Kenya: Matiang’i, once powerful security minister now under siege

By Victor Abuso

Posted on Thursday, 9 March 2023 16:49, updated on Friday, 10 March 2023 12:19
File photo of Fred Matiang'i. (ICT Authority)

Fred Matiang'i, who was once a feared and powerful security minister, is heading to court where he is expected to be charged over accusations of conspiracy to commit a felony and publication of false information.

In a summons letter signed by Senior Superintendent of Police Michael Sang, the former minister was directed to appear before criminal investigators or risk being arrested.

Matiang’i, who served in former president Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, was grilled on Tuesday after he claimed his home in Nairobi was raided on the night of 8 February for political reasons.

He alleged that police officers had intended to arrest him without revealing their motive. The police have denied these claims.

Before he was summoned by the investigators, the ex-minister had rushed to court and obtained anticipatory bail orders to prevent his arrest, revealing that he had credible information of his planned detention.

According to his lawyers, the investigators detained the former minister for several hours on Tuesday after interrogating him for only 15 minutes. The officers have also not decided when to charge him in court, said Danstan Omari, the lead lawyer.

Based on the interrogation and the behaviour of the officers, it seems that powerful individuals are making decisions on the matter, the lawyer said.

“It is clear that directions are coming from outside the investigators,” he said.

A day after the alleged raid, security personnel are said to have gone to the former minister’s residence and seized CCTV cameras.

During Tuesday’s questioning, opposition chief Raila Odinga and hundreds of supporters chanted “No Matiang’i, no peace!” outside the criminal investigation offices to show their solidarity.

Promise of a fair trial

The director of public prosecutions, Noordin Haji, has confirmed receiving the file from the investigators indicating two counts: publishing false information with intention to cause panic, and conspiracy to commit a felony.

Haji said his office is committed to respecting the rule of law, which will ensure the former minister gets a fair trial.

For the former security minister to be treated like this, it shows the country is headed to being a banana republic

“The decision shall be made in due course, based on the evidence, facts, and the law,” he said.

Kindiki Kithure, who took over from Matiang’i as minister of interior, said the police handled his predecessor “professionally”. According to him, it demonstrates the current regime’s commitment to conduct criminal investigations and treat suspects within the confines of the law.

However, Otiende Amollo, another lawyer representing Matiang’i, says the case against his client has no basis and describes the police pursuit as a vendetta and political witch hunt.

“For the former security minister to be treated like this, it shows the country is headed to being a banana republic,” he said.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) has also launched an inquiry into Matiang’i’s wealth accumulation for the 10 years he served under Kenyatta.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua recently defended the police, insisting that the government is not using security officers to settle political scores.

“Some people are cowards. During the last five years, they harassed us. They are now worried,” Gachagua said, in reference to Matiang’i.

Edwin Kegoli, a Nairobi-based political analyst, tells The Africa Report that the Ruto administration  seemingly wants to send a message to him that power is transient.

“It’s a clear revenge mission against Matiang’i,” he says, adding that Ruto is losing trust among Kenyans as a leader that unites people.

“Ruto is not living his word; such incidents divide the country more,” he says.

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