Then We Said Goodbye.
It was just another Sunday morning and I awoke for another round of my newest addiction: Twitter. I must admit that the little blue bird has managed to monopolize my time and almost ridden me into antisocial behaviour and so it was that Sunday when I logged on for the latest in what my followers were doing and (although I don’t often admit this) to see whether I had amassed any mew member to my own Twitter family. As the Tweets came at the speed of light and I began to read down the line I noticed in passing that a crash had occurred at Kibiku Forest in Ngong and as more people began to relay the same news I took it more seriously... 10-20 people can’t be wrong! So I did what all news junkies would do I clicked and read.
As the day got older I dragged myself begrudgingly from my lap top and onto the TV where I like many Kenyans watched in shock and sadness as the facts trickled in that the Internal Security Ministry was wiped clean in one fell swoop. As I watched my hope turned into doubt then disbelief and grief as I realised the hard to digest truth that beloved maths Professor George Saitoti and his assistant minister Joshua Orwa Ojode had passed away in a plane crash when their helicopter went down only a few minutes after it had taken off from Wilson Airport. They were travelling to Ojode’s Ndiwa constituency for a fundraiser. As the days turned into a week the speculation over the cause of the 6 deaths- the ministers were with two pilots: Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi and two bodyguards: Thomas Murimi and Joshua Tongei, everything was mentioned from foul play to human error and back again to mechanical fault.
A History of Loss:
Saitoti and Ojode are only two in a rather lengthened line on ministers the country has lost to the metal birds a history that serves to scare many a Kenyan from the Helicopter:
· Exactly four years ago to the day Public Works Minister Kipkalia Kones and Home Affair Assistant Minister Lorna Laboso lost their lives in Narock while flying to Ainamoi to campaign for an ODM by-election candidate.
· Further back into the country’s history lies the Marsabit disaster where by far the larger loss was claimed when 14 people died while on a Kenya Air force plane that crashed while on its way to a peace meeting on April 10 of 2006 among them were: Mirugi Kariuki- Ojode’s predecessor and Nakuru Town MP, Taitus Nguyoni-Regional Development minister and leader of official opposition – Bonaya Godana and MP’s Abdi Sasura and Guracha Galgalo.
· Even before this in January 2003, not long after Kenya had seen the peaceful passing of power from former president Moi to the countries present president Kibaki when death was to visit the cabinet in the form of Ahmed Khalif the Labour and Manpower Development minister when the plane he was in with fellow Cabinet ministers Raphael Tuju, Linah Kilimo and Martha Karua, among others (who were injured).
As it turns out not only June 10th seems to be followed by death but strangely also this specific patch of Ngong as in the 1970’s Bruce Mackenzie the former Agriculture minister died there as the result of a plane accident and this was also where the body of the slain JM Karuki was found.
Never speak ill of the dead:
It was this week as it is at any funeral mass MP after MP walked up to the podium/lectern and spoke fondly of the fallen heroes who worked tirelessly for the nation striving time and time again to make the nation as a whole a better place where all people can live. They recalled this co-worker and friend this person upon whom much obligation was placed who gave himself fully to the cause and so on. For some reason we as humanity seem to forget all the questionable things that the deceased may or may not have done, choosing instead to remember only the good things the dead had done. We do not consider all the sum of the parts that made the man whole good and bad. It would be better to praise and laude all those around us as they live among us before death takes them and we are compelled to sit down and construct sweet sounding eulogies in an attempt to sooth ourselves than the souls of those who have passed.
We Must Unite:
Both funerals were transformed into unity and anti tribalism platforms where the ever dependable MP’s verbally decried their most favourite and potent tool at campaign rallies: the old go to tribal alliance card (although since the 2007 Post Election Violence it has been used less and more subtly) they bashed it over the head repeatedly and often talked of Saitoti and Ojode as being good examples of the good that could come of shelving tribal allegiances and choosing to work towards the greater good of the country and for its people. The called for Kenyans – and more to their fellow ministers to do the same, to follow the shining example set forth by the two hardworking ministers.
As the dust began to settle and some of the shock wore off a commission of inquiry was called to delve into the reasons for the crash. It will not however be the first Commission of Inquiry set up by the government to answer some of the country’s biggest questions. In the past the inquiries that include:
· The inquest into the Busia Airplane crash
· The Goldenberg Scandal commission
· TheKiluli Commission on the Artur Brothers
· Krieger Commission on the 2007 Post Election Violence
Which are all inconclusive and unsolved, I wonder now like many in Kenya whether the newest commission- to be headed by Kalpana Rawal- into the plane crash that killed both the Minister of Internal Security and his Assistant will end up the same way...unsolved.