Moi and Mudavadi: A history of old family ties

By Mwenda Njoka

KENYA: When sometimes in 1950s Moses Budamba Mudavadi — father to presidential candidate Musalia Mudavadi — was transferred to Baringo District to work as the local District Education Officer, he had no way of knowing what fate had in store for him in what was then a remote part of the colonial Kenya.

Scouring the 3,700 square kilometres that were Baringo District then, Moses Mudavadi smart in khaki shorts and Texan cowboy style hat, would push his battered Land Rover to its limits as he went around the expansive and hilly district collecting school fees and paying teachers as well as inspecting schools.

Among the teachers in the region then was one lanky 30-year-old genial gentleman by the name Daniel Toroitich Moi.

Soon thereafter, the towering schoolteacher became a member of the Legislative Council (LEGCO) and as they say, the rest is history.

It was in the hills and valleys of Kabarnet that Moses Mudavadi met and formed a long-lasting and life-changing friendship with Moi, who as fate would have it, later became President of the Republic of Kenya.

While working in Baringo, Moses Mudavadi not only formed a life-long bond with Moi, but also got a wife from the region and, what’s more, learnt to speak the local language.

These seemingly insignificant factors would later greatly help to entrench Moses Mudavadi’s preeminent position in the inner sanctum of President Daniel arap Moi’s State House and power structure.

Moi’s footsteps

Moses Mudavadi would later follow Moi’s footsteps and join competitive politics becoming MP for Sabatia as well as a long-serving and overly powerful Minister for Local

Government in the Moi government until his death in 1989.

During his time in politics, Moses Mudavadi was very close to President Moi and often regarded as one of the very few politicians around Moi who could dare to disagree with the President or tell him the truth when everyone else was cowering with platitudes.

Evidence of Moses Mudavadi’s power around the Moi Presidency was the fact that he, Mudavadi Senior, was the only politician besides the President to whom local and regional goodwill political delegations would pay homage to at his residence without fear of retribution in those politically sensitive and intolerant days of the 80s.

In the 80s, Moses Mudavadi’s Mululu home in Vihiga County was like a mini-State House often playing host to delegations from all over the country with petitions for the then powerful Minister for Local Government to take forward to President Moi.

The basis of ‘Kwa hali na mali’

Following the death of Mudavadi Senior, President Moi tapped on his (Moses Mudavadi’s) son Wycliffe, then a 29-year old fresh graduate from University of Nairobi, to step into his father’s political shoes.

Since then and over the long period of time has been in politics, Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi has established himself as his own man but never entirely severed the political umbilical cord that joins him to his late father’s bosom friend former President Daniel arap Moi. It was on the basis of this long family history that when Moi’s son, Gideon, decided to join Musalia’s political coalition, it did not come as a surprise to those familiar with the deep-rooted links between the Mois and the Mudavadis.

Indeed, because of the Mudavadis roots in Baringo, the late Moses Mudavadi used to lightheartedly refer to President Moi as his Umuko (Maragoli for in-law).

As such, when Gideon Moi talked of the Moi family supporting Musalia’s presidential bid kwa hali na mali (by all means possible), it was something born out of these long-standing familial links.

It is also significant that when Musalia Mudavadi made his political debut barely before his 30s in 1989, President Moi promptly appointed him a cabinet minister, making him the youngest cabinet minister at the time.

With such ties, it is likely that had Mudavadi’s presidential appeared completely viable beyond a shadow of doubt, Gideon Moi would have promptly agreed— or be convinced by his father— to be Musalia’s running mate.

For now though, Gideon seems happier pursuing his political dream through the Baringo County senate seat but all the same doing all they can to give a helping hand to Musalia, the son of his (Gideon’s) father’s late best-friend, Moses Budamba Mudavadi. Talk of family ties running deep.