With the unexpected loss of Saitoti, the dynamics in the larger PNU and G7 territory narrow down to Kalonzo and Deputy PM Musalia Mudavadi, depending on what happens to ICC accused Uhuru and William Ruto.
The loss of Saitoti to Kibaki is comparable to the void left for Uhuru in Kanu when Bonaya Godana, MP for North Horr, died in an air crash in 2006. Called on for key projects from the onset of the Kibaki administration, the high point of the former VP’s renewed stature became apparent last year when he, as Internal Security, Foreign Affairs minister, and Defence Minister Yusuf Haji led Kenya into her largest ever military expedition.
Defying regional and international opposition, Prof Saitoti defended the decision saying the Government’s first responsibility was to defend its citizens’ interests. Domestically, he championed police reforms and led the teams crafting new administrative regions in a bold and controversial reorganisation of Government. He was poised to play a critical role in the transitional election next year, overseeing security of the exercise with a larger, revamped Police Service.
In the Kibaki succession politics, Prof Saitoti kept his cards close to his chest, only citing his experience as one of the reasons he was in the race.
“I have handled all the difficult dockets in Government for many years, and each came with its own challenges,” he said, referring to his stints at Finance, Planning/National Development, Internal Security/Provincial Administration, Foreign Affairs, and Education.
His role in executing the Free Primary Education programme, a success despite teething problems and later the rise of corruption, was proof of this experience.
In a race whose strongest candidate is preferred for his reform credentials, however, Saitoti’s vast experience gave voters scant comfort.