODM party and President Kibaki from PNU. Goes without saying, the situation between them is still dicey.
Late last year, when the education funds were revealed to be missing, Raila Odinga pointed the finger at Education Minister Sam Ongeri to account for the loss. Sam Ongeri is a PNU Minister. President Kibaki's PNU party got shirty about this and said words to the effect of, 'Before taking the splinter from my eye, try taking the plank from your own.'
Then, rather conveniently, findings from the investigation into last year's maize scandal were leaked to the press a department responsibility for this one fell within the ODM camp. 'Ha Ha' PNU said. 'Now talk to us about corruption and let's see what you are willing to do about it!' Game, set, match - or so you might think
Now fortunately for Raila Odinga, former allay and right hand man Eldoret (East?) MP Agriculture minister has recently proved to be rather a thorn in the PM's side. Of late, William Ruto has been doing divisive things like sallying up to PNU ministers (like Uhuru Kenyatta) forming unlikely allegiances with the PNU camp and stirring up trouble for Raila in the powerful PNU Rift Valley area. William Ruto evidently has eyes on the 2012 election and thinks that he could be a contender.
This made the way clear for Raila Odinga to take a stand on corruption and suspend both ministers in one fell swoop.
William Ruto was particularly cross on Sunday and accused Odinga of politicising the 3 month suspension in pursuit of his own interests when there was not a stick of evidence against him. Don't forget, Ruto has friends in high places. Kibaki then overruled his own Prime Minister saying that he was not properly consulted about the suspensions.
To add the the confusion, VP Mudavadi asked for Kofi Annan (mediator in the 2007 election crisis) to come in once again and sort out this dispute. The BBC radio news asked 'will these latest developments rock the Coalition?' - or is this perhaps just another episode of the Bold and the Beautiful?
*in other news - have you heard that since three major cash in transit heists carried out by private security firm Group 4 Security (G4S)- the company is now more commonly known as 'Gone in 4 Seconds'.
*My parents were rather disappointed on a recent visit to the Amboseli game park, to be told on a game drive that 'there are no animals here'. In fact they saw lots of interesting things, but the plains game such as wilderbeest and zebra were noticable for their absence. In addition, desperate lions were troubling local villagers by eating their cows. Last weekend the Kenya Wildlife Service stage managed the huge translocation of 4,000 Zebra and Wilderbeest from the Rift area to Amboseli in order to restock the park.