Kenya president calls ministers' suspensions illegal

NAIROBI: Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki says he was not consulted about the suspension of two ministers over suspected corruption and called the move unconstitutional, a statement from his office said Monday.

On Sunday Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga suspended for three months and "with immediate effect" Agriculture Minister William Ruto and Education Minister Samuel Ongeri so that they can be investigated for corruption, a statement from Odinga's office said.

Odinga said two recent investigations -- one into a subsidised maize scam and the other into the disappearance of funds at the education ministry -- had "laid credible foundations for the two ministers to be investigated."

However, the president has challenged that decision, saying that "the legal provisions on which the Prime Minister acted, do not confer him the authority to cause a minister to vacate his or her office," the statement from Kibaki's office said.

According to the country's constitution, "the Office of a Minister can only become vacant if the President so directs," the Kibaki statement continued, concluding: "Therefore constitutionally, the two ministers remain in office."

Odinga's suspension of the two ministers followed the announcement Saturday night by Kibaki that he was suspending eight top government officials who were "mentioned adversely" in reports on the two scandals.

"This position should not be interpreted in any way as undermining the ongoing war against corruption. The war against corruption will be successfully fought when we do so in accordance with the constitution and the due process of law," the Kibaki statement said.