Who’s the target in President William Ruto’s endgame?
Sunday February 12 2023
Controversy surrounding the alleged police raid at the home of Kenya’s former powerful Interior minister Fred Matiang’i deepened Thursday after the Directorate of Criminal Investigations claimed Matiang’i had stage-managed his attempted arrest to incite the public against President William Ruto’s government.
Former prime minister Raila Odinga and a team of lawyers speaking for Matiang’i had the previous night told journalists that the former minister was holed up in his house fearing arrest by an elite squad of police officers who had earlier surrounded his home.
Media reports of the alleged police raid sparked a flurry of statements from the law enforcement and investigative agencies denying their involvement.
The Director of Criminal Investigations and the prosecutions chief have since confirmed there is an ongoing investigation of Matiang’i for unspecified offences.
His possible arrest and prosecution would not be wholly surprising, having emerged as a hate figure to influential people around Ruto during the Uhuru Kenyatta administration.
Matiang’i was often accused of abusing his office by doing dirty political jobs for the former president, including unleashing the police on Ruto’s supporters.
On several occasions Ruto also publicly accused Matiang’i of usurping his powers as Deputy President when he served as chairman of a key committee tasked with overseeing government programmes.
Perhaps the lowest point in their relationship came in August 2021 when the then Deputy President was blocked from travelling to Uganda by junior immigration officials and had his security detail downgraded.
Matiang’i critics see his current personal troubles as getting a taste of his own medicine.
But it also feeds into the opposition narrative that the former Interior minister is just a pawn in a political game targeting to pressure his former boss to quit politics.
Kenyatta’s role as a peace envoy to the DR Congo and Ethiopia suggests that he and his successor maintain some official working relationship.
But this relationship remains cold, with Ruto uncomfortable with Kenyatta’s perceived support for Odinga, who continues to claim that his victory in the last election was stolen and has planned a series of anti-government protest rallies.
Ruto and his political allies have alleged that the former President and other people unhappy with his tax policies targeting the wealthy are bankrolling the protests to destabilise the government and try to force a power-sharing deal with Odinga.
An Oxfam report last year put the Kenyattas in the club of four super-rich families whose combined wealth was more than that of nearly half of the country’s population of about 47 million.