Saitoti: Kibaki now answers First Lady


Published on 03/02/2009

By Standard Team

President Kibaki moved swiftly to the defence of Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, publicly contradicting the First Lady who had criticised his work as “lethargic”.

President Kibaki (right), Prime Minister Raila Odinga (centre) and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka at the launch of fund for Nakumatt and Molo fire victims at Harambee House, Nairobi, Tuesday.

[PHOTO: STAFFORD ONDEGO/STANDARD]

Kibaki said he had full confidence in Prof Saitoti and was pleased with his performance at the ministry.

“In view of the reports which have appeared in today’s (yesterday) media, I wish to assure my Minister for Internal Security George Saitoti that I have full confidence in him and that I appreciate the good work he is doing in my office,” Kibaki said.

President Kibaki’s remarks contradicted those of the First Lady, who castigated Saitoti and the Provincial Administration — which he oversees — for allegedly failing Kenyans in their response to disasters.

“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 Kibaki said on Monday.

The First Lady blamed the two recent tragedies, in which more than 150 people died, on the authorities’ failure to provide public information.

Twenty-nine people died in Nairobi’s Nakumatt Downtown fire incident last week. In the Sachang’wan tanker fire on the Nakuru-Eldoret highway on Saturday, the toll rose to 123 today after three more people succumbed to burns suffered in the oil spill.

The three died at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital where they were undergoing treatment.

The President was speaking at his Harambee House office when he launched the Nakumatt/Molo Fire Victims Fund.

“The monies will help settle hospital bills for patients requiring long-term hospitalisation and specialised treatment. It will also help the families start their lives afresh,” he said.

The President sent condolences to the bereaved families and wished the injured quick recovery.

Fund raising

He also announced a prayer service and a major fund raising for Tuesday at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi.

“I appeal to Kenyans to respond with the generosity they have always demonstrated. I appeal particularly to all leaders, public servants, the business community and the civil society to come forward and contribute,” he said.

The President appointed Mr Naushad Merali — the head of Sameer Group — chairman of the fund.

Meanwhile, 89 bodies that were burnt beyond recognition in the oil tanker tragedy will be buried in a mass grave near the accident scene on Monday.

A special committee coordinating activities related to the disaster said yesterday the bodies would be placed in special labelled body bags.

“Seven pathologists are collecting DNA samples from 109 bodies at the provincial hospital’s mortuary and we expect them to complete the exercise by end of the week,” said Rift Valley PC Hassan Noor Hassan.

“The bodies will be labelled in a way that is easy to identify them when the DNA test results are out,” he said.

The PC said Mr Richard Muir, the owner of Doune farm in Sachang’wan, has offered a mass gravesite a few metres from the scene of the accident.

Mr Hassan said preparation of the site would be completed on Saturday. He said the Government, after consultation with bereaved families and local leaders, has planned a prayer service-cum-fund rising at Nakuru’s Afraha Stadium on Sunday.

“The leaders have decided to move the funds drive from Thursday to Sunday to coincide with the prayers,” said the administrator, who is also the chairman of the special committee on the disaster.

The PC said they have already identified the bereaved families who to benefit from Government help.

Meanwhile, Nakumatt Holdings Operations Director Thiagarajan Ramamurthy recorded a statement with the police last night at Nairobi Central Police Station.

He is expected in court this morning on a criminal negligence charge.

There have been claims that the supermarket had no functional emergency exits. This would be a contravention of council by-laws on public safety.

Further, there are allegations that the supermarket management shut doors when the fire broke out to keep off looters.

Reporting by Susan Anyangu, Steve Mkawale and Cyrus Ombati

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