Even in death, Kenneth Matiba’s legacy for multi-party democracy which is the foundation of Kenyan politics will live on.
Matiba, 85, died on Sunday at Karen Hospital where he was admitted for the last three weeks. He was battling cardiac arrest but on Friday, his organs according to his family completely failed and he was taken off the ventilator.
His blood pressure was too low to even get dialysis. He has been battling illnesses for the last 30 years which began with a stroke when he was incarcerated at Kamiti Maximum Prison in the 90’s and denied medical treatment.
The fallen hero is today’s subject of debate among political circles, his spirit to a better Kenya being praised.
Matiba, a Makerere graduate started off as a civil servant-as a teacher at Kangaru Girls in 1960. Six months down the line, he rose to be deputy officer in charge of higher education at the Ministry of Education.
In 1963, the then Permanent Secretary for Education David Gregg; handed the boots to Matiba at just 31 years of age. He became the first black PS in the Ministry of Education with his office situated at Gill House.
In 1964, he was appointed Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce which was at the time headed by retired president Mwai Kibaki. He also worked as a PS for Home Affairs which was then headed by retired President Daniel Moi.
In 1968, Matiba quit the government sector and joined Kenya Breweries Limited from where he established the Alliance Group of Schools in South Coast. He had learnt the ropes of the business too well during his tenure in government service as a director of Kenya Tourist Development Corporation.
Besides, he invested in the education sector where he opened Hillcrest International School.
He chaired the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) between 1974 and 1978 when he ventured into active politics and went ahead to clinch the Mbiiri Parliamentary seat, now Kiharu in Murang’a County. The multi-party crusader served as the Transport and Communication Minister during this period under the KANU regime led by Moi.
However, he resigned in 1988 when his multi-party democracy campaign came up in a spirited way. His political activism which criticized Moi’s rule landed him and Charles Rubia to Kamiti Maximum Prison in 1990 where he suffered a stroke after he was denied treatment. His body was incapacitated through this period he was held without trial.
Multi-party democracy was later instituted and he was released from Prison in 1991. He vied for Presidency against Moi on a FORD Asili Party ticket in 1992 but was trounced. In 997, he boycotted the elections citing lack of democracy and went ahead to burn his voters card. He did not vie for any elective position.
After this, his business holdings begun to fizzle out given his state of health and his hotel chain was temporally taken from him though he later regained its control. Matiba later sold Hillcrest International School to a consortium.
He founded The People newspaper- a weekly pullout in 1992 and re-launched it as a daily in 1998. But it drained his finances and it collapsed.
He sued the government for damages during the illegal detention. In court papers, he said due to his ill state of health, he lost more than Sh2 billion in commercial real estate and a further Sh2 billion in privately held shares.
The court initially awarded him Sh504 million shillings but later went back to ask for more. Last year, he was awarded Sh945 million.