How once-powerful leader fell from glory


The spectre of Mr Amos Kimunya standing in the dock to answer criminal charges marks a dramatic turn in the fortunes of one of the blue-eyed boys in the first half of President Mwai Kibaki’s administration.

It might seem ironic that just a month before his arrest, Mr Kimunya re-appeared in public after a long hiatus since losing his parliamentary seat.

He was the main protagonist in the dramatic performance before the Public Investments Committee, where he was engaged in a war of words with the chairman, Mr Adan Keynan. At the end of the short but heated exchange, Mr Keynan declared Mr Kimunya a hostile witness. Weeks later, the former minister was in court, not as a witness but as the accused in an abuse of office case.

That one of the “untouchables” in Mr Kibaki’s inner circle could be hauled before court over allegations dating back many years ago has already sent tongues wagging that President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration might be targeting denizens of the previous government.

Earlier in the year, his former protégé, Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndung’u, had to seek protection of the courts after the Director of Public Prosecutions approved his prosecution for abuse of office over a controversial security systems tender at the bank.

Although he was much reduced in stature by the time he lost his Kipipiri parliamentary seat last year, Mr Kimunya had previously enjoyed immense influence as one of the few Cabinet ministers who had President Kibaki’s ears.

Mr Kimunya, then a youthful  minister — he was 39 when first elected — seemed to have everything going for him as de facto representative in the Cabinet of Mr Kibaki’s old golf club and business network commonly referred to as the Muthaiga Club group.

His upward trajectory was confirmed when he was appointed to succeed Mr Mwiraria as Finance minister, a docket that President Kibaki held close to his heart. As a former chairman of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Mr Kimunya seemed tailor-made for the docket.

Retained Kipipiri seat

He retained the Kipipiri seat at the 2007 elections and received yet another vote of confidence with re-appointment to the Ministry of Finance in the Grand Coalition government established to stem the post-election violence.

But as he became increasingly powerful and seemingly headed for bigger things, his problems increased in tandem. Mr Kimunya had risen rapidly, but along the way might have become too big for his boots, treating fellow politicians with ill-disguised disdain.

Barely three months after his re-appointment, his world came tumbling down when he was enmeshed in the Grand Regency Hotel scandal.

As minister for Finance, Mr Kimunya and Prof Ndung’u — now also under threat of criminal prosecution — had presided over the controversial sale of the hotel to supposed Libyan government investment arm.

Grand Regency had earlier been seized by the Central Bank as part of the proceeds of Goldenberg and associated scandals that in the Moi years nearly bankrupted Kenya after siphoning Sh5.8 billion of tax payers money.

The sale of the hotel to the Libyans in a process that seemed single-sourced and at price said to be below the market value attracted suspicion as did the involvement of Goldenberg scandal key suspect, Kamlesh Pattni, in identifying and negotiating with the buyers.

A parliamentary watchdog committee chaired by Dr Boni Khalwale investigated the deal and recommended Mr Kimunya’s removal for abuse of office.

“Dr Khalwale’s words, “Kimunya must go” became a rallying point for MPs.

Outside the Chambers of Parliament, Mr Kimunya was chest-thumping, vowing that he would rather die than resign. However, just a few days after the public shows of defiance, he ate humble and quit as minister for Finance.

Towards the end of the same year, however, an official inquiry cleared Mr Kimunya of any wrongdoing in the Grand Regency — now Laico Regency — sale. And in January 2009 President Kibaki re-appointed him to the Cabinet, but it was a humbler and seemingly reduced Kimunya who took office in the Ministry of Trade.

By the time the 2013 General Election came, Mr Kimunya was no longer the confident figure who bestrode the corridors of power exuding airs that came with proximity to the President and members of the First family.

It was also clear that with President Kibaki exiting the scene, Mr Kimunya was struggling to find his footing in the new power equation.

He was controversially handed the TNA nomination despite protests from his former campaign manager turned rival, Mr Samuel Gichigi, who went on to contest on the Alliance Party of Kenya ticket and narrowly defeated the once powerful minister at the ballot.

On Monday, the once mighty minister was in the dock over allegations that he used his office as Lands minister to allocate land to a company in which he had

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