NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 10 – Born in 1945 Professor George Saitoti rose through the ranks in his career as a scholar, economist, powerful politician as an MP, Vice President and a Cabinet minister.
He rose to become Kenya’s longest serving Vice President under the former President Daniel arap Moi having worked in the office for 13 years.
Upon his re-election as MP for Kajiado North in 2003, Saitoti was picked into the Cabinet of Kenya’s third President Mwai Kibaki.
Saitoti was one of the politicians who had publicly announced his interest in running for the presidency in the forthcoming elections.
Prior to joining politics, he was a professor of mathematics and headed the Mathematics Department at the University of Nairobi in 1976.
His political career started way back in 1983 when he was nominated as a Member of Parliament and appointed Minister for Finance the same year by the then president.
He was also a key leader in KANU which ruled the country for 24 years under the leadership of Moi.
The politician perceived as shrewd clinched the Kajiado North seat in 1988 and he has since then held it.
Saitoti was among the politicians who trooped out of KANU in 2002 after Moi identified Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred successor. A few months before his exit, Saitoti had been publicly humiliated during a National Delegates Conference at Kasarani where he was dethroned as the ruling party’s national vice chairman.
In Kibaki’s first government, Saitoti was appointed as Minister for Education. In the second administration, Saitoti served as Minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration and he also briefly served as acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Under his tenure, the Kenyan military entered Somalia in October last year under the ‘Operation Linda Nchi’ to pursue the Al-Shabaab.
Under his leadership in the sensitive ministry, Saitoti faced serious challenges in addressing security concerns in the country after Kenya was frequently hit by attackers linked to the Al Shabaab terror network.
He was one of the ministers identified as a Kibaki ally after his appointment as Education Minister but resigned in 2006 after allegations over his links in the Goldenberg scandal.
He was also the head of the Cabinet committee on International Criminal Court matters that was formed in 2009 after the court started investigations into the 2007 post election violence.
He attended Ololua Primary School in Kajiado where he acquired his basic education in the 1950s.
He joined the ranks of Mang’u High School’s highly decorated alumni including Kenya’s third President, Mwai Kibaki, former Vice President Moody Awori, Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana-a-Nzeki, the late Environment Minister John Michuki, the late Trade Unionist and former Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Tom Mboya, and late Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga.
Saitoti went to the United States of America, where he received his undergraduate education at Brandeis University.
During his time there, he was on the prestigious Wien Scholarship, specialising in Mathematics and Economics. His colleagues at the time remember that he enjoyed spending time in Cholmondeleys (the coffeehouse in the Castle) and excelled at high jump, ranking as one of the best in New England.
In 1988, Saitoti received the first Brandeis Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honour the University bestows upon its’ graduates.
Saitoti later moved to the United Kingdom where he acquired a Master of Science (MSc) degree in Mathematics from the University of Sussex, Brighton.
He enrolled for his doctoral studies at the University of Warwick where he finally acquired his PhD in Mathematics in 1972; writing his dissertation under the supervision of Professor Luke Hodgkin in the area of algebraic topology under the topic: Mod-2 K-Theory of the Second Iterated Loop Space on a Sphere.