Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga has hinted at a looming cabinet reshuffle that may determine the fate of suspended Higher Education minister William Ruto.
The PM told a news conference Tuesday that a reshuffle would be effected in “due course” to fill vacancies in the cabinet.
Mr Odinga who was addressing a news conference after returning from a two week tour of the US and France, however, refrained to answer questions on the fate of the Eldoret North MP who has remained suspended even after he was acquitted of land fraud charges early this month.
“A cabinet reshuffle is the work of the Executive. That will be done soon. I do not want to talk about individuals because this country is greater than any individual,” Mr Odinga told inquisitive journalists at his Shell and BP House office in Nairobi.
He said that he would issue a comprehensive statement in Parliament Wednesday over the rising cost of food and fuel prices.
It had been expected that Mr Ruto will find his way back to the cabinet as soon as he was cleared of the fraud charges but this has not happened so far despite pressure from his political allies.
When he announced his suspension on October last year, President Kibaki said Mr Ruto would stay out of office and wait for the fraud case to be concluded.
The President in the meantime appointed Prof Hellen Sambili, to act as minister for Higher Education.
Under the National Accord, Mr Odinga ought to be consulted on all ministerial appointments and dismissals involving members of his party, ODM.
It is not clear whether this also applies to the reinstatement of ODM ministers serving suspension even though the President and the PM have previously picked ministers from the same side of the coalition government to replace their suspended colleagues in acting capacity.
For instance, Fisheries minister Amason Kingi is acting as Industrialization minister pending the conclusion of a corruption case facing the suspended Henry Kosgey while Public Service minister Dalmas Otieno recently acted as Medical Services minister when the substantive minister Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o was hospitalised in a US facility for three months.
Mr Odinga has however been under pressure from his party to sack rebel MPs led by Mr Ruto. The party’s chief whip, Jakoyo Midiwo has been on record calling for the sacking of Mr Ruto, Tourism minister Najib Balala and assistant minister Aden Duale for constantly going against the party’s position.
Mr Ruto’s return to the cabinet may however be complicated by another fraud case he faces in an Eldoret court.
The MP has been sued by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission over a council plot in Eldoret municipality.
The anti-graft body has sued him, alongside former Lands Commissioner Wilson Gachanja and two companies over a parcel of land it claims was illegally acquired from the council by the defendants.
Government Spokesman Dr Alfred Mutua is on record saying that once a suspended individual, charged with corruption or any economic crime had been cleared of the charges, it was automatic that he would be reinstated.
Section 62 of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act stipulates that “a public officer who is charged with corruption or economic crime shall be suspended at half pay, with effect from the date of the charge.”
It continues: “The public officer ceases to be suspended if the proceedings against him are discontinued or if he is acquitted.
Dr Mutua said: “Based on this, it is pretty straight forward that once you have been cleared, you resume your office.
“Not withstanding anything, I don’t think there is any reason that will stand between his return to Cabinet.
“It is just a matter of time, maybe he is awaiting official communication to enable him return to Cabinet.”