Ford Asili leader nearly ended Moi’s brutal rule

Retired president Daniel Moi at Parliament building. /Star Archives
Retired president Daniel Moi at Parliament building. /Star Archives

Kenneth Matiba was a politician with big dreams. After the opening up of political space with the advent of multi-party democracy in 1992, Matiba – a former high school teacher who rose through the ranks in the civil service - nearly defeated retired President Daniel Moi.

Four years after quitting his

Cabinet post, Matiba launched a vigorous and spirited campaign against Moi, once a close friend. Matiba garnered 1.35 million votes

on a Ford Asili ticket against Moi’s 1.9 million. His desire to end Moi’s dictatorial regime was dashed.

He lost, in part, because the opposition was not united. Former President Kibaki, then Democratic Party candidate got one million votes.


Matiba, the dashing and promising Kiharu MP, fell out with Moi in 1988 after he was rigged out in Kanu party polls. He protested

the shambolic and infamous queue-voting results. He forced a repeat in which he won and was re-appointed to the Cabinet.

Matiba hatched a plot in which he and then Vice President Kibaki were to resign on the same day.

But Kibaki, who had been demoted and made the minister for health, had a last-minute change of mind.

On December 9, 1989 when Moi was about to receive guests for the 10th anniversary of Nyayo era celebrations, Matiba drafted a resignation letter and had it dropped off at Office of the President.

Also read:

That would be the start of his political troubles. The clamour for multi-party democracy was in full pitch. He would soon be detained.

While in detention, he suffered a stroke on May 26, 1991. Moi would not allow him treatment until a week later. The result was devastating. Matiba’s widow Edith, in a recent interview, saidwhile she regretted his detention, she saw it as a better option than death. Thugs, believed to have been state sponsored, raided his Nairobi home in June 1990. They hacked Edith and daughters Millie and Julie. Matiba was not at home.