The choice of Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to manage the Ministry of Internal Security in an acting capacity may not have come out of the blue.
Dr Matiang’i is becoming President Uhuru Kenyatta’s go-to guy in case something needs to be fixed, perhaps because of his no-nonsense approach and thoroughness.
“I take this opportunity this morning to inform Kenyans that there shall be no vacuum in securing our country. I have taken the decision to appoint Dr Matiang’i the acting Minister for Internal Security to ensure there is no vacuum,” President Kenyatta said in his address to the nation following the sudden death of Major-General Joseph Nkaissery.
Referred to in social media circles as Kenya’s Magufuli — after the equally no-nonsense President of Tanzania — Dr Matiang’i’s influence in Jubilee has been growing exponentially.
When he served in the Information and Communications ministry, he oversaw the transition from analogue to digital television amid great opposition from media stakeholders that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
Dr Matiang’i was then transferred to Education ministry where corruption cartels held sway especially in the national examinations council.
He managed to dismantle the cartels amid resistance that saw many schools lose property in arson attacks.
In March 2015, when President Kenyatta suspended several ministers named in corruption scandals, it was Dr Matiang’i that he chose to head the Lands ministry in an acting capacity following the stepping aside of then Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu.
He pushed ahead with land reform initiatives, which often put him on a collision course with the National Lands Commission.
He served in the position until December 2015 when President Kenyatta again turned to him to restore sanity in the Education sector following the previous year’s largely compromised national examinations for primary and secondary schools.
Within a year at the helm of the Education ministry, he restored confidence in the national exams, including sending home the Kenya National Examinations Council officials who presided over the compromised exams and rattling then entrenched profiteers in the sector.
Dr Matiang’i also reorganised the school calendar and introduced far-reaching changes in the administration of national examinations — moves that led to clean results for the first time in many years in 2016.
But for his critics, his temperament is his biggest undoing. “It is his way or no way,” an insider in the Education Ministry said.
His appointment to the Ministry of Interior comes at a time he has been in the news lately for allegedly causing the sacking of a Kenya Airports Authority security officer Daisy Cherogony who made him queue for a security check at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, an accusation he has denied.