Mudavadi: Why I supported Uhuru despite assured loss

Thursday December 05 2019

Musalia Mudavadi announcing his decision to support Uhuru Kenyatta (left) in the 2002 General Election. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi has, for the first time, revealed the reasons behind his return to a sinking Kanu ship, just a few days after he had jumped off it ahead of the 2002 General Election.

The former vice-president also revisits former President Daniel Moi’s chaotic handover to Mwai Kibaki, giving a glimpse into the thinking and actions of the members of the inner sanctum of power during the tumultuous time that ushered in Kenya’s second liberation.


In the just-published autobiography, Soaring Above the Storms of Passion, Mr Mudavadi writes that even though he knew that the winds of change would sweep Kanu out of power, he supported Uhuru Kenyatta, Moi’s choice for successor, because of family pressure. He also writes of threats and intimidation, even though he is shy on the details.

“A cocktail of factors led to this fax paus on my part: from historical ties to Mzee Moi, through family pressures and assorted threats, intimidation and even persuasion,” Mr Mudavadi says.

The book also opens the lid on the much-vaunted ties between Mr Moi and Mr Mudavadi’s father, Moses Budamba, an educationist and later a minister in Moi’s government.


“The ultimate driver for my retreat was the family ties and the traditional amity between my late father and President Moi.”

Referring to the 2002 election as one that “looked lost from the very outset”, Mr Mudavadi talks of the second President as a father-like figure, one he had to support at his hour of need.


He talks of mistakes and sacrifices that gave him the dubious distinction of serving the shortest stint as vice-president in Kenya’s history. His appointment as VP on November 4, 2002, he says, was too little too late to change the tide even in his Western Kenya backyard, but he had no choice but to accept the appointment of “what was left of this government” and to “enjoy the stolen moment”.

Mr Mudavadi traces his father’s friendship with President Moi to pre-independence days in Kabarnet where the former was an inspector of schools while the latter was a teacher. These roles of boss and subordinate would soon change forever, but their fates were for a long time to remain intertwined.

“The Moi family lived a doorstep from the Mudavadi family. While the two families belonged to an emerging African elite class, life was tough for both, even more for the Moi family, according to my mother,” Mr Mudavadi writes.


“My mother would later recall how the Moi family strove to eke out a living just like any other family. (Moi) would hew firewood for his wife, go to the stores for food and do ordinary things that all responsible men did for their families. Nobody knew at this time that the man hewing firewood for his family had a great appointment with destiny.”

The book, authored with his long-time ally and Africa National Congress (ANC) Secretary-General Barrack Muluka, details how Mudavadi Senior paved the way for Mr Moi’s entry into politics, and later smoothened his ascendancy. Mudavadi writes of how, despite the nudge by the colonial government to have him stand to represent the North Rift in the Legco, Mudavadi Senior turned down the offer and suggested that an indigenous member of the North Rift tribes runs.

Through this and accidents of history, Moi was to get the seat – and thus started his long political career – after the candidates for the position that included Justus Ole Tipis and John ole Tameno failed to turn up because of the transport challenges of the time.


“Not long afterwards, my father tipped Moi that Mzee Kenyatta would soon be released from Kapenguria where he had been jailed and later detained. He advised him to visit Kenyatta in prison and try to make friendship with him.”

Mudavadi suggests this advice was instrumental in getting Moi into Kenyatta’s good books.

It is these historical ties and Moi’s role in getting him into politics and appointing him to critical Cabinet positions, including that of Finance and Transport, at a very young age, that Mudavadi recalled as he decided to support Uhuru Kenyatta. This decision cost him the Sabatia Constituency seat, and tanked his chequered political career.

He then turned down a nominated MP post, arguing that it would be a mockery of the electorate to bring him back through the parliamentary back-door after Sabatia voters had rejected him.

He writes of how “it was agreed that in the face of the Narc euphoria, Moi should go alone to the handover parade, accompanied only by his security detail”.


He and other senior Kanu figures watched the event from State House on television, and he paints a picture of anarchy and breach of protocol and security as crowds pelted and flung mud at the retiring President’s motorcade.

“The new kids on the block had arrived in power, kicking everyone out of the way … They had bullied out of the way the civil servants who would ordinarily plan and coordinate such functions.”

Mr Mudavadi describes an emotional moment later at State House when Moi returned from Uhuru Park to take the last tea with his confidantes before leaving the seat of power – forever.

“A number of people broke down. The Head of Public Service, Sally Kosgei, wept. She was one of the few people to accompany (Moi) in one chopper. As she boarded, one of her shoes came off and was left at State House as the chopper’s door was closed, ready for take-off. It was the end of an era.”


Mr Mudavadi would reinvent himself and reclaim his Sabatia seat in 2007. He also became a deputy prime minister and minister for Local Government under the Government of National Unity of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Ahead of the 2013 General Election, Mr Mudavadi fell out with Mr Odinga and was briefly touted to be the compromise candidate fronted by Mr Kenyatta – whom he once supported – and William Ruto, who had been with him since their Kanu days and had fought in the 2007 election on the side of Mr Odinga.

Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto – alongside four other Kenyans – had been named by the International Criminal Court as the masterminds of the 2007/2008 post-election violence, which claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced more than 500,000 others.


Mr Mudavadi also appeared to enjoy State House backing, a suggestion he is circumspect about in the book. “I got to learn that there had been a number of people behind the formation of UDF … There was Prof Nick Wanjohi who worked as President Kibaki’s personal secretary at State House.”

He asserts that Prof Wanjohi did not feature anywhere in the activities or records of the party and that throughout the campaigns he did not have any input from him.

“In the midst of all this, I was surprised one morning to learn that I had unexpected visitors. Our domestic detail announced that Uhuru and Ruto were outside.”

He says that after tea and pleasantries they came to the point. “They were asking me to join them in the election effort. They were concerned that the ICC saga could come in the way.”


“They were proposing that I should become the joint presidential candidate, to be fielded against Raila of ODM. We deliberated over the matter for a while after which I asked them to allow me to invite a few of my close associates to this meeting.”

He says after this, a one-page memorandum of understanding was drawn with names of former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale, UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi and businessman Dan Ameyo as witnesses.

“Uhuru asked for a few more days, for him to fully bring in his people to this new development. Meanwhile we would also get busy behind the scenes, laying out a formidable campaign plan.”


It was not to be. “We were shocked to see, after two days, footage in the media, showing Uhuru on TV recanting. It was a fairly intemperate Uhuru who announced at a rally in his backyard that some demons had misled him to try to step down. The demons were cautioned not to try and reap where they had not sown.” After this betrayal, he went ahead to run on his own, fuelling speculation that he may have been running all along to split Mr Odinga’s bedrock constituency of Western Kenya. “Our detractors began parodying us as the Uhuru defence forces,” he admits.

The book also details the intrigues in the defining moments of the 2007, 2013 and 2017 elections – in which Mr Mudavadi was a central figure – and the heady days leading up to Mr Odinga’s controversial swearing-in on January 30, 2018 and after.


But beyond the political machinations, the book is also a spirited defence of Mr Mudavadi’s role in the Goldenberg export compensation scheme, the largest heist in Kenya’s history. Even though he has been accused of okaying some of the payments, he crows that a judicial enquiry into the scandal gave him a clean bill of health as the “person who had destroyed the great public robbery that was Goldenberg.”

The book is available in all Text Book Centre shops.