Business, Economics and Jobs

Kenya sacks cabinet minister, explores for oil


Supporters of Kenyan suspected masterminds in the 2007/08 post-electoral violence, ex-minister William Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister, Uhuru Kenyatta sing and wave their posters on April 11, 2011 at the Uhuru [Freedom] Park in Nairobi where they received a rapturous welcome following their return from the world criminal court in the Netherlands. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and ex-minister William Ruto -- both eyeing the presidency in 2012 -- were welcomed at Nairobi airport by crowds of supporters.


Tony Karumba

At first glance the sacking of Kenyan cabinet minister William Ruto looks like the government may be cleaning up its act, as Ruto is accused by the International Criminal Court of leading political/ethnic violence.

Is Ruto's firing an indication that the Kenyan government is trying to root out those responsible for the violence?

A closer look indicates that the government may be throwing Ruto out, not for the sake of justice and human rights, but instead because of internal political feuding.

Ruto was sacked this week from his post as the Minister of Higher Education. He is accused by the International Criminal Court of leading the 2007/08 post-election violence. He is one of six top officials accused by the ICC of involvement in the clashes in which an estimated 1,300 people were killed.

Ruto had already been suspended from his cabinet post after being accused of corruption, although he was acquitted in April.

More significantly, Ruto has fallen out with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, with whom he had been allied in the 2007 poll. Ruto is deputy leader of Odinga's Orange Democratic Movement but he has declared his intention to stand in the 2012 presidential elections. Ruto has well organized supporters who show their support for him in street demonstrations.

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Odinga is also expected to contest the poll so the two would be running against each other. So maybe Ruto was sacked so that he won't be in office at election time next year.

Odinga says he was cheated of victory by President Mwai Kibaki and his supporters in 2007. The election results sparked the nationwide clashes. The violence ended after Kibaki and Odinga agreed to share power.

Some of the worst clashes were seen in the Rift Valley, where Ruto has his constituency. He denies any involvement in the violence.

The coalition Kibaki/Odinga government is widely criticized, both at home and internationally, for being ineffective and corrupt. Few hope that the sacking of Ruto will change that.

And Kenya may soon have more wealth for politicians to fight over.

Canadian oil and gas explorer Africa Oil Corp is making plans to drill for oil in northern Kenya later this year.

The exploration firm and its joint venture partners hold exploration licences in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region, according to Reuters. 

"Newly acquired data is excellent and a number of
interesting leads have been identified," Africa Oil said.
"(Africa Oil) is in a very strong financial position and is
extremely excited to commence drilling operations and plans to
drill seven to 10 high potential exploration wells in the next
18 months," Keith Hill, Africa Oil president and chief
executive, said, referring to the firm's East Africa activities.

Earlier in the year, Africa Oil said it planned to drill up to eight exploratory wells in blocks it holds interests in across East Africa, two of which will be in the semi-autonomous Puntland region in Somalia. Gas discoveries in Tanzania, and significant proven oil reserves along the border between Uganda and Congo have
encouraged interest in the once largely overlooked region.

The discovery of oil and gas could be a boon to Kenya's economy. However the new wealth from the resources could also become more spoils for looting by politicians. The curse of oil in Africa is well known. The oil earnings tend to fuel corruption and misgovernance, rather than help the average person.