Matiba, a friend that Moi brought down

Friday February 14 2020

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


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.


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.