The vet who often sent debt reminders to President Jomo Kenyatta ‘handed’ Mzee Moi the mantle

Dr. John Ole Tameno

This veterinary surgeon created one of Kenya’s longest political careers through hitting the bottle with unending percussion.

See, Dr John ole Tameno, an alumnus of Alliance High School and one of the pioneering black vets in Kenya, was nominated to represent the vast Rift Valley Province in the Legislative Council (Legco) in 1952.

Dr Tameno had another distinction. He was the president’s vet and often sent debt reminders to President Jomo Kenyatta after treating cows suffering from anaplasmosis at his Ichaweri farm in Gatundu.

In fact, on January 27, 1964, Tameno sent a professional fee after treating Kenyatta’s Friesian and heifer (30cts), drugs (28cts) and 62cts for “mileage to Kentmere Gatundu and back.”

But Dr Tameno had a drinking problem. The people of the Rift Valley demanded that he be recalled from the Legco and replaced with a more sober leader. The God-fearing headmaster, Daniel arap Moi, a teetotaler, was their choice.

But there was a problem. Moi’s ambitions were in teaching, not politics. At the time, teaching was the most respected career in view of a largely illiterate population.

When Rift Valley people persisted, Mzee Moi, then a young father in 1955, approached Moses Mudavadi, father of Nasa luminary Musalia Mudavadi. Mudavadi senior was the District Education Officer in the Rift Valley. Moi had one request: Could he still get his job back if the going got tough at the Legco?

Mudavadi senior gave his blessing and reassurance. With that, Daniel arap Moi bought a Land Rover similar to Mudavadi’s and gassed to replace Dr Tameno in Nairobi, where he shared a room at Ziwani estate with Ronald Ngala, father of former Ganze MP Noah Katana Ngala, and Jean Marie Seroney, a lawyer and future Deputy Speaker and MP for Tinderet.

But Seroney often irritated the future president via cooking steak with a lot of choking chili as British biographer Andrew Morton informs us in his 1999 effort, Moi: The Making of an African Statesman.

What began as a trial and error turned into a 40-year political journey, culminating with Moi becoming Kenya’s second president following Jomo’s death on August 22, 1978.

Moses Mudavadi, for his role, was later rewarded with the Ministry of Local Government when he joined active politics as MP for Sabatia. When he died in 1989, Moi picked his son, Musalia, then 29 years old, and propped his political career on his way to becoming the youngest Minister of Finance at the age of 33.

Retired President Moi’s life would have been different had Dr John ole Tameno not had a drinking problem!


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