According to officials, Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti has been killed in a helicopter crash, BBC News is reporting. The crash also killed Saitoti's deputy, Orwa Ojode. 6 people, including bodyguards and pilots were killed in the crash.
BBC News reports that the aircraft went down west of Nairobi, but the cause of the crash is unknown. Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki has declared 3 days of mourning.
"He leaves behind a rich legacy of service to the country," Kibaki said in a statement according to Reuters.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters at the scene that "the government will ensure a thorough probe" into what caused the crash.
He said the helicopter crash was similar to a plane crash 4 years ago that killed 2 Kenyan ministers.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Saitoti, 66, a former vice-president, announced last year that he intended to run for the 2013 presidency.
According to Reuters, other candidates in the presidential race including Odinga and his deputy Musalia Mudavadi cancelled their campaign rallies for Sunday.
George Saitoti was a key figure in Kenyan politics, BBC News reports. His political career spanned 30 years, and was Kenya's longest running vice-president.
He became finance minister under President Moi in 1983, and in 1988, he became Moi's vice-president.
In 2002, Saitoti joined current Kenyan President's Mwai Kibaki's National Alliance of Kenya.
He became Kibaki's Internal Security Minister, and provided one of the country's most powerful government voices against the Somali militant group, Al-Shabab.
Last October, Kenya sent thousands of troops into Southern Somalia to protect its border against al-Shabab. Since then, other regional powers have joined Kenya in its fight, but The AFP reports that it was Saitoti who originally made the announcement of the invasion.
Last month, a bomb attack in a Nairobi shopping mall killed 38 people. In response, Saitoti said the Kenyan government would not be "cowed by terrorists," The AFP reports.