Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi clashed with Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot over claims that Deputy President William Ruto saved him from the Ruaraka land saga.
Cheruiyot had claimed that he was summoned by Ruto to the DP's office where he was asked about an adverse report in the Senate touching on the CS.
"The Deputy President called me on his hotline. I rushed there and found him with Matiang'i in the office. He asked me about the issues with the report and I told him it was a witch-hunt," the Senator claimed.
He was referring to a report by the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang which had recommended that Dr Matiang’i and Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang be held accountable for the loss of Sh1.5 billion paid out to a businessman for land the committee ruled was public property.
The report had recommended that the CS and PS be held responsible and investigated further, and if found culpable, prosecuted for occasioning the loss of Sh1.5 billion paid to businessman Francis Mburu.
It was, however, defeated in the Senate last November.
Yesterday, Cheruiyot claimed he mobilised other lawmakers in the National Assembly to water down a similar report on the matter. The report by the National Assembly did not find Matiangi’s at fault in the land saga.
Claims by the Senator that Ruto saved him infuriated Matiang'i.
A furious Matiang'i told off Cheruiyot in Ekegusii saying: "Amang'ana buna aya omonto agokwana igaiga buna tokaumerana nobochoni naende oboochi obonene (What you have heard someone say that there was a meeting, that's foolishness and stupidity)."
The CS told off Cheruiyot accusing him of lying about the meeting in the DP's office.
"What does it serve you to peddle lies when even God is a witness that there was no such meeting?" Matiang'i posed.
The two were addressing mourners during the funeral of industrialist Stephen Ongenyo at Ikonge in North Mugirango, Nyamira County attended by various political leaders from Nyamira and Kisii counties including governors James Ongwae (Kisii) and John Nyagarama (Kisii) as well as senators Sam Ongeri (Kisii) and Okong'o Mogeni (Nyamira).
The clash between Cheruiyot, an ally of the Deputy President and the Interior CS rekindled memories of the disquiet between a number of Rift MPs and Matiang'i following his promotion.
A number of Ruto’s supporters perceived Matiang'i's elevation to coordinating government projects as a being inimical to the DP's interests.
During yesterday's clash, Senator Ongeri defended Matiang'i saying there was never a meeting between the CS and Cheruiyot on the land scam in the DP's office.
The bitter exchange revived controversy surrounding the 13.5-acre parcel on which Drive-In Primary School and Ruaraka High School sit which Mburu claims ownership.
The Senate report had accused Matiang'i of ignoring, during his tenure as Education CS, with PS Kipsang, recommendations of a Quality Assurance and Standards Assessment report that had established that the land was public.
On July 28, a report by then Auditor-General Edward Ouko also indicated that the Government paid Sh1.5 billion for its own land.
Mr Ouko blamed top officials in the Education ministry for ignoring documents showing the land had been surrendered for public utility.
Earlier, the High Court had declared the land public. Justices Bernard Eboso, Elijah Obaga and Kossy Bor ruled that the Sh1.5 billion payment to Mburu was illegal.
“We find that compulsory land acquisition should not have happened in the first place. One cannot compulsorily acquire what is already public land,” ruled Justice Obaga.
The three judges had blamed the National Land Commission, then chaired by Muhammad Swazuri, for not carrying out due diligence in ascertaining Mburu’s claim over the land and making wrong recommendations to the Education ministry.
But Mburu moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge the High Court decision.
In May, allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto had clashed over an alleged plot to impeach Matiang’i.
Then, MPs allied to Uhuru and Opposition leader Raila Odinga dared Ruto’s camp to take the censure motion against Matiang’i to the floor of the House. The motion never materialised.
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