Mr Kenneth Matiba, who died yesterday aged 85, was a great crusader for Kenya’s multi-party democracy. He died in the evening at Karen Hospital, Nairobi, his daughter Ivy Matiba confirmed.
Mr Matiba is understood to have been receiving treatment at Karen Hospital for a number of weeks. Dr Dan Gikonyo, head of the hospital, told the Nation last evening that he would prefer to talk about Mr Matiba’s health later.
“It just happened this evening and the family is still here,” he told the Nation on phone.
Mr Matiba had been unwell since suffering a stroke while at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, where he was held without trial for agitating for pluralism, to the chagrin of then President Daniel arap Moi. He was later released.
After the government allowed multi-party politics, he went on to play instrumental roles in the 1990s.
In the 1992 presidential election, Mr Matiba emerged second, losing to former President Moi.
Mr Matiba became a senior civil servant at only 31 years. In May 1963, he became the first indigenous African Permanent Secretary for Education.
In 1964, he was appointed Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, then headed by retired President Mwai Kibaki.
Mr Matiba eventually left his civil service career and ventured into the hospitality industry, establishing the Alliance Group of Hostels based at the South Coast.
He also invested in exclusive private schools, including Hillcrest Preparatory (founded by Frank Thompson) and Hillcrest Secondary School.
In 2000, he released his autobiography Aiming High. He founded The People newspaper as a weekly in 1992 and re-launched it as a daily in 1998.
Mr Matiba would go on to sue the government for damages for the illegal detention. He was initially awarded Sh504 million but went back to court because there had been a miscalculation. The amount was then increased to Sh945 million.
The stroke marked a drastic fall in the financial fortunes of the man whose campaign slogan in 1992 was “Let the People Decide”.
The judge who handled the case for compensation noted that Mr Matiba was the founder, leader and motivator behind the success of his companies. Therefore, the detention and ill-treatment affected his business empire.
“It is my finding that the petitioner’s medical condition, triggered by the events in detention leading to his stroke, so greatly affected the business acumen, attention, focus, energy, guidance and leadership he was giving his companies that without him at the helm, they deteriorated and some eventually collapsed,” the judge said.
Mr Matiba said an audit of the estate revealed that he lost more than Sh2 billion in commercial real estate and a further Sh2 billion in privately held shares.