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The changing fortunes of Super CS Fred Matiang’i

By Kevin Cheruiyot September 20th, 2022 2 min read

Before the 2013 General Election, few Kenyans knew or had ever heard the name Fred Okengo Matiang’i. At the time, Dr Matiang’i was enjoying a private life while earning a living as a lecturer in a number of institutions in the country.

All that changed after Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto won the much-contested presidential election and formed a new government.

With the 2010 Constitution having been promulgated, the incoming Executive had to make their Cabinet appointments from outside Parliament. Cabinet Secretaries, unlike their predecessors, were ideally expected to be non-political actors.

And when President Kenyatta named his first Cabinet, among them was Dr Matiang’i who was appointed the Cabinet Secretary for Information Communication and Technology.

Also read: Matiang’i deactivates Twitter account after President Ruto is sworn in

Two years later, President Kenyatta reshuffled his Cabinet and moved Dr Matiang’i to the education docket, which at the time was reporting many cases of examination cheating. That move immediately thrusted Dr Matiang’i to the limelight for his no-nonsense style of leadership.

Within a short time, Dr Matiang’i streamlined the education sector by issuing guidelines which were observed before and during examinations.

Some of the changes were that headteachers were not allowed to be in the school compound during examination period, and the time taken to release the results was reduced considerably.

Following his changes, the number of students scoring high grades declined, causing uproar from other stakeholders in the sector, including parents and teachers unions.

ODM party leader Raila Odinga (right) has a word with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i during a function at Mwongori High School in Borabu, Nyamira County on October 22, 2021. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA

While busy executing his duties to reform the education sector, another important duty called that needed a man of Dr Matiang’i’s caliber. Following the demise of former Interior CS Joseph ole Nkaissery in 2017, President Kenyatta named Dr Matiang’i as the Interior CS in an acting capacity.

A year later, the president effected a mini-shuffle, moving Dr Matiang’i to the Interior Ministry.

There was no doubt that Dr Matiang’i had the president’s ear, a scenario that was further cemented when the president handed Dr Matiang’i more powers on the oversight of Government programmes, a duty that was being executed by his deputy earlier when their bromance seemed unbreakable.

Also read: Matiang’i praises his juniors in farewell message but fails to mention Ruto

The transfer of key functions to the CS was seen as the final blow to Dr Ruto who had criticized his boss for closing ranks with opposition leader Raila Odinga. President Kenyatta, on the other hand, justified his decision while blaming his deputy for pushing his own political agenda instead of helping him to deliver his promises to Kenyans.

Considered President Kenyatta’s most trusted ally, Dr Matiang’i fell into step with his boss and openly campaigned for Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition presidential candidate Mr Odinga.

Dr Matiang’i is on record for saying during a political rally in Kisii County that they were taking the route that the president directed them to, which was supporting Mr Odinga as his successor.

But things didn’t go according to plan. Dr Ruto defeated Mr Odinga at the ballot and scored a second victory after the Supreme Court upheld his victory. Little has since been heard of Dr Matiang’i. He has gone on to deactivate his social media accounts and quietly exited the stage.

Also read: Babu Owino: Riggy G is an intelligent person but he dresses like a chief