Celebrating a Fallen Hero, Kenneth Njindo Matiba.

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Kenneth Njindo Matiba , an ambitious, abrasive and a no nonsense and hands on manager who turned to a well seasoned politician died a few days back. I saw it come across my newsfeed and was briefly taken aback – obviously I had a sense of his importance, his prominence, but it still took me a few moments to wrap my brain around the fact that a person I’ve known as long as I’ve been alive was being memorialized in the paper.

I’ve known Matiba for so long but I’ve truly never met him. Some of my earliest memories are of being on the headlines of the Sunday and mostly a time talked about by one famous Sunday Nation writer of the 90’s Whispers “The Son of the Soil” he had statues of African warriors that terrified me and a spiral staircase that thrilled me, and he wore some kind of checked shirts that no one would confuse him with any other politician of his times. The empires he created and business that have employed hundreds of Kenyan always come under the fire of the government. And though I would later appreciate his genius, when I was younger, I mostly knew him as the man who would have interminable conversations running between my dad and his friends creating frenzy in the whole country.

Matiba set the bar for so many of us who met him, in so many areas in, doing development well, not choosing the easy path if the more difficult one means doing things the right way, standing up for what you believe in, dedicating your life to something, believing that change is possible and that improvement is only achievable if we work towards, not wait for it. So many of us have changed by knowing him.  Many of us here in the office might not even be here if it wasn’t for his inspiration and his dedication.  In a world of development, where we are all determined to improve, find problems, think of solutions, etc we often times forget to look at the successes for what they are.  We harp on where funding is coming from, the way something could be better, how to get more stakeholders involved, etc.

Today, it is sad that people are most appreciated on the day that they die.  Today, the world has lost a true Politician, Businessman, a Father and dedicated change agent who went out into the world and not only thought of himself but of the future generations. Look at all of the problems out there!  How could regime have gotten it so wrong! he also thought  and believed that he can do it better than it is being done. He could usehis skills to add value to this world, and so he did. Matiba didn’t look for handshakes, state commendations or even awards; he surely wasn’t trying to scale up anything for him to have bigger and further results.  Instead he was looking to do it right even if it meant risking his own life.  

Today many of us lost one of our heroes, perhaps the most inspiring person many of us have ever met.  I wish that I had taken more time to show that appreciation to him and those at political space of this country. He rallied behind the force that made Moi to abandon the single party state era and embark on another political line of divide and rule. He endured the wrath of a ruthless political regime which he should have done like many men of his times, but he believed in the good future of our country. To many he became a national figure after the presidential election period of 1992 after which he backed out of the military removal of Moi in power despite it being a viable option in Africa at the time. Rwanda had already taken that path.

To honour Matiba, we can go out into the world, see problems, and not just point them out or say how we think they, could be done better….. instead we can go out and do them.  We can ask questions about development, invest in projects and people we believe in, and look for more holistic approaches to problems, even if they take more time and commitment.  We can live the problems we are looking to fix, immerse ourselves in the work that we are doing, and believe in ourselves enough to know that we CAN make a difference, as long as we put the time in to do it right.

I am deeply saddened to hear about Matiba’s passing. My heart goes out to his wonderful family; I can’t imagine the loss they must feel. I am sad also for the entire country of Kenya. It hurts to imagine all the great Matiba might have accomplished there with more time of good health. It seems terribly unfair to his family and the Kenyan people that so valuable a mind and heart would be taken so young. I feel an enormous sense of loss today. The world was a better place with Matiba in it. Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts and memories about Matiba or write to us with quotes, stories, photos, recordings, etc. We will compile these for his tribute blog to show how much he touched all of our lives.

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