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Fraud Case Against Minister Delayed as Kenya Falls in Global Corruption Rankings

  • Michael Onyiego

A handful of anti-corruption demonstrators hold a chain during a protest in downtown Nairobi, 17 Feb 2010 (file photo)

A handful of anti-corruption demonstrators hold a chain during a protest in downtown Nairobi, 17 Feb 2010 (file photo)

A $1.2 million fraud case facing Kenyan Minister William Ruto has stalled due to a court technicality. The setback occurs as Kenya drops nearly 10 places on a world corruption ranking.

The expected start of a fraud case filed against former Higher Education Minister William Ruto has been delayed after a paperwork issue stalled proceedings.

The former minister is accused of receiving more than $1 million through the sale of public land to the Kenyan Pipeline Corporation. Ruto is alleged to have taken that parcel of land from the protected Ngong Forest, just outside the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Last week, Kenya's High Court denied a Ruto petition to stop the case. But Chief Magistrate Gilbert Mutembi says the trial cannot proceed without an order from the High Court that indicates the Ruto petition had been defeated.

Meanwhile, the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index reveals that Kenya has fallen eight spots in the global rankings, to 154 out of 178 countries surveyed. While Kenya's score of 2.1 was only slightly worse than its 2009 score of 2.2, Kenya is now tied with Russia and ranked below Zimbabwe in global corruption.

According to Transparency International-Kenya Executive Director Samuel Kimeu, Kenya's new constitution could help the country rebound in future reports.

"What this country needs to do is to take advantage of the new constitution to fight corruption in a more decisive manner," said Kimeu. "There is a whole chapter - Chapter 6 - which deals with leadership and integrity that has the potential to fundamentally change the way things are done in this country."

Kimeu told VOA the delay to Ruto's case was procedural and was not likely to present any serious issue to the court proceedings. He said the trial of the former Cabinet member is a promising sign, but is not yet an indication of commitment to fighting corruption.

"We have also had previous cases where people have been asked to step aside or have been charged in court, and we have also had a situation where they sneaked back even, sometimes, without the investigation," Kimeu added. "We can only wait and see what is going to happen. I think Kenyans are looking forward to the day when people who engage in corruption and steal from public coffers are brought to account by way of successful prosecution and confiscation of whatever they have stolen."

Ruto is not the only prominent politician facing fraud charges in Kenya. Parliament is scheduled to hold hearings to decide whether Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula was involved in the purchase of land in Japan for a Kenyan embassy, a deal that lost the government more than $13 million.

On Monday, the Mayor of Nairobi was arrested for his involvement in a scandal surrounding the purchase of land for a city cemetery. He has denied the charges against him.

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