Matiang'i drama shows power is always transient

Former Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. [File, Standard]

The alleged Wednesday evening drama at the Karen residence of former Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i raises important questions about the rule of law.

Politicians allied to Dr Matiang’i claimed that the police were staging a raid at his residence.

The Police Service, however, denies any such operation.

The truth is somewhere in the middle – it appears that the planned raid was abandoned when it became clear that the media would be present and that it would attract political drama.

On Thursday, Matiang’i went to court pleading for an anticipatory bail – the very same legal manoeuvre that he excoriated while in office, alleging that it amounted to obstruction of justice.

Many Kenyans could barely hide their schadenfreude.

It is under Matiang’i’s leadership that countless Kenyans were allegedly summarily executed by police officers belonging to a special unit in the name of fighting crime.

The lesson from this incident is clear and simple: those who subvert the rule of law for short-term ends stand to suffer from lawlessness in the near future.

Power is transient, and proximity to power is not real power.

Therefore, those in public office at any one time should conduct themselves in a manner that reinforces belief and practice of the rule of law.

As they go about instrumentalising the law to exact revenge against former allies in the Jubilee administration, officials in the Kenya Kwanza government must also internalise the fact that power is transient.

Fred Matiang'i and Uhuru Kenyatta during a meeting at the Directorate of Criminal Investigation on June 13, 2022. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

In five or ten years, they will also be out of office, and the shoe will be on the other foot.

If they want to avoid being raided at night or facing all manner of legal action from the state, they must reinforce the rule of law now.

Failure to think beyond today is the cause of many of our national problems.

We need strong institutions and the rule of law not because it pleases lawyers, activists, donors, or whatever, but because both are foundational to a well-ordered society.

Public officials who lack personal discipline to exercise their powers within the confines of the Constitution have no business being in office.

They should also not expect public sympathy when the chickens come home to roost.

You cannot keep snakes in your backyard and hope they only bite your neighbours’ children.

-The writer is an Assistant Professor at Georgetown University