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Kenyan Foreign Minister Steps Aside in Embassy Scandal

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula quit his Cabinet post to allow investigations into allegations of a multimillion dollar scandal involving five Kenyan embassies in Africa, Europe and Asia 27 Oct 2010.

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetang'ula has stepped aside, hours after his permanent secretary made a similar move to pave way for investigations into allegations of corruption over procurement and disposals of overseas embassies.

After more than two weeks of mounting pressure and parliamentary scrutiny, Moses Wetang'ula removed himself from office amid questions regarding his role in the purchase and sale of Kenyan Embassies in Pakistan, Egypt, Belgium, Japan and Nigeria.

"The only thing I do, and must do, is to step aside and give my appointing authority to the president, who I have no doubt understands me fully to have in addressing his mind to this issue, because I am sure he also does not want to have a corrupt minister in his fold. And when I am vindicated, I can assure you, I will be back," he said.

The Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act written into Kenya's new constitution requires any public officer facing corruption charges to step aside until his name is cleared. If Wetang'ula had not stepped down, President Mwai Kibaki would have been required by law to suspend him.

Wentang'ula has been adversely mentioned in a parliamentary investigation into Foreign Ministry procurement abroad. In perhaps the most serious case, the report found Kenya had overpaid for embassy property in Japan by nearly $15 million.

The report indicates the transaction was completed in cash, despite repeated assessments given to Kenyan officials deeming the land unsuitable for the embassy's purposes.

On Tuesday, the Parliamentary Defense and Foreign Relations Committee accused Wetang'ula of deliberately misleading the committee regarding the purchases and cited him for gross misconduct.

Throughout the investigation, Wetang'ula has maintained his innocence, arguing that in his position as foreign minister he was not directly involved in government procurement. Wetang'ula has acknowledged that many of the transactions cited in the report proceeded without his knowledge.

The Foreign Ministry's permanent secretary, Thuita Mwangi, also stepped aside after being similarly implicated in the embassy scandal. Mwangi maintained his innocence and hoped his resignation would provide space for a quick and thorough investigation.

Kenya is awash with corruption scandals. Wetangula's announcement comes less than two weeks after former Higher Education Minister William Ruto was ordered to stand trial for allegedly receiving $1.2 million from the illegal sale of public land.

Nairobi Mayor Geophrey Majiwa was arraigned in court Tuesday and is facing four charges stemming from a $3.5 million purchase of land for a public cemetery. All three men deny the charges against them.