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Shitanda was a politician who served his people well

By Collins Musanga | May 25th 2016 | 2 min read

Peter Soita Shitanda, the former Malava Mp and housing minister passed on Wednesday afternoon sparking a countrywide state of mourning. In his county of Kakamega, residents received the news of his demise with great sadness.

Looking at how they gathered in small groups to share the news of his death, it was evident that the Iroko tree of western politics had fallen with a thud.

Easily likeable and a darling of the common mwanainchi, it appears Shitanda will be mourned for a number of days.

The former housing minister was a charismatic and a self-made leader who rose through the ranks to serve the people of Malava for 15 solid years.

His landslide win against the then minister for industry and commerce Joshua Mulanda Angatia in 1997, demolished a widely held view that one needs a lot of money or a famous name to win a political seat in this country.

Little-known in political circles, he mounted a formidable campaign without using much resources. In fact, two months to the voting day, many people in Malava didn't know who Shitanda was. However, his gift of the gab enabled him to easily sell his development agenda to the locals earning himself a first term in the August house.

A witty politician and master of grass root politics. Once in office, Soita immediately endeared himself to voters by implementing projects that were geared towards improving the lives of the common citizens.

Although Malava, like other constituencies, had its own fair share of challenges with respect to management of CDF, Soita will be remembered for using constituency funds to educate students from poor backgrounds. This is both from secondary schools and mid-level colleges. His faith in middle-levels technicians was unparalleled in times when almost all leaders are turning youth polytechnics into university campuses.

But it is his ability to contain unscrupulous sugar cane businesspeople and factories out to exploit farmers that remains a stark reminder of what set him apart from his predecessors and his successor.

During his reign, Soita fought for the common farmer, earning himself a place in sugarcane politics, a key talking point when it comes to western politics. Due to his intervention, West Kenya paid farmers fairly and promptly compared to other factories.

On regional politics, Soita will be remembered as an advocate of the elusive Luhya unity. He did not just speak of this unity but also demonstrated by standing with those he felt had something to offer to Kenyans. Notably, he rallied behind Wamalwa Kijana's candidacy in 1997 and stood with him in 2002 as Mwai Kibaki's running mate.

Shitanda's hard work and political acumen paid off when he was called to serve as an assistant minister in the office of the president before being elevated to a full ministerial position. At the housing ministry, he initiated the housing project for civil servants; a bold step towards ensuring that civil servants lived a decent life .Shitanda’s exemplary service to this country will live on forever.

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