Calls continue to mount for Kenya's finance minister to step down over
the sale of a luxury hotel in Nairobi. As Derek Kilner reports from
the Kenyan capital, critics say the hotel was sold for a price far
below its value, reviving concerns about corruption in a country that
has long struggled with issues of graft.
members of parliament, non-governmental organizations and newspaper
editorials have called for Kenya's Minister of Finance Amos Kimunya to
resign, following news of a secret deal to sell the Grand Regency Hotel
in downtown Nairobi.
Kimunya, who was appointed by President
Mwai Kibaki in 2006, approved the sale of the hotel to a state-owned
Libyan company for about $45 million. Kimunya says the price was above
the property's official valuation, but critics say the estimated market
value is at least $100 million, more than the selling price.
deal has been condemned by leaders from the president's coalition, to
which Kimunya belongs, as well as the Orange Democratic Movement, the
party of Prime Minister Raila Odinga who challenged President Kibaki in
last year's disputed elections before joining a unity government.
Minister of Nairobi Metropolitan Development Mutula Kilonzo, a Kibaki
ally, urged Kimunya to resign, saying the price of the sale was
Minister of Land James Orengo, an ally of Mr.
Odinga who exposed the deal, called the sale "fraudulent" and
"mafia-like." Another Odinga ally, Minister of Agriculture William
Ruto called the deal a "farce."
Kenya's The Nation newspaper
said in an editorial that the deal "stinks to high heaven."
Anti-corruption organizations, including the Kenya chapter of
Transparency International and the Mars Group have called for an
Mars Group chairman Mwalimu Mati says the sale was either vastly undervalued or is hiding deeper misconduct.
second and perhaps the more intriguing suggestion is that the sale
price recorded is only a fraction of what was paid, and if that is the
case, then that would be very, very illegal," said Mati. "In
fact, he is being accused of having a secret interest in the
undisclosed part of the sale price, which amounts to several billion
The hotel was owned by Kenyan businessman Kamlesh
Pattni who was at the forefront of a scheme in the 1990s to defraud the
government of $1 billion through nonexistent exports of gold and
diamonds. The case became a symbol of Kenya's troubles with corruption.
April, Pattni turned over the hotel to Kenya's Central Bank, in a deal
with the state-run Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission that many believe
gave him immunity from further prosecution. Calls have also surfaced
for the heads of the Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission to
Even ministers and members of parliament from Mr.
Kimunya's home region of Central Province, who often stick together,
have distanced themselves from the finance minister.
Mati, of Mars Group, says there are suspicions of wider government involvement.
think we should be very concerned that a minister of finance, knowing
how much attention there was on him would be so brazen," said Mati.
"The questions Kenyans usually ask are who has the audacity to defy all
these institutions unless it is somebody who has higher protection. So
the direction of attention is now starting to go up, and upwards in
this case would be to the appointing authority, the president. So I
think we have got a scandal that is yet to totally come to boil. I
actually suspect that this is just the tip of the iceberg."
A group of lawmakers has said it will launch an effort to censure Kimunya in parliament, which would force his resignation.
Minister Odinga, who campaigned last year on a pledge to fight the
corruption of the previous Kibaki government, has said he will call a
cabinet-level meeting on the subject this week.
remained defiant, saying he should be congratulated for bringing in
government revenue and dismissing complaints as "propaganda".