First Lady attacks Saitoti over tanker tragedy


Published on 03/02/2009

By Susan Anyangu and Maseme Machuka

First Lady Lucy Kibaki broke her long silence by firing a neat volley at Internal Security minister George Saitoti. A visibly angry Lucy blamed Saitoti for what she described as lethargic interventions in emerging security and disaster situations across the country.

“One hundred and eighteen people are dead not because they were sick or had an accident but because it was an accident through ignorance,” she said, explaining that civic education could have helped people learn the perils of handling inflammable fuels.

“Our people do not know that such situations are dangerous. How will they know if they are not told? I challenge those in charge to inform me in writing by tomorrow (today) why this civic education was never done,” she said.

“Kenyans have been neglected by the administration. I have fuels. “Our people do not know that such situations are dangerous. How will they know if they are not told? I challenge those in charge to inform me in writing by tomorrow (today) why this civic education was never done,” she said.

“Kenyans have been neglected by the administration. I have witnessed this. No information is given to our people,” Lucy thundered.

The First Lady was speaking at Kenyatta National Hospital where she had gone to condole victims of the tanker explosion in Molo on Saturday night that has so far claimed 120 lives.

“I was saddened to see the tragedy that took place at Nakumatt Downtown on Wednesday last week. However, I was even more saddened when on Saturday I saw on television the tragedy in Molo. I have never seen anything like that in my whole life,” Lucy said.

Lethargic response

Lucy said Saitoti’s responses to such emergencies have, at best, been reactionary.

“Saitoti waits until he hears of bandit attacks in North Eastern, bandits somewhere else, then the next day, you see him there. Being the minister of Internal Security means protecting everybody in Kenya,” Lucy said.

Lucy said securing Kenyans’ safety on the roads lay squarely with the minister, not Roads or Transport ministries.

But what seemed to rile Lucy even further is Saitoti’s alleged insensitivity in handling such situations.

“I was shocked to hear Saitoti on television saying, ‘I hope this tragedy will teach Kenyans a lesson.’ How can dead people be taught a lesson? His remarks hurt the feelings of people who were already mourning the death of their loved ones,” she said.

Lucy said, based on the fact that similar tragedies had happened in the past, it is the prerogative of the administrative arm of the Government to embark on a countrywide civic education exercise.

“Even the President is angry. What is the Ministry of Internal Security doing? They should have organised all the chiefs, assistant chiefs, district officers and provincial commissioners, to educate Kenyans and tell them to keep away from accident tankers,” Lucy said.

She demanded an immediate explanation from the Ministry of Internal Security and the Provincial Administration.

“Recently, a similar accident happened on Thika Road and wananchi rushed to collect petrol. These things happen but those in charge simply ignore them. If it has happened before, why should it happen again?” she asked.

Insensitive leaders

She expressed shock at the failure of the administrative arm of Government that — she said — falls under the Office of the President.

The First Lady also accused the current crop of leaders of “hollow” rhetoric and being insensitive to the plight of Kenyans.

She said the leaders are stuck in their cocoons of perfect lives and beautiful homes oblivious of challenges facing Kenyans.

“They are insensitive, that is why when we have accidents and they do nothing to improve the situation. I have pointed this out to them repeatedly but I keep getting a deaf ear in return. All correspondences I have addressed to them have never been responded to,” she said.

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