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Kenyan president lifts suspensions of two ministers

By Will Ross
BBC News, Nairobi

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki
President Kibaki said the prime minister could not suspend ministers

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has revoked the prime minister's suspension of two government ministers linked to corruption allegations.

The ministers of agriculture and education were suspended by Prime Minister Raila Odinga during fraud investigations into missing funds.

But hours later the suspensions were lifted as Mr Kibaki said Mr Odinga did not have the authority to suspend.

The two suspended ministers have denied any personal wrongdoing.

There had been growing calls for ministers to resign after millions of dollars of public money were siphoned off in an education and a maize scandal.

Corruption probes

Kenya's fractious coalition government has had its fair share of problems, but as it struggles to deal with corruption it seems to have hit an all-time low, and there is now confusion as to who is in charge.

First of all, Mr Odinga broke the mould by announcing the suspension of two ministers - a very rare move in Kenya.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga
Mr Odinga said there was enough evidence to investigate the ministers

He said two recent investigations into corruption laid credible foundations for the ministers to be investigated.

A recent audit into a maize scandal revealed that $26m (£16.5m) had been diverted whilst over $1m were stolen in an education scam.

But just hours after the suspensions were announced, President Kibaki annulled them.

He said he had not been consulted. President Kibaki also said the prime minister did not have the authority to take such action against a minister.

The prime minister's position was created as part of a peace deal to end post election violence, and whilst the accord says he should co-ordinate and supervise ministries it does not spell out whether he can suspend or sack the ministers.

It is - for now - not clear if the prime minister's effort to flex his muscles will succeed.

2012 elections

For now there is confusion and the future of the coalition government is being tested.

One of the ministers he is trying to suspend, William Ruto, is a former ally and now staunch foe of the prime minister.

The issue is also controversial because it comes at a time when Kenyan politicians are busy positioning themselves ahead of elections in 2012.

Most Kenyans will view this whole issue as another round of bickering between politicians getting in the way of the fight against corruption.



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