How Matiang’i’s ‘handshake’ with President Ruto complicates Raila’s political arithmetic in Kisii

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Former powerful Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has come under sharp criticism from the Azimio La Umoza coalition for attempting to mend fences with President William Ruto.

Matiang’i – who had been under siege from investigative agencies – was Monday cleared by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from any charges related to an alleged siege at his Karen home last month.

Behind-the-scenes talks between leaders from the Abagusii community and President Ruto led to the charges against Dr Matiang’i being dropped.

A Sunday meeting chaired by Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu is said to have brokered a deal that led to Matiang’i being left off the hook.

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Present at the meeting – which was held in Karen – was Solicitor-General nominee Shadrack Mose, North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko, former MPs Jimmy Angwenyi and Zebedeo Opore, and top Seventh Day Adventist pastors and elders John Simba and Steve Omenge.

Sources told Sauce that Machogu was afraid that the tension which had been created by Matiang’i’s tribulations would negatively affect his homecoming party scheduled for March 24. President Ruto is set to attend the event as he hopes to wrestle the Kisii community from opposition chief Raila Odinga’s grip.

All politicians affiliated with Raila were excluded from the meeting despite the opposition boss having marshaled Azimio politicians to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters last week to show solidarity with Dr Matiang’i.

Sources say former President Uhuru Kenyatta threatened to show up at the DCI offices on Kiambu Road if Dr Matiang’i was not going to be released. This is why the DCI backed off and release the former CS.

“Upon independent and thorough analysis of the evidence … and a review of the statements of the witnesses, the DPP found that the evidence provided was not sufficient to sustain the above charges against Dr Fred Matiang’i and his advocate, Mr Danstan Omari,” said a letter signed by Deputy DPP Lilian Obuo.

As expected, Azimio has not taken it lightly that their efforts to save Matiang’i have been hijacked by the same government that was tormenting him and will most likely use him as a political bargain in the Kisii community.

“The other day Eugene Wamalwa escorted Matiang’i to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) headquarters. But I even don’t understand why he (Matiang’i) went to talk to these people,” Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka said Monday.

Speaking during the 15th People’s Baraza rally in Mtwapa, Kilifi county, Kalonzo said there was nowhere under the law where Matiang’i committed any crime.

“The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was just directed to state that there was no evidence against Matiang’i. But I insist that there was no evidence in the first place. So, Matiang’i should have stood with Raila the way he did for him,” Kalonzo added.

Dr Matiang’i has another cloud hanging over him about the Sh1.5 billion Ruaraka land scandal. Just last week one of President Ruto’s aides, Dennis Itumbi, reignited debate about the scandal. He wrote to the DPP and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) seeking the prosecution of the former CS.

Itumbi through his lawyer Waithera Kinuthia gave the two agencies seven days to act, with the ODPP required to set up a motion to initiate Dr Matiangi’s prosecution and the EACC to issue a status progress report on the case file.

He insisted that Dr Matiang’i – who was then serving as the Education Cabinet Secretary – should account for the loss of the land which he estimated to be worth Sh1.5 billion.

“The Constitution provides for national values and principles of governance which include the rule of law among other principles and all state organs should adhere,” Itumbi said.

In 2020, Itumbi petitioned the two agencies to investigate the issue but to date, he says, there has not been any progress.

“It is unfortunate that my client was willing to use his private resources and conduct a private prosecution against Matiang’i to ensure restitution of stolen taxpayers’ money,” lawyer Kinuthia said.

As one of Dr Ruto’s most trusted aides, it remains to be seen whether Itumbi was acting alone or with the blessings of the President in reigniting the Ruaraka land saga.

Additionally, it will be interesting to see whether Itumbi was using the matter to up the stakes for negotiations between the state and Dr Matiang’i or if it was just a red herring.

What is clear is that Matiang’i was not just left off the hook. There must have been some horse trading during the Sunday meeting which was convened by CS Machogu. The most likely loser in this horse trading will be Raila who has been banking on Dr Matiang’i to increase his support in Kisii.

With Matiang’i now likely to slow down on his association with Azimio, Raila has to change tack in a bid to counter Ruto’s inroads to Kisii Nyanza.

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