UPDATE 2-Kenya president suspends minister over graft case

Tue Oct 19, 2010 5:51pm GMT

* Ruto to face trial for alleged role in forest sale scam

* Will keep parliamentary seat

* Court case could hurt a Ruto bid for presidency (Adds Analyst, background)

NAIROBI, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki on Tuesday suspended Higher Education Minister William Ruto after high court judges ruled Ruto should stand trial over corruption allegations, the president's press service (PPS) said.

Ruto, who spearheaded a "No" campaign against a new constitution in August, steps aside with immediate effect pending the conclusion of the court case, PPS said in an emailed statement.

It was not immediately possible to reach Ruto, who has said he intends to contest the 2012 presidential vote, on his mobile phone.

Anti-graft campaigners applauded Kibaki's move but some said Ruto's suspension did not signal any determination by the fragile coaliton government to crack down on corruption.

"This is really people deciding to take William Ruto down a notch because there are other ministers who have been recommended for investigation and no prosecutions have been brought against them," Mwalimu Mati, head of the anti-corruption watchdog Mars Group Kenya told Reuters.

"It is just because of Ruto's opposition to the two principals during the referendum and his efforts to become a king-pin, so they are probably just fighting back a bit," Mati said.   Continued...

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