Kenneth Matiba plunged into elective politics in 1979 when he contested the Mbiri parliamentary seat against the Dr. Gikonyo Kiano who had been the area member of parliament since independence. It was a titanic battle and Matiba came out tops but he spent the next 4 years in the back bench.
He again won easily in the 1983 snap general elections that were meant to weed out Njonjo’s men following the traitor scandal and this time he was appointed into the cabinet. Matiba was a workaholic and did his work as per the book but people like him were not much appreciated by the Nyayo administration and with time he found himself in the Moi’s bad books.
If the 1983 elections were meant to weed out Njonjo’s men, 1988 elections were held with the ulterior intention of weeding out Kibaki’s Men. Matiba was Kibaki’s man and they tried to rig him out in the general election but failed, Michuki who was another Kibaki’s man was beaten by Kamotho in Kangema amidst allegation of massive rigging. Matiba was nominated back to the cabinet and Kibaki was demoted from VP to minister of health. Kamotho was appointed assistant minister and another kanu hawk, James Njiru from Kirinyaga was appointed minister of National guidance and political affairs, a very strange ministry. The ground had been set to clip Matiba’s and Kibaki’s wings.
The opportunity presented itself in the Kanu sub branch elections, Kamotho’s lineup won most of the position in Murang’a but in Kiharu, Matiba refused to play ball and cried foul. He petitioned Moi for a repeat and Moi allowed it. The repeat was also rigged and matiba cried foul again, his supporters made a mistake of trying to drive to state house to petition Moi, they were stopped on their tracks.
Matiba’s cabinet colleagues led by the court poet of the day Oloo Aringo attacked Matiba for insubordination. Matiba replied in kind, tendering in his resignation, Moi had been hit 9-0 as none of his cabinet ministers had resigned before. A hurriedly convened kanu governing council expelled Matiba from the party and in effect Matiba lost his parliamentary seat.
Dr Kiano and his supporters celebrated matiba’s bad fortune but they were also in for a rude schock. In the ensuing by election, an unknown entity picked by Kamotho beat Kiano with a 90% margin in the mlolongo nomination. Kiano feebly protested but in the end he thanked Moi for his unmatched wisdom in coming up with Mlolongo nominations. This happened towards the end of 1988 and Matiba kept a low profile in the whole of 1989.
In February 1990, Dr. Robert Ouko was reported missing and later found murdered. A month after his burial in March, Matiba, Simeon Nyachae, and Wangari Mathaai were arrested by special branch police and accused of spreading rumors about Ouko’s death. They were later released without being charged but the state had successfully sent a signal that it was keeping a close watch on the dissidents.
In May 1990, 2 months later, Matiba and Rubia called a press conference and demanded the return of multi party today and not tomorrow. They were both detained on 5th July 1990, 2 days before their planned rally at Kamukunji grounds, Raila Odinga, who had been donated to them by Jaramogi was also detained the next day. Matiba contested the presidency in 1992 and came a credible second to Moi, and at some point during the vote count, he was ahead of Moi. Had Moi and his goons not destroyed his health, maybe things would have turned out differently in 1992.
Fare thee wa Njindo, they destroyed your body but not the spirit.