Kenya mayor in corruption charge over cemetery scandal

image captionMayor Majiwa faced several charges in the packed courtroom

The mayor of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, has been charged with corruption in connection with the sale of land for a graveyard in the city.

Geoffrey Majiwa is the most high-profile figure to be charged over the alleged scam.

Officials are accused of paying $3.6m (£2.4m) of taxpayers' money for the land, which was worth only 10% as much and did not have a title deed.

Donors have long criticised Kenya for failing to tackle corruption.

But correspondents say the passing of a new constitution in August has made it easier for the authorities to fight corruption.

The constitution stipulates that anyone facing criminal charges should step aside from public office.

Last week, Kenya's Higher Education Minister William Ruto was suspended, after a court ruled he must stand trial over corruption allegations.

Later on Tuesday, parliament will discuss whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moses Wetangula, is involved in a separate case of alleged corruption.

Rocky land

The BBC's James Copnall in the capital, Nairobi, says there were so many people curious to see the mayor in handcuffs that not everybody could enter the courtroom.

Inside, Mr Majiwa, wearing a bright orange shirt, was largely expressionless as he heard the charges against him.

They include conspiracy to commit a crime of corruption and two counts of wilful neglect of official duties.

He denied the charges and was granted bail.

It was a parliamentary inquiry that implicated senior government officers, accusing them of over-valuing the land.

The land had been earmarked to replace the Langata cemetery, which is full.

But the rocky land purchased was not even suitable for use as a cemetery, the authorities said.

It is alleged that the land, on the outskirts of Nairobi, was purchased for 283m Kenyan shillings, when it was worth 24m shillings.

The head of Kenya's anti-corruption body recently promised to bring "big fish" to justice.

But our reporter says he has a big job, as corruption is pervasive in Kenyan society.

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