Kenneth Matiba passes on at 85

Family of veteran politician says he suffered multiple organ failure at Karen Hospital ICU before his trumpet call

Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram

Second Liberation icon Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba is dead. Matiba, who is remembered for his crusade for the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in Kenya in the 1990s passed away yesterday afternoon at the Karen Hospital after a long illness.

Last evening Matiba’s daughter, Ivy confirmed to People Daily the demise of her father, saying the family would issue an official statement today.

“Yes. It is true. The family will give an official statement tomorrow,” she tersely responded to our enquiries. Family sources said the veteran politician suffered multiple organ failure at Karen Hospital where he had been hospitalised for the last 55 days.

He had been on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the last two weeks. He is said to have finally succumbed yesterday afternoon after suffering three cardiac arrests.

Born on June 1, 1932, the 85-year-old Matiba is remembered for his pivotal role in the struggle for multi-party democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

A devout Christian and elder of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), Matiba made history as the first Cabinet minister to resign in 1989 after differing with then (now retired) President Moi on being rigged out of the then mlolongo (queue-voting) Kanu nominations for Mbiri sub-branch in Murang’a. Gidraf Mweru “won” the vote.

He was to team up in July 1991 with fellow veteran politician Charles Rubia and current ODM party leader Raila Odinga to push for the re-introduction of plural politics.

The trio were later to be detained under the now-scrapped Preservation of Public Security Act. Matiba suffered a stroke while in detention and was released after his health had gravely deteriorated.

Upon his release in early 1991, Matiba teamed up with five other politicians to form what was to be known as the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford) to continue the agitation for plural politics.

The six were the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the late Masinde Muliro, the late Martin Shikuku, the late Ahmed Bahmariz and former Machakos Town MP George Nthenge.

Before the December 1992 General Election, Ford split into two: Ford-Kenya, led by Jaramogi, and Ford Asili led by Matiba himself. The two leaders participated in the election, with Matiba coming a close second to Moi in a poll his supporters still widely believed was bungled to favour the incumbent.

As MP for Kiharu, Matiba boycotted parliamentary sittings for the entire five-year term, only making what he termed as technical appearances as a way of protesting electoral malpractices. In 1997, he pulled out of the presidential contest, citing lack of democracy and transparency.

By 2002, he had formed a new political outfit known as Saba Saba party with which he declined to merge with the National Rainbow Coalition and never ran for any elective seat.

Son of a former school head teacher, Matiba was educated at the prestigious Alliance Boys’ High School and Makerere University in Uganda. He was married to Edith, the daughter of pioneer administrator, chief Musa Gitau.

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