Internal Security Minister George Saitoti was killed on a Sunday chilly morning in June 2012 after air-crash lived on the edge, as if agents of death were stalking him.
The country was thrown into mourning following the demise of Internal Security Minister George Saitoti and his assistant Orwa Ojode. The two leaders had been involved in a tragic helicopter crash at the Ngong forest, a few minutes after taking off from Wilson’s Airport.
Before His Untimely Death
In and out of Parliament he appeared to wake up every day determined to outpace any potential killer walking in his shadow.
He kept the number of friends who would know where he was at any one time or those who could drop at his home to bare minimum, and was never one to be found in the city social circuit at night. In security circles he was known for sticking to his trusted security guards for years, never allowing them to be replaced probably because of the extended fear of the unknown.
Sources around him over the years, reveal that the late Kajiado North MP extended his fears to the food he ate, and let it influence where and how he travelled, and whose hands he shook. He was sick for three months.
But in his Kajiado North constituency he appeared to let loose his fears and mingle freely with his constituents. Whereas in the city and abroad his aides had to check out his food long before it was served, in Kajiado he would just pullout his pen knife, or ask an age mate for one and proceed to cut off pieces of roasted meat for himself.
There have been many conspiracy theories about his untimely demise, and on Wednesday, almost 9 years since his death, Nairobi governor Mike Sonko alleged that Saitoti might have been killed by State House operatives called ‘The System’
Sonko appeared on Citizen TV’s JKLive to shed some light on his frosty relationship with Esther Passaris, the Nairobi Women Rep. The show was cut off prematurely over what Jeff termed as editorial policy.
But the governor continued the interview at city hall, airing it live on his social media. He accused Passaris of being used by the system to fight him, the same system that killed Saitoti.
According to Sonko, Prof George Saitoti was headed to Homa Bay to Preside over a function with Mutea Iringo. Before take off, Mutea Iringo was ordered to leave the helicopter by the system which then ordered for the deliberate assassination of the former Vice President.
‘Saitoti was going for a fundraising huko Homabay and they were supposed to go with Iringu but Iringu was told toka ndani, kitu itafanyika kwa hiyo ndege.’ Sonko alleges.
Sonko went ahead to reveal that the system which determines who becomes the next President of Kenya was in favour of ANC Leader Musalia Mudavadi. To outsmart competition they ordered a hit on Saitoti.
Thirteen days before he met his death, the Kajiado North MP presided over the official launch of his party’s website in Naivasha, in one of the pointed steps towards his resolve to become Kenya’s fourth President.
Saitoti had also signed a pre-election agreement with then Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta. Details of the pacts remain a guarded secret to date..
Nairobi Governor Sonko talks about Saitoti death. Watch the recording pic.twitter.com/gwHct4lzIg
— Mukami Wa Embu 🇰🇪 (@MukamiWaEmbu) June 6, 2019
Sonko has gone ahead to send a warning to the system, which he claims are individuals not in the government but run all the illegal government activities.
1990’s FOOD POISONING
According to his former security chief for 20 years, Senior Superintendent Johnstone Koech, Saitoti’s paranoia was not without basis and actually started off with a near-fatal food poisoning experience that traumatised and dogged him to the end of his life.
“From then on, four security officers would check his food throughout the cooking and serving. He would not eat anything that had not been cleared as fit for his consumption by his security team,” said Koech.
He added: “At the time of the poisoning, I was not with him. My colleagues were with him. He is said to have developed clear signs of a serious illness and he had to be rushed to Nairobi Hospital for treatment.”
It started in February 1990 in an Indian restaurant in Nairobi’s Muthaiga area. Opinion among investigators then was that he probably ingested cyanide gas, probably laced on his food or plate. Though Kenyans were never told who wanted him dead and why, Saitoti only opened up when retired President Moi declared the killers of his then Foreign Minister Robert Ouko “are the same ones who poisoned my Vice-President”.
According to Moi the poisoning was motivated by a conspiracy to overthrow his government. According to Moi and Saitoti, the poisoning took place shortly after Ouko was assassinated.
Koech, who shadowed Saitoti for many years alongside Inspector Joshua Tonkei who also died in the Sunday crash, as well as others aides like the tallish Ole Surtan who died four years before, says the former minister changed his routine and raised his level of security consciousness after the incident.
Saitoti would later tell Parliament his skin peeled off after the poisoning and a new one grew in its place. But it also seems alongside the new body cover, also came a different view of life and its risks.
Cabinet ministers Kiraitu Murungi and James Orengo alluded to this change in Saitoti after the horrendous experience.
Orengo said: “That is the reason he kept looking around from left to right whenever he was engaging in any conversation because of what those he worked with in Government at the time did to him,” said Orengo.
Kiraitu recounted felt safer in Masailand thus: “I was debating on whether to eat the meat or not because there was a ban on eating meat over the mad-cow disease, but he picked his knife and began eating. I said if Saitoti was eating who was I not to eat?”
Other MPs, who cannot be quoted because of the sensitivity of the matter and respect for Saitoti and his family, also reveal that the minister at times showed signs of unease wherever an explosion, even if a vehicle’s backfire sound, was heard. They also talk of the same experience when, say the loud speakers crackled or the microphone fell off during his rallies.
Nowhere was this evident, Saitoti’s associates say, than in Narok when he slipped and fell as he mounted the microphone in 2007.
In security circles he was silently called the man who feared sindano (needle).
This was because security officers had noted that in his quick and soft greeting, appeared to have been motivated by fear that he could be killed through a hidden poisoned needle on the palm of those reaching out to greet him. This could have been to him, borrowed the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by use of an umbrella’s poisoned tip in 1914.
To enhance his security and safety, he always put on a light bulletproof vest, something that seemed to give him an enlarged burst and tummy.
“It was his insurance and he never forgot to wear it. The minister was always fearing something would happen to him,” said another security officer, who worked with him for long.
His aides revealed in the 1990 incident Saitoti suddenly started gasping for breath and sweating profusely.
Nairobi Hospital’s medical personnel who attended to him later conceded quick action by his handlers saved him from death.
He is then said to have collapsed and became unconscious before being rushed to hospital.
Maybe fearing that whoever had poisoned him could follow him up to finish the job at the hospital, Saitoti demanded that he be immediately discharged from the hospital and taken to his home, when he came to.
Not even the doctors advice that he could not be moved as he was still sick and required close attention could break his resolve to go home. A recuperation room was then set up at his house and he was moved. After recovering, Saitoti downplayed the near-tragic incident until years later.
But even as he kept his tribulations to himself and very close friends, Saitoti narrowed down his choice of restaurants to a handful. The few places of choice were Tratorria and Tamarind’s upper-end restaurants in Nairobi’s city centre and Osteria restaurant along Lenana Road in Hurlingham area.
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