Since 1902

Echoes from the past - When Moi, Matiba, Wako had a future meeting

Alliance Boys student Amos Wako receives an award from the then Minister for Home Affairs Daniel Arap Moi with a youthful Permanent Secretary for Industry Kenneth Matiba looking on in this 1965 picture. [Courtesy]

Sample this:  A future president, his chief rival and the future Attorney General in a future meeting.

This happened on November 15, 1965, at Alliance High School. On that day, a beaming school captain Amos Wako received an award from the then Minister for Home Affairs Daniel Arap Moi with a youthful Permanent Secretary for Industry Kenneth Matiba looking on.

Twenty-seven years later, in 1992, the three men would meet again. By this time, Wako was an internationally acclaimed lawyer. He’d by then been appointed  Attorney  General,  becoming  President  Moi’s principal legal adviser. This happened at a time the country was tearing apart. He had also been a UN rapporteur on human rights violations, specifically on summary or arbitrary executions. 

The crest for the winds were swirling in Nairobi with demands for new political and constitutional order. Would Wako’s beguiling smile temper the waves of violence threatening to send Kenya to the cliff?   Riding on this wave, though from the other side of the prison, Matiba, who was then the face of the reforms Kenyans were clamouring for, was defying the government.

Kenyans wanted a multiparty political system and Matiba and other leaders had been detained for agitating for change.

Kanu’s dominance was now threatened and Matiba, using Ford Asili party, wanted to unseat his old boss and friend Moi.

In what is now described as a masterstroke of genius, the new Attorney  General diffused the tension by steering minimum constitutional reforms that offered President Moi a lifeline. 

The changes made the incumbent eligible to contest the presidency for two more terms.

It also spelt out a formula that handed Kanu a breather. The constitutional changes crafted by Wako dictated that a presidential candidate had to have a following in parts of the country making it difficult for the emerging fractious regional-based parties to march to State House even if they miraculously won the popular vote.

Moi beat  Matiba to second place.  Wako outlived both  Moi’s tenure and  Matiba’s  ‘let the people decide’  mantra as the now Busia senator served as  AG,  for almost  20 years.

Matiba suffered ill-health after detention he never contested the presidency again while his once-formidable party disintegrated.  Today,  Wako is a lawmaker in the  Senate and has yet again played a key role in the Building  Bridges Initiative that seeks to amend the 2010 Constitution which was partly derived from the Wako draft, so named because Wako was one of the drafters.

Moi will be forever remembered for "mid-wifing" a peaceful transition in Africa.