To most residents of the larger Kajiado region, news that the most successful politician from the area had died in a chopper accident last Sunday seemed to have just been a bad dream.
But the harsh reality that the cruel hand of death had snatched Prof George Saitoti from their midst appeared to sink in Saturday as they turned out in thousands to bid him farewell.
But while a sense of loss engulfed the thousands of mourners who had lined up the route to Saitoti’s final resting place at his Enkasiti home in Kitengela, tears and sorrow were to soon transform into laughter and optimism as speakers at the funeral service invoked light moments as they paid glowing tribute to the late Internal Security minister.
Former Nairobi PC Francis Lekolool recounted his days with Saitoti at Mang’u High School, where they studied together. “This is a major and saddening loss,” he said.
Ruth Wakaba, a close ally of Saitoti and the first ever-elected woman councillor in the larger Kajiado region, gave a glowing tribute to the late MP, who he hailed for passionately and indiscriminately championing the wellbeing of women.
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“He was to us like a father and never distanced himself from women. He taught us how to be self-reliant. Have been with him countrywide and instead of giving women fish, he taught them how to fish,” she said.
Former Narok County Council Chairman Shadrack ole Rotiken, also a close ally of the late minister, described how he was to meet Saitoti last week alongside some other leaders. But he did not dwell on the issue and instead decided to look into the future, urging the Government to replace Saitoti with an able leader from the Maasai community.
“All our hope was on Saitoti. But the Maasai community has lagged behind in development and we need an able leader to replace him. (William) ole Ntimama is now old and we only have (Gideon) Konchella, (Joseph) Nkaissery and (Nkoidila ole) Lankas as the only leaders from here,” Rotiken noted amid muted laughter.
But the statement did not go down well with Ntimama, who irritably hit back at the councillor’s statement when he took to the podium.
“Old age is a blessing. Old age is not disability and old age is not a curse. We grow everyday and we should know that old age is a blessing from God,” the Heritage minister charged. He went on to describe Saitoti as a great friend.
Councillor Sophia Kisau, who hosted Saitoti in Magadi where the minister addressed two warring Maasai clans recently, recalled how the late minister was opposed to any form of violence and bloodshed in the area.
Kisau pleaded with the Government to leave no stone unturned in establishing what led to the tragic chopper accident that claimed Saitoti’s life last Sunday.