Media not invited as Matiang’i hands over to Kindiki in private ceremony

Former Interior and Government Coordination CS Fred Matiang'i and Prof Kithure Kindiki

Former Interior and Government Coordination CS Fred Matiang'i with his successor CS Kithure Kindiki.

Photo credit: Pool

The media were barred from Harambee House as former Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Okengo Matiang’i yesterday handed over to his successor, Prof Kithure Kindiki.

Locking out the media from covering his last day in office seems to have been a last display of power by the tough-talking former CS who rose from being former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s “Mr Fix It” to becoming the former Head of State’s right-hand man.

Unlike the other CSs of Mr Kenyatta’s administration who have handed over their offices in the full glare of media cameras, as has been the tradition in Kenya’s competitive politics, Dr Matiangi opted to hand over office to his successor in private.

His media team had initially invited the media to attend the event that was scheduled for 10am before pushing it to 2pm, and finally declaring that it would be an in-house event. The former CS has been out of the country for a while and had just returned before the handing-over ceremony. 

“Prof Kindiki Kithure officially takes over as the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration from his predecessor, Dr Fred Matiangi,” said the Interior Ministry on its social media pages about the handover of power.

The Ministry of Interior later shared photos of the handover on its social media pages.

Dr Matiangi has only been seen in public once since President William Ruto won the August elections. The former CS had publicly declared his support for ODM leader Raila Odinga and had for years engaged in a public tiff with Dr Ruto, the then Deputy President, after Mr Kenyatta handed him supervisory powers over the Cabinet.

His last public appearance was on August 30 when he launched digital vehicle registration plates. He said their introduction marked the start of reforms in the motor vehicle registration sector. He has since deleted his Twitter page. 

“We will not point fingers at anyone when we have challenges related to motor vehicle registration when we have allowed criminals to terorrise our people,” said Dr Matiang’i.

Plucked from the private sector in 2013, the largely unknown Dr Matiangi did not just talk tough but acted the part, catapulting himself to be the most visibly hands-on CS in the Uhuru era. Every ministry he was appointed to head felt his impact, earning him praise among Kenyans and enemies in the business and political circles who did not like his abrasive style.

As minister for ICT in 2013, he presided over the launching of the digital transmission of TV signals. Major players objected to the development, even switching off their channels in protest. The CS did not budge and after a three-month standoff, the media houses ate humble pie and switched themselves back on. 

In the Education ministry, Dr Matiang’i brought sanity to the marking of national examinations by reducing cases of cheating so greatly that the university entry grade reduced itself naturally from a B plain to a C plus. He also forced schools to paint their buses yellow for uniformity, install speed governors, and operate only during the day in order to reduce accidents.

It is, however, in the Interior ministry that his impact was most felt. He oversaw a reduction in terror incidents, dismantled examination cartels, revolutionised the registration of private firearm holders, introduced tough immigration rules, and oversaw the introduction of digital passports, Huduma Number, and digital registration of vehicles.

In a farewell letter to his juniors at the ministry last month Dr Matiangi said: “History will vindicate their legacy... As my tour of duty comes to an end, I exult in the pride of knowing that we have not only honoured expectations but exceeded them by important and evident milestones.”

Prof Kindiki, who has taken over the powerful ministry, although with fewer powers as some have been returned to the Deputy President’s office while others have been shared with the Prime Cabinet secretary, has his work cut out for him.

As one of the most powerful men in the country, he has the responsibility of keeping Kenyans safe while ensuring that government services not only function properly but are accessible to all citizens.

During his vetting, Prof Kindiki told Parliament that his tenure would be different from Dr Matiangi’s in order to maintain cordial relations with key stakeholders, including Parliament.

“I will be a helpful and facilitative minister,” he told the Public Appointments Committee of the National Assembly, adding that there will be no extrajudicial killings on his watch, a phenomenon that has tainted Dr Matiangi’s otherwise impressive legacy.

On Monday, President Ruto handed Prof Kindiki his first order, directing him to work with the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to create a roadmap to dealing conclusively with extrajudicial killings.