2022 POLITICS

What is Interior CS Matiang'i up to?

MATIANGI'S Latest moves have swirled speculations over his real ambitions

In Summary

• The CS has heightened activities in his Gusii backyard to fortify his foothold.

• Matiang'i has been meeting elected and opinion leaders from the Gusii region to consult on his next steps.

Interior CS Fred Matiangi in Upper Hill, Nairobi, on April 25, 2019.
Interior CS Fred Matiangi in Upper Hill, Nairobi, on April 25, 2019.
Image: VICTOR IMBOTO

Latest political moves by powerful Interior CS Fred Matiang'i have swirled speculations he has entered the fray in President Uhuru Kenyatta's convoluted succession matrix.

Hitherto seen largely as an aloof technocrat picked to firm up Uhuru's administration in 2013, the former University of Nairobi Linguistics lecturer is certainly a man on a mission.

 

While in Uhuru's first term, Matiang'i worked behind the scenes to push through major milestones in the Education and ICT sectors, his enhanced role in the President's last lap has plunged him into uncharted waters.

 
 

Matiang'i appointment as Interior and Coordination of National Government CS attracted a groundswell of applause as a masterstroke in fixing security challenges, weeks to the August 8 general elections.

His ruthless and brute force in mercilessly dealing with pro-opposition supporters who had disputed the Presidential results and his team's handling of the protracted political standoff endeared him to powerful forces around the Presidency.

Coupled with his strong performance in instilling far-reaching reforms in the education sector including restoring sanity in the management and administration of national exams, Matiang'i was no doubt a man to watch.

It was until the President appointed him the chairman of the National government development Implementation Communication Committee-a powerful team of the cabinet overseeing state projects-that Matiang'i fast-rising star became apparent.

The move was seen as a deliberate plan to clip deputy President William Ruto's wings by denying him an opportunity to inspect and launch development projects but has turned out to be an opportunity for him to curve his own political pie.

Described as Uhuru's Mr Fix It', Matiang'i now appears to be trying to curve his own path amid speculations he could plunge into politics ahead of the 2022 polls.

 

Politicians and analysts say Matiang'i could leverage on the widening cracks in the Jubilee administration to position himself as the most credible and compromise presidential candidate.

 
 

Already, the CS's expanded mandate has put him at loggerheads with Deputy President William Ruto who is also angling to succeed his boss in 2022.

The DP's allies have accused Matiang'i of being used by the opposition and a section of the executive to cut Ruto down to size.

But buoyed by the handshake, Matiang'i has won the heart of former prime minister Raila Odinga, his hitherto fiercest critic.

Raila has told off Matiang'i's critics saying the powerful CS is doing an excellent job, a stark comparison to how he regarded him after the 2017 polls.

“As the man in charge of the country’s security he has been doing his job correctly. They are now tying him with chains to slow him down. We know them ... they will not succeed,” Raila said in a surprise endorsement of Matiang'i.

With the support of the President and his erstwhile foe turned buddy, Raila, Matiang'i is seen to be on a mission (imp)possible in the wake of heightened activities within his Gusii backyard with a battalion of MPs.

Observers say, the interior CS is on a mission to cut the DP down to size in Gusii region, where Ruto's fortunes have been growing at the expense of the opposition.

The Kisii community cannot be taken for granted. For now, we want to concentrate on the work given to us by his Excellency the President. When that time comes and you people decide where we as your leaders want us to go, who are we to decline.
Interior CS Fred Matiang'i

This perhaps explains why Raila has thrown his weight behind Matiang'i track record and asked his lieutenants to support the CS's work in what has emboldened him.

What is Matiang'i up to?

Matiang'i critics opine he is not ripe for any political seat because he has not been tested at any ballot box, not even at the selections of tea buying centre representatives.

Yet today up on the Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi’s sleeves is a mission ( imp)possible: to clip wings and stay back Ruto's barreling tide in Gusii region.

Matiang'i had initially set off with routine visits to Nyamira, his home county where he used to attend Sabbath services and worshipping with the native congregants.

He sings  baritone, and bursts into a hymn: "He leadeth me."

At first, he brushed journalists on his weekend trail off saying he just came to worship with villagers.

And he eschewed, politics then, like a plague.

Today, he sits at the very prominent seat directing the show as he struts Kisii and Nyamira like the proverbial colossus.

Nobody knows for sure the nature of his mission but for weeks it has been crystal clear that he is on a decoy mission to cut DP's larger than life presence in the region.

Last week, In what appeared as the most brazen of flakes directed at DP Ruto, the CS told congregants at Mekonge SDA Church in Sensi, Kitutu Chache North, that some leader was hiding under the cloak of religion to commit larceny.

He said had it not for such corrupt leader, Kenya could be steps ahead and that every citizen could be feeling the impact of Jubilee development initiatives.

