The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: PNU to Pick Saitoti Replacement Today

The Party of National Unity will meet today to appoint a new chairman to replace Prof George Saitoti who was killed in a plane crash early this month.

PNU's management committee will meet at the party headquarters from 9am to choose a replacement as the party faces an uncertain future after his demise. Yesterday Organising secretary Maina Kamanda confirmed the meeting will take place saying it will be the first formal meeting in the aftermath of Saitoti's death. "Yes we will be meeting at the party headquarters tomorrow," Kamanda told the Star yesterday.

Sources have intimated that Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchellah is eying the chairmanship with arguments that the seat belongs to the Maasai community and as the senior most PNU MP from the region, he deserves it. However, vice chairman Jimmy Angwenyi will also be seeking the post saying that as Saitoi's deputy in the party, he should take over.

Saitoti was the chairman and he had declared his interest in the presidency and identified PNU as the party on whose ticket he had planned to seek the position in the general election planned for March 2013. Addressing mourners during the burial, Transport minister Amos Kimunya revealed that Saitoti had planned to launch his presidential bid the following week. "Arrangements for the launch were complete. He had planned to launch his bid next week. Now the only memory I am left with is the programme of an event that would never be," he told mourners at Saitoti's Enkasiti home.

With the passing on of Saitoti the party has been robbed of the person who defined its image and bankrolled its activities. PNU is no ordinary entity because it is President Kibaki's party and the vehicle nearly half of the MPs used to enter parliament in the 2007 general election. The party is also a signatory to the National Accord on whose behalf President Kibaki signed the deal with Raila Odinga's ODM that ended the 2008 post election violence and created the Grand Coalition Government.

The death of, or any confusion, within the party, could have serious ramifications on the stability of the government and prevailing political situation because it is a key part of the government. Kimunya, who is also the party's secretary general refused to discuss the effect of Saitoti's death to the party. "It's too early to discuss this matter lest we are accused of celebrating. It is painful to PNU members. They are still mourning and please let them mourn," he said.

History scholar Macharia Munene said the party must reinvent itself because "even with Saitoti the party was in trouble". "Without him, the party is in deeper trouble because no one within the party commands the following Saitoti commanded," Macharia said. He said Saitoti was a man of immense financial means but was not doing well on the campaign trail. "The pain of his demise is felt more in the country than within PNU due to the good work he and Orwa Ojode were doing in the security docket," he said. Macharia said the party has no national presence and there was no attempt to create Saitoti's understudy who could assume the mantle in his absence.

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