Multiparty crusader Kenneth Matiba Wednesday won a landmark case when he was awarded Sh504 million as compensation for torture.
The High Court in Nairobi ruled that the State was to blame for Mr Matiba’s ill health and ordered that he be paid Sh18 million to take care of his hospital bills.
In the judgment read by High Court Judge Chacha Mwita for Supreme Court Judge Isaac Lenaola, the former Cabinet minister also got Sh15 million as compensation for the pain he suffered at the hands of law enforcement officers.
He was given an additional Sh471 million to cater for his collapsed businesses. The court noted that his business empire crumbled because of government operatives and his poor health.
“This judgment has joined the list of victims of past violations of fundamental rights save for the unique claim made by the petitioner relating to the collapse of his business,” the judge observed. “One thing is certain in my mind: the State must now wake up to the reality that the past conduct of its officials and agents will no longer remain unpunished.”
Matiba will go into the history books as the petitioner who was awarded the highest amount by a court for torture.
The evidence presented by the politician went unchallenged. His medical and business history was narrated by his personal doctor and close associates.
His doctor, Dan Gikonyo, told the court that Matiba was now in his sunset days. The Government did not challenge the evidence.
The judge was told that Matiba fell ill soon after he was released from detention.
“Real justice can be expensive and nothing in compensation can return Kenneth Matiba to the sprightly and fit man he was before detention and stroke,” Justice Lenaola said. “Nothing can return to the business mogul what he was once was, a man who towered over the political and financial landscape of Kenya like a colossus.”
The former multiparty campaigner told the court that he was kept in solitary confinement for five months during which his family was not allowed to see him.
He also testified that there was a plot to kill him by poisoning his food.
Matiba also said he continues to suffer excruciating psychological pain and mental anguish and his health has continued to deteriorate.
The former Kiharu member of Parliament narrated that his problems with the Government began in May 1990, when he and Charles Rubia convened a press conference calling for a change of the law to allow multiparty politics.
The two were arrested and detained without trial until 1991. Other pro-democracy leaders were also detained.
Matiba was among the founders of the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (Ford).