By HENRY MUNENE
On the morning of Sunday, June 10, I was somewhere between Kajiado and Namanga, having taken my place along the Kitengela-Kajiado-Namanga road, where thousands of Kenyans, some of them flying the Kenyan flag on their vehicles, stood at various points to watch the Safari Rally challenge.
It was a morning pregnant with great expectations, the promise of fun and not an ominous sign that anything could go wrong. But go wrongs things did, as they always do — at the wrong time.
No sooner had we found a vantage point from where to savour the exhilarating antics of the rally cars than that call that was to shatter all expectations came through.
“Henry,” the caller said, a dark ring to her voice, “have you heard?”
“Heard what?” I shot back, edgy with suspense. That is when the sad news was broken to me way before many Kenyans had heard that the country had lost Internal Security minister George Saitoti, his Assistant minister Orwa Ojodeh, their bodyguards and pilots in a crash.
Needless to say, our world was from that moment overcast by a dark cloud of mourning, and the rigours of waving at the rally cars later in the day were a mechanical and perfunctory affair that had to be abandoned midstream.
And as the confirmation calls started jamming my phone, my heart was heavy with loss.
It was reassuring to see that all is not lost on the political front and that our leaders still respect death, in line with age-old tradition; which is why Uhuru Kenyatta, Musalia Mudavadi and Raila Odinga had to cut short their day’s politicking to commiserate with fellow countrymen in the wake of the loss.
And as news filtered in that President Kibaki had called an impromptu Cabinet meeting to discuss the loss, at the same time the rumour mills roared to life, the country was galvanised into a grieving union that confirmed that indeed the two Cabinet colleagues and the four others were respected and recognised as hardworking and notable Kenyans across the political divide.
excuse for ineptitude
The loss was all the more heartfelt by the fact that Prof Saitoti and Mr Ojodeh were two of the boldest politicians of our time. Only the burly former professor of mathematics had the balls to name names when it came to issues like drugs and other disclosures that hinged chillingly on national security in the House.
Mr Ojodeh reportedly went about his duties, especially in Parliament, with unmatched zeal that earned him the sobriquet ‘Sirkal’. He was, arguably, one of the most hardworking and ubiquitous figures in parliamentary media coverage.
By the evening of that ill-fated day, the story was everywhere and speculators’ tongues wagging.
One of the eerie angles was how coincidental it was that the two burly Internal Security chiefs had breathed their last in a chopper on the same date that another such pair had done about four years ago.
It was not the first time Saitoti had brushed shoulders with the Angel of Death, as he allegedly escaped death by poisoning some years ago.