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June 11, 2012

Kenya's President Pays Homage to George Saitoti

by Mohammed Yusuf

NAIROBI - Kenyan authorities are pledging a full investigation into the helicopter crash Sunday that killed Security Minister George Saitoti, his deputy Orwa Ojode, and four others aboard the aircraft.  

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki chaired a special Cabinet session that was also attended by lawmakers as Kenya officially began a three-day mourning period.

"The honorable Professor George Saitoti and honorable Orwa Ojode were highly respected members of parliament who served their nation diligently," he said. "We will greatly miss their services to our nation.  They were patriots and committed public servants."

Kibaki called on Kenyans to honor the late ministers by maintaining peace and security, and promised a full investigation into the crash.

"As we embark on thorough investigations on the cause of the crash, I appeal to all Kenyans to remain calm," he said. "I assure you all of full investigations, and the Kenyan public will be informed appropriately."

Transport Minister Amos Kimunya says the inquiry will also look into how the country can improve its aviation industry.

"All the people who have [a] stake in this, the families, the public and every stakeholder, the manufacturers and all that, will be then be given a platform where we can then get the truth or get as much information, not necessarily to reverse what happened, not even to know what happened, but more importantly to even help the aviation industry into the future in terms of what needs to be done to avert similar incidents into the future," he said.

The police helicopter carrying the ministers, two pilots and two bodyguards crashed minutes after taking off from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport early Sunday.

Both Saitoti and Ojode were leading voices of Kenya’s military operation in Somalia to fight the militant group al-Shabab.  Kenyan authorities accuse the group of being responsible for a wave of cross-border kidnappings last year, as well as dozens of grenade attacks in Kenya.