Mudavadi, the teacher who fought his way tooth and nail

Baringo District Education Officer Moses Budamba Mudavadi (L) chats with a primary school teacher (R) at a school in Rift Valley Province July 1958. [File, Standard]


A man’s circumstances of birth should never be an excuse for not aspiring for greatness.

This smartly dressed young man (left) as captured in this 1958 photo had clawed his way out of poverty and ignorance, fought off racial discrimination, gunned foreign enemies on behalf of the British and lost a tooth for owning a Land Rover. And yet he moulded the future of Kenya and, in fact, sat in the Cabinet.

When he was just a young boy, Moses Mudavadi lost his father, Asutsa Mudavadi Imbiyoyi who was working in a gold mine in Sigalagala and had to make a lot of sacrifices so that his siblings could have a better life.

Though lacking in formal schooling, the senior Mudavadi’s mother, Leba Munyasa appreciated the power of education and pleaded with a clergyman to take her son so that he could learn ‘something’, even if it was looking through the widow of a classroom.

The budding scholar astounded his teachers and peers when he passed his examinations only to give up his place at Makerere University, opting to fight in the Second World War so that he could raise money to pay school fees for his siblings.

Fighting hard for the British as he had done to ward off poverty, Mudavadi distinguished himself and later earned a place at Jeans School, Kabete where he was trained as a teacher.

Mudavadi had to go through hell from racist colonialists who were unhappy when he bought his first car, a Land Rover, befitting the status of a District Education Officer.

The neighbours ganged up and beat him senseless, knocking off a tooth because his Land Rover was making a lot of noise thus denying them peace at night.

His problems in education notwithstanding, Mudavadi made a mark for he was instrumental in mentoring and nurturing Daniel arap Moi, who would later govern Kenya for 24 years as president.

The senior politician died in 1989 but his son, Musalia Mudavadi, has in a way stepped in the big shoes for he, too, has made a mark in Kenya’s political landscape as a minister, vice president and Amani National Congress Party leader.