Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, who planned to run for the presidency next year, was among six people killed today in a helicopter crash, the presidency said.
Saitoti, 66, Assistant Internal Security Minister Orwa Ojode, two pilots and two bodyguards died when the aircraft crashed in Ngong Forest on the outskirts of the capital, Nairobi, Presidential Press Service spokesman Isaiah Kabira said in a phone interview. The incident is being treated as an accident, Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters at the crash site.
“Saitoti will forever be remembered as a hardworking and determined public servant who dedicated his time to the service of the Kenyan people,” President Mwai Kibaki said in an e-mailed statement.
Saitoti served as vice president of Kenya, the world’s largest exporter of black tea and East Africa’s biggest economy, under former President Daniel Arap Moi. He also previously held the portfolios of finance minister, education minister and national planning minister, and was appointed to his current post in January 2008. He planned to seek the presidency in elections next year, the Nairobi-based Star newspaper reported in December.
In 2006, Saitoti stepped down as education minister after a commission of inquiry into the so-called Goldenberg corruption scandal, in which the Kenyan government lost almost $1 billion, recommended he face criminal prosecution. The High Court ruled that Saitoti shouldn’t be charged and he was reinstated as minister later that year.
The police helicopter in which Saitoti was travelling crashed while en route to a function in the western Nyanza province, Kabira said.
The aircraft went down at 4 a.m. this morning, Odinga said as Kenya Red Cross workers continued to remove bodies from the burnt wreckage of the aircraft. The site is being secured to establish the cause of the crash, Odinga said.
The presidency identified the other victims of the crash as police Inspector Joshua Tonkei and Sergeant Thomas Murimi, along with pilots Luke Oyugi and Nancy Gituanja.
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