George Saitoti was one of the shining stars of Kenyan politics until the cruel hands of death took him away.
The former Vice President was born on August 3rd, 1945 to Kikuyu parents, Zacharia Kiarie and Zipporah Gathoni. He grew up as George Kinuthia Kiarie in Olkeri, Lower Matasia.
His family moved to Maasailand from Dagoretti as Kikuyus escaped colonial crackdown at the height of the State of Emergency in the 1950s.
Along with his father, George went through the Maasai initiation rites to become a Maasai by assimilation.
He did well in primary school which secured him a place at the highly rated Mang’u High School in Thika which was also attended by Mwai Kibaki, Tom Mboya, John Michuki, Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana-a-Nzeki and late Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga.
George Kinuthia Kiarie Saitoti later moved to the United States for his undergraduate and then the United Kingdom for a Masters in Mathematics from the University of Sussex, Brighton.
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He went on to acquire a PhD in Mathematics from the University of Warwick in 1972 being one of the first doctorates in the subject from Kenya.
He returned home that same year becoming the chairman of the Department of Mathematics at the University of Nairobi.
During that period, Prof Saitoti was appointed to various positions including being Kenya’s representative at the East African Legislative Assembly.
Prof George Saitoti was eventually appointed Finance minister after the 1983 election, taking over from Mwai Kibaki until 1989 after which he fully joined politics.
He went on to become a key figure in Kenyan politics, holding a number of senior ministerial posts over 30 years and becoming the country’s longest-serving vice-president.
In November 2011, Saitoti confirmed that he was in the race to succeed President Mwai Kibaki, who was set to retire.
Saitoti, who was Internal Security minister, was going to come up against Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta for Kenya’s highest office.
George Saitoti’s Death
On the 10th of June 2012, George Saitoti and his deputy, Orwa Ojode, died in a helicopter crash in the Kibiku area of Ngong forest. A total of six people were killed, including bodyguards and pilots.
The minister was said to be on his way to a security meeting when his helicopter crashed. It was said George Saitoti was able to reveal provoking information in Parliament before he met his death.
Reports indicating foul play have emerged ever since as a pathologist who examined the bodies from the crash said the deaths may have occurred before the actual crash.
Dr. Dorothy Njeru told the Justice Kalpana Rawal commission investigating the accident that George Saitoti may have died from inhaling a poisonous gas.
She pointed out the presence of ‘cherry pink’ patches on the bodies which indicated high levels of carbon monoxide.
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George Saitoti As Possible President
Saitoti was revered all across Africa as a technocrat, policy maker/thinker whose multi-disciplinary approach to issues provided solutions to them.
He made different publications most notably his seminal book, The Challenges of Economic and Institutional Reforms in Africa, which was widely praised as providing practical policy proposals to the specific challenges facing Kenya and Africa.
His loyalty to Kenya and track record, having worked and held numerous political positions made him the most qualified of all candidates contesting for the presidency.
His dual ancestry to the Maasai and Kikuyu might also have gone a long way to bring the Kenyan people together as one.