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Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Kenya minister hits out at Prime Minister Raila Odinga

Agriculture Minister William Ruto
William Ruto denies stirring up post-poll violence

A Kenyan minister, whose suspension over corruption claims threw the government into chaos, has launched an attack on Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Agriculture Minister William Ruto told the BBC he was not to blame for a huge scam involving illegal sales of maize.

He suggested Mr Odinga bore as much responsibility for the scandal.

The prime minister suspended him on Sunday only for President Mwai Kibaki to reverse the decision hours later - sparking a bitter power struggle.

The row threatens to tear apart the unity government, which was formed to end deadly riots after the 2007 election.

Mr Ruto had been an ally of Mr Odinga, but the two men have fallen out and are now bitter foes.

ICC inquiry welcomed

Officials in the agriculture ministry have been accused of illegally selling maize outside the country.

A recent audit found that $26m (£16.5m) was siphoned off from illegal sales.

But Mr Ruto told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme he had nothing to hide, and suggested Mr Odinga was just as much to blame for the scandal.

"It must be understood that the prime minister himself was the chair of the sub-committee of cabinet that decided over the importation, the sale and the distribution of the maize," he said.

"How come today that the prime minister can turn around and say that he wants to suspend me?"

A local rights group has named Mr Ruto as one of those suspected of orchestrating the post-election violence, which hit his Eldoret constituency particularly hard.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has said it will investigate the riots, and Mr Ruto welcomed the inquiry.

"I am among the people who think the ICC should go ahead and investigate everybody, including myself," he said.

The fighting began between supporters of Mr Odinga, who claimed he had been cheated out of victory, and those of Mr Kibaki, who won the election.

The violence went on for weeks, resulting in the deaths of 1,300 people and displacing tens of thousands.



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