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Matiba, a friend that Moi brought down

Friday February 14 2020
Matiba

Late veteran politician Kenneth Matiba. He has sued the State over his incarceration in President Daniel Moi era. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By JOHN KAMAU

It is only after you mention Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba that you start to get the inside story of the Nyayo regime.

There were many dare­devils who tried to stop the Moi regime — but most of them had no clout and no money. The entry of mil­lionaire Kenneth Matiba changed the matrix.

As the first ever Cabinet minister to resign in Kenya, Mr Matiba soon became the symbol of defiance of Kanu’s brutal years and, un­til he died, he carried the weight of the pris­on bru­tal­i­ty while all that he had built came to nought.

Moi’s re­gime not only wrecked his health, but his busi­ness em­pire and, by the time he died, aged 86, he had dis­appeared from the lime­light, hav­ing lost to auc­tion­eers all the ho­tels and schools he had built in his youth­ful days.

While the High Court had or­dered that Matiba get a com­pen­sa­tion of Sh978 mil­lion for dam­ages and vi­o­la­tions he suf­fered and for ex­penses he in­curred for his med­i­ca­tion, Matiba died before he could get fully compensated, and the mat­ter is still pend­ing in court.

Af­ter en­tering pol­i­tics, and he said as much, Matiba was al­ways afraid that he would be­come the vic­tim of rig­ging, and in 1988, he com­plained rath­er loud­ly a­bout rig­ging in the Kanu elec­tions, which was the de­fault set­ting of the rul­ing par­ty then.

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It was this 1988 rig­ging in Kanu that saw him fall out with Moi and on De­cem­ber 9, 1989 when Moi was a­bout to re­ceive guests for the 10th an­ni­ver­sa­ry of Nyayo era, Matiba draft­ed a re­sig­na­tion let­ter and had it dropped at the Office of the Pres­i­dent. Moi was in­censed.

After that, security agents followed him everywhere and he was constantly interrogated.

“I had kept a low pro­file and re­fused to en­gage in pol­i­tics, yet I was be­ing har­assed,” Matiba said on why he joined the call for multiparty pol­i­tics.

It was this call for plu­ral­ism that saw him end up in de­ten­tion, where he suf­fered a stroke on May 26, 1991.

Although he would re­turn to run for the pres­iden­cy, com­ing se­cond to Moi, Mr Matiba a­chieved lit­tle suc­cess as an op­pos­ition lead­er as ill­ness took a toll on him.

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