And though untested, he has thrown an offensive charm around a section of the region's members of parliament who have now taken to pontificate his name telling people to support his candidature for the top seat.

But Matiang'i has not declared he will run for any political seat saying he is currently focusing on the responsibilities bestowed upon him by the President.

MPS from the region are pushing him to carry the community's fag into the 2022 presidential elections. 

Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka who is among Matiang'i's key supporters said the Gusii community has matured and is all set to play in big-league politics.

He said the community’s three million voters will guarantee it a seat to the power-negotiation table through Matiang’i.

“It is time we tell other tribes they can no longer just walk in to hunt for top-up (votes) … We now have the votes and should be at the negotiating table to talk together to determine which direction the leadership of this country should take,”  Onyonka said.

He says his brief dalliance with the DP was to spy the Tangatanga movement, which he said, as he found out, was a hotbed of graft.

He now says  Matiang'i  is clean, a workaholic of note and holds a better alternative for the country to redeem itself.

 “Our son is clean, he works hard, and he does have a better chance at the presidency that the other guy whose reputation is soiled by graft,” he said.

But amid the heat, some leaders have still stayed away from the Matiang’i candidacy debate. They have been unswayed by the pro-Matiang’i wave. They are tellingly absent (without apologies) from the Interior CS’s functions.

They include Ezekiel Machogu (Nyaribari Masaba), Sylvanus Osoro (South Mugirango), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba), Jerusha Momanyi (Nyamira Woman Rep), Oroo Oyioka (Bonchari), Richard Tongi (Nyaribari Chache), Alfa Miruka (Bomachoge Chache) and Bomachoge Borabu’s Zadock Ogutu.

Few are getting convinced, but not his home region MP Sylivanus Osoro- a dye in the wool supporter of the DP Willam Ruto.

Osoro says Matiangi has an ego the size of an elephant, too abrasive a braggart with no time for the common man, which he should if wants to venture into politics.

But Matiangi has brushed this off and he is armed himself with - Senators Prof Sam Ongeri (Kisii) and Okongo Omogeni (Nyamira) and MPs Samuel Arama (Nakuru) and Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango)  is on the offensive telling church leaders not to support political leaders fleecing the country.

On Friday, Vocal Kitutu Chache MP Richard Onyonka, who has since joined him after ditching the DP camp at a burial in Kisii.

Questions are lingering if the bid is but another ploy to weed out Ruto from Kisii politics.

Interestingly, many of those who have warmed their way into the Matiangi caucus are using every opportunity to paint black the DP , a clear indication, that the CS, a civil servant, was on a delicate mission.

Whether he will vie- for he has not told the leaders to stop pushing him- or not remains shrouded as secret.

Political analysts have however thrown a word of caution around it.

“It is all about to reduce Ruto hegemony ahead of the 2022 polls..it still remains in doubt if Matiangi will ultimately go for the top job if we go by the tribal arithmetic of this country, “said political scientist Dr Eric Onsongo of Kisii University.

Onsongo, however, says the peril is Matiangi is using the same formula of Omogusii Unit Agenda, Obomo, to tackle his fight against Ruto.

“Obomo failed and it was meant to do as it was abused by the leaders whose intention was to ride to the governorship. It backfired on them,” said Onsongo.

In Kisii, some are livid at him terming him pushy, arrogant and a novice.

Already, the emerging Matiangi factor in Gusii political dynamics has begun to cause divisions with some other politicians still remaining aloof to his agenda.

A senior leader in the Kisii County administration told the Star that already Matiangi, was on a mission impossible owing to his pushy character.

“He is under instruction to deal with Ruto and this is by trying to create another centre of power and wean away from the politicians to him,” said a senior leader in the Kisii Country administration.

He said already the Interior CS has been duped to believe that he will be the compromise candidate in the troubled Jubilee party.

“He is not going to be the compromise candidate in the face of the ongoing fallout in Jubilee. It is all a damned project,”  the politician said asking not to be named.

He said Matiangi lacks the strength to fight political Armageddons, the size he has been given.

“He is a pampered factotum propelled to the most vantage of position in the country but now being misused,” he said.

Kisii Deputy Governor Joash Maangi says Matiangi’s political mission in Gusii still remains hazy.

“People want him to explain if he wants to abdicate his role as a civil servant and leap into politics. Let him not be a fence sitter, to he is the civil servant which he is. We know our senior politicians and he is not in the list,” said Maangi pointing to the bruising battles and divisions already rocking the Matiangi agenda.

 Maangi denied disparaging only adding that it was time Matiangi came out of the shadows to tell Kenyans if he ready for the presidency.

On Thursday Ward Reps in Kisii suspended business to discuss Matiang'i in the light of scathing attacks by political leaders from the region gravitating towards Ruto.


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