Murang’a University of Technology could get a new name after the Senate adopted a motion urging the national government to rename the facility Kenneth Matiba University of Technology in honour of the late Matiba’s role in the struggle for democracy and contribution to national development.
Matiba, who was a prolific industrialist and investor in the hospitality and education sector and great crusader for Kenya’s multiparty democracy, died last year aged 85.
Until his death, Matiba had been unwell since suffering a stroke while at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in 1990, where he was held without trial for agitating for pluralism, to the chagrin of then-President Daniel arap Moi.
In a motion sponsored by Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, senators unanimously supported the proposal saying it is the only way to honour a man who paid a heavy price for Kenya to transition into a multiparty democracy in the 1990s.
“We have a culture of eulogising people when they die, attending funerals in thousands and giving great speeches; but we soon forget them,” Mr Mwaura told the House, describing the late hero as a true trailblazer.
The lawmaker enumerated Matiba’s achievements, right from the time he was appointed Permanent Secretary in 1963, and his exit from the public service into the private sector in 1968, leading the East African Breweries Ltd.
Matiba also served as chairman of the Kenya Football Federation; he was elected as MP and later appointed to the Cabinet where he served in three different portfolios but resigned after he disagreed with President Moi over the use of mlolongo system in the 1988 general election.
With the country muzzled by Kanu autocracy, Matiba and former Nairobi mayor Charles Rubia took on Kanu and called for multiparty democracy.
They were arrested for treason and detained for two years without trial. While there, he was denied medication. He fell sick and nobody attended to him.
“It is because of this struggle that Section 2A of the Constitution was repealed, to return Kenya into a multiparty democracy. Matiba paid this heavy price through his health,” Mr Mwaura said.
Senator Irungu Kangata praised the fallen hero saying that he lost most of his property in the struggle for the betterment of this country.
“He also lost his personal health. By the time he passed away, he was quite a sick person and to me, that epitomises several people in this world who have gone to that extent,” he said, likening Matiba to India's Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X (USA), Martin Luther King Jnr (USA), and Marcus Garvey (Jamaica).
“To me, Mr Matiba reached that level. He risked it all to ensure that we move forward.”