• The things we take for granted cost Kenneth Matiba his health and wealth, yet he would have chosen to live a life of comfort for he was an accomplished man by all standards.
• Matiba run for President in 1992 General Election and finished second. Many people believe he actually won that election but was rigged out.
It’s yet another time in our country’s history that we need to ask ourselves whether we celebrate our true heroes.
As I was reflecting on this, I couldn’t help but remember the contributions of a great man who lost all he had, in the quest to bequeath our beloved country the democratic freedoms we enjoy today.
The things we take for granted cost him his health and wealth, yet he would have chosen to live a life of comfort for he was an accomplished man by all standards.
This man was Kenneth Matiba. So, who was he?
Matiba was born on June 1, 1932, in Mbiri, Murang’a. Interestingly; this day was later to become Madaraka Day. He got a BA in Sociology and Geography from the prestigious Makerere University and later worked as a high school teacher at Kangaru School in Embu
He got married to Edith Matiba, whom he met at Alliance High School, and together had five children.
He died aged 85 years old.
Matiba, whose name has a striking resemblance with Nelson Mandela’s middle name ‘Madiba’, was the first African Education Permanent Secretary under Daniel Moi.
In 1964, he was appointed PS for Commerce under Mwai Kibaki. He left public service in 1968 for private business. In 1979, he vied and won the Mbiri parliamentary seat in 1983 serving up to 1988, a period he served in three ministerial portfolios — Transport and Communication, Heath, and Social Services.
Matiba run for President in 1992 General Election and finished second. Many people believe he actually won that election but was rigged out. Consequently, he became the leader of opposition up to 1997 while serving as Kiharu MP.
Matiba was an astute businessman and was the first Black Kenyan to invest in the hotel industry with entities such as the Alliance group of hotels that owned Naromoru River Lodge and Jadini, among others. Other businesses included Hillcrest Group of Schools, Orchid Kenya Limited, Wangu Investment Farm, and Carbacid Limited. He was also the first African executive chairman of East Africa Breweries Limited.
Matiba made a lot of contributions to education. To begin with, he negotiated with the UK government for Templer barracks at Kahawa to be made Kenyatta College, currently Kenyatta University. He also helped establish Kenya Science Teachers College, currently a constituent college of the University of Nairobi. Further, he championed for the establishment of Murang’a Technical College, which is now Murang’a University of Technology. Moreover, he sponsored the construction of the administration block of Thika School for the Blind.
Matiba was an astute sportsman. He founded the Kenya Football Federation in 1974 and personally financed it. Under his leadership, Harambee Stars won the Cecafa Cup for the first time.
Matiba, a one-time captain of the Bunge Football Club, led five others to climb Mt. Everest’s 20,500 feet above sea level (Island peak), the Himalayas and Mt Kenya several times.
Due to the massive rigging of the 1988 Mlolongo elections aimed at suppressing the independence of Parliament, Matiba was the first person to resign as a minister under the Kanu regime.
In May 1990 together with Charles Rubia, they held a press conference to demand for the return to multiparty democracy. He was detained for two years without trial at Kamiti Prison, denied medication, fell sick and got a stroke that paralyzed half of his body.
Upon his release, he joined hands with Jaramogi Odinga and others to form the Ford Party. However, they split into two, Ford Asili and Ford Kenya. He then used his business fortune to bankroll his Ford Asili party to promote democracy.
He was convinced that Kenyans could not live in a one-party dictatorship if their future was to be secured. It’s due to this and Sabasaba riots that Section 2(a) of the constitution was repealed to return Kenya to a multiparty democracy.
In 1992, he started the people weekly newspaper under the banner “Fair, frank and fearless’’. It provided a platform for robust political debates for the advancement of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It exists today as a daily and I was privileged to be a columnist on Sunday for about two years. Due to his political engagement, his business empire was attacked by the system, sabotaged and it eventually collapsed.
Matiba is the author of his autobiography Aiming high; the story of my life. As we celebrate Mashujaa Day, may we honour him by renaming Murang’a University of Technology after this great Kenyan hero for democracy.
Mwaura is the senator for persons living with disabilties