I was supporting Saitoti Says Moi

Written By Michael Maunda on Friday, June 15, 2012 | 12:06 AM

Former President Daniel arap Moi yesterday revealed that he was backing the late Cabinet minister George Saitoti's presidential bid, nearly ten years after he picked Uhuru Kenyatta over Saitoti as his preferred successor. Addressing mourners at Saitoti's Lavington home, Moi said he had been in contact with Prof Saitoti all the time planning how his former VP would bag Rift Valley votes. “I was trying to help him in the Rift Valley to fight for the presidency of Kenya. So we have been talking together all the time,” said Moi in consoling Saitoti's family and relatives.

Moi said Saitoti had worked hard to unite Kenya and his death was a great loss to the country. “Now that he has passed away, I pray God can give Kenya a good leader who will unite Kenyans and who will work for the good of Kenyans," said Moi. Saitoti was Moi's longest-serving VP — from 1989 to 1997 and from 1999 to 2002. In 2002 Moi picked Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred successor and ignored Saitoti's call for Kanu to practise internal democracy and allow the delegates to choose their leader.

Despite his steadfast loyalty to Kanu and to Moi, Saitoti was ignored, humiliated and frustrated by the party and its top leaders. Moi Nominated Saitoti to Parliament in 1988 and made him Vice President in 1990. He however dropped Saitoti after the December 1997 general election only to reappoint him by an announcement on a Limuru roadside in April 1999. The VP's seat was vacant in the interim period. Four months before the December 2002 general election, Saitoti was humiliated during the Kanu National Delegates Conference at Kasarani where his name was deleted from the list of Kanu delegates as Moi watched without making any intervention.

It was then that Saitoti made his famous emotional speech saying; "There comes a time when the nation is more important than an individual". A few weeks after the Kasarani incident Moi announced his preference for the then political greenhorn Uhuru. "Saitoti is my friend but there is a difference between friendship and leadership," said Moi when he endorsed Uhuru as his preferred successor. Uhuru went on to lose to Mwai Kibaki who was backed by all the opposition parties.

Yesterday Moi said he had known Saitoti for long especially since he had personally selected him to take charge of "some of the important government functions". Saitoti who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday will be buried on Saturday at his Kitengela home. His assistant minister Joshua Orwa Ojode will be buried on Sunday at his Ndhiwa home. Saitoti's two bodyguards Joshua Tongei and Thomas Murimi and the helicopter's two pilots Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi will be buried next week after a joint memorial service scheduled to be held on Monday.

A memorial service for Ojode will be held at 8 am today at the SDA Central Church (Maxwell), Nairobi, while Saitoti's will take place tomorrow at 2.30 pm at the Holy Family Basilica. The funeral committee chaired by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka explained Ojode's requiem mass had been brought forward because of the budget presentation in Parliament today and also to allow for a Cabinet meeting before the budget session in the afternoon. Kalonzo, who was flanked by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, said the committee was determined to accord the victims "a decent send-ff, befitting their tremendous contribution to the nation".

He announced the inclusion of two veteran journalists — Philip Ochieng and Kwendo Opanga — as members of the funeral committee. Messages of condolence continued to be received by the government with the latest coming from Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete who recognised the crucial role Saitoti and Ojode played in ensuring security for Kenya.
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