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Why President Uhuru Has Made Dr Fred Okengo Matiang’i His ‘Prime Minister’



Historically, save for President Mwai Kibaki, Kenyatta senior and Mwalimu Toroitich arap Moi detested performers in their cabinets and viewed them as threats that needed to be neutralized.

That is how the likes of Tom Mboya and JM Kariuki were eliminated by the regimes of the day, allegedly.

But that it would seem is not the modus operandi of President Uhuru Kenyatta who has cultivated a strong relationship with a man who started out in his cabinet as the no nonsense Education Minister.

Dr. Fred Okengo Matiang’i, the self declared chinkororo warrior from Nyamira County is as tough as a nail. From an Education CS, he strategically replaced the late retired Major-General Joseph Nkaissery to head the powerful Interior docket and today, he is the most powerful Cabinet Secretary who administratively, is now more highly placed than Uhuru’s Deputy William Ruto.

His appointment heralds the night of long knives. While Uhuru is fighting for a legacy, his deputy is fighting for an ambition. The two it is a cinch no longer read from the same script. The President tried to halt rolling out of Big Four Agenda to prevent his Deputy from conducting development projects in a Willy-nilly manner for political mileage but that did not work.

And on Sunday, after thinking long and hard, he called the one man he knows has been able to stand up to Ruto and after a long meeting in Mombasa, two days later, he announced that Okengo now has sweeping powers on the oversight of Government programmes,

In his new role, Dr Matiang’i will chair a key committee on the implementation of development programmes, whose membership includes all Cabinet secretaries, the Attorney General and Head of the Public Service, a mandate that Governance experts say  essentially elevates him to a “prime minister or chief minister.”

Matiang’i comes handy in Uhuru’s fight against corruption that he has declared a National threat. As it stands, the new PM and Ruto do not see eye to eye because of graft.

The vicious fight between the two leaders that leaked into the public recently involves multi-billion-shilling tenders being pushed by Ruto and his associates, which Matiang’i has refused to approve.

The latest incident occurred in December last year when the DP is reported to have asked the Interior CS to award a tender for the supply of police uniforms to other people, not just the National Youth Service.

Matiang’i stood his ground, insisting that all uniforms will be made by the NYS, as directed by President Kenyatta.

Ruto and Matiang’i also clashed in February last year over a multi-billion-shilling tender to supply arms.

The police department had floated a Sh3 billion restricted tender for the weapons. Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett then drafted a letter recommending that a tender be awarded to a company in Eastern Europe.

When Matiang’i saw it, he refused to sign and instead asked the IG to provided minutes from the National Security Advisory Council and the National Security Council supporting the recommendation.

Boinnet, a known Ruto’s bot reported Matiang’i to the DP who asked Matiang’i why he was sitting on the tender papers but the CS said he was waiting for the minutes, which never came.

It is also understood that sometime prior to that, the DP asked Matiang’i to approve a deal in which some “investors” wanted to develop prison land. The prison is located in Rift Valley on a huge piece of land.

The CS asked the DP to arrange for Cabinet approval before he could authorize the investment. The DP was upset and the transaction collapsed.

Uhuru knows that while Ruto is tough, witty and undeterred, Matiang’i is a volcano. No other person in his administration has the guts to face Ruto fair and square like this Gusii warrior and he has proved it.

Uhuru needs Matiang’i and others like him to salvage what is left of his legacy.

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