Saitoti had a degree of humanity few knew
Posted Thursday, June 14 2012 at 20:00
Prof George Saitoti was a close personal and family friend.
I have known him since 1999 when I was recruited to start the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra), and he was then the Vice-President and Minister for Planning.
Although I can say much about his accomplishments in his various official capacities, it is my personal relationship with him that I will forever treasure.
On Thursday, June 8, a mere two days before his untimely death, he insisted that we must meet.
I was about an hour late for this meeting but he nevertheless waited for me patiently.
In retrospect, looking at the circumstances of that final dinner meeting, I now see that he did want to say farewell to me.
We had talked earlier in the week while I was in Arusha and I told him that I would not see him as I had only one day in Kenya and needed to rush upcountry very early Friday morning.
I told him I had to return to Washington urgently as I was scheduled to host former President Bill Clinton at my Institution on June 13.
Nevertheless, in an email message sent on June 6, he insisted we meet and I should not worry about my commute upcountry as he would organise a vehicle and driver for me.
“I propose we meet at the Italian Restaurant along Lenana Road at 7.30pm. I will be waiting for you there. George.”
And for the next several hours, the two of us engaged in a conversation that, as always, started with updates on families — each family member at a time.
He then turned to various challenges he was facing in his political life and the decisions he needed to make.
I gave him my candid assessment about the challenges he faced mounting a credible election campaign.
We then reflected on the time he visited my family at our home in Connecticut, and his desire to visit us in Washington this coming July.
We recalled the famous “A country is more important” speech that he worked on when we were together at his home, and the many hours we spent together when he was on Sabbatical from the vice-presidency.
For some odd reason, we recalled his last visit to my rural home when he came for my mother’s funeral.
Then, as I had done in the past, I asked about his personal security especially given his role in fighting terrorists.
I asked about the safety of the choppers to which he replied that he uses well-serviced police choppers, and he regularly changed the ones he used.