Teacher with amazing accuracy on students' personality traits

Opposition politicians, led by Siaya Senator James Orengo, address a rally at Baba Dogo Sports grounds, Nairobi, on February 4, 2018. Orengo completed his law degree at the University of Dar es Salaam. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Campbell’s successor as headmaster, Mr A.C.E. Sanders, suspended Raymond after a fight with another student.
  • Anyang' Nyong’o became a radical but respected academic at the University of Nairobi before drifting into political self-exile.
  • In fact, unlike his younger brother, Senator Gideon Moi, who has managed to carve out a public image of his own, Raymond is still much the dad’s boy.

I met Laurie J. Campbell when he came to Kenya on March 2001 for the 75th anniversary of the founding of Alliance High School.

He was then 73 and had retired to his home in Scotland to become a part-time Baptist minister.

He died seven years ago after a long battle with cancer.

At Alliance he taught literature, earning himself the nickname “Caesar” because of his mastery of Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar.

What amazed me most during our long chat is how observations he made on the boys who went through his hands in the 1960s and 1970s turned out to be true in their adulthood.

The school’s principal at the time of our meeting, Christopher Khaemba, was kind enough to allow me go through individual student files to corroborate Campbell’s account.

Below are extracts from what the latter had said of some of his students who went into public life.


Orengo admission No. 2133, in the class of 1965 -1970, was entered in the school register as a son of ex-police Inspector Appolo S. Olunga of Kabondo, South Nyanza.

At Alliance, head teacher Campbell long saw a potential troublemaker in the future Siaya Senator and placed him in his watch list.

In his sixth year, young Orengo was suspended from school for two weeks on disciplinary issues.

On being recalled, Campbell gave him the yellow card with a final warning: “James may return to Upper Six in Alliance High School on condition he follows the rules and procedures of the school.

"If, however, he is guilty of any further serious breach of discipline, his study at this school will cease at once and not be resumed.”

The young man kept to the straight and narrow enough to complete his studies at Alliance and proceeded to the University of Nairobi for a degree course in law.


At university he dived headlong into student politics, and had frequent clashes with Vice-Chancellor Josephat Karanja.

He didn’t last the course and was expelled, eventually completing his law degree at the University of Dar es Salaam.

On graduation, he almost immediately plunged into electoral politics with his election as MP for Ugenya in early 1980s.

In Parliament he distinguished himself as a youthful and fearless critic of the establishment.

He had to flee into self-exile to avoid imprisonment as authorities mounted a ruthless crack down on radical politicians.


He remained an unrepentant critic and was in the frontline in the formation of the first opposition party, the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (Ford), when multiparty politics returned on December 1991.

The only short interlude in his entire public life when Orengo found himself on the other side of the aisle was during the short-lived coalition (Nusu-mkate) government formed after the post-election violence in 2008.

Close aides say that, as Cabinet Minister, he was like a fish out of water and, at first, found it odd travelling in government-provided vehicle flying a flag.

Other times, his aides feared he would momentarily forget he was a government minister and jump out of his vehicle to join anti-government demonstrators in the streets!

His most recent act of defiance was to appear beside Baba at the January 30 “swearing-in” of the “people’s president”.

In Shitswila Amos Wako, Admission No. 1700 in the class of 1960 – 1965, Campbell saw “an able school captain and a diligent leader” who was “thoroughly loyal to authority”.

Wako went on to graduate as a lawyer and for many years practised in the prestigious law firm of Kaplan and Stratton.

He plunged into public life when he was elected chair of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), amid murmurs that he was a government-sponsored candidate, being the one least expected to rock the boat at a time when members of LSK were increasingly adopting a confrontational approach on matters of public interest.

He would later be appointed Attorney-General to leave a record as the longest serving holder of the position after clocking 20 years.

Known for his famous smile even under provocation, Wako is today the Busia Senator on opposition ODM party ticket. But you will never catch him in any of the ODM fire-cracking functions.

Raymond Kipruto, the second born son of retired President Daniel arap Moi, was entered in the Alliance High School register as Admission No. 2675 in the class of 1970 - 1973.

In his first year, Campbell adjudged him as “a well-behaved student but who needed close observation to shield him from bad influence”.

Come the third year and the bad influence appears to have caught up with him.

Campbell’s successor as headmaster, Mr A.C.E. Sanders, suspended Raymond after a fight with another student.

The head teacher wrote to his father, then Vice-President Moi: “I suggest you keep him (Raymond) at home for a few days until you are satisfied that he will make a better effort to co-operate.”

The elder Moi promptly replied: “I am thankful for your letter regarding my son, Raymond Kipruto, whose behaviour has of late been bad.

"I warned him that unless he improved his ways he may be expelled from school and that he should disassociate himself from Birgen (his classmate), who has been a bad influence. Please kindly talk to him and should you find him misbehaving don’t hesitate to let me know.”

To this day, Raymond, now the MP for Rongai constituency, has never quite been able to live beyond his father’s shadow.

In fact, unlike his younger brother, Senator Gideon Moi, who has managed to carve out a public image of his own, Raymond is still much the dad’s boy.

You can hardly recognise him in the streets and newspaper librarians have difficulty picking out his picture from the files!

Another of the students Campbell found to have a problem detaching himself from the larger-than-life image of his father was Charles Ayako, Admission No. 2655, in the class of 1970-1973.

He was entered in the register as son of the Central Provincial Commissioner Simeon Nyachae, who later served in the cabinet during Moi and Mwai Kibaki administrations.


In his first year at Alliance, Campbell remarked that Charles, who two weeks ago was appointed judge at the East African Community Court in Arusha, “had ability but didn’t know how to use it”.

The remark was followed by a comment in his fourth year that the young man “does not easily accept authority … Gives impression that his father’s position should partly extend to him. However, he seems to improve a lot with age ...”

When last year I asked a friend why Charles couldn’t be elected Senator despite a vigorous campaign, he had an interesting reply: “The man (Charles) isn’t a politician. His father (Simeon) was!”

Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Admission No. 1836, was enrolled in the same class of 1962-1967 with his brother, the late Aggrey Nyong’o, who was a leading pathologist.


Campbell wrote of Peter Anyang’, who is today the Kisumu Governor: “In character and in attitude to life, he was very good indeed. I can strongly recommend him for any further employment.”

Anyang' Nyong’o became a radical but respected academic at the University of Nairobi before drifting into political self-exile.

He resurfaced as a leading player in the campaign for return to multiparty politics.

Those who know him say Prof Nyong’o has certain streaks that put him a clear distance from political rabble-rousers.

His organisational skills are known to have given ODM the structures that make it today the largest opposition party in the country.

He is also remembered for giving government ministries a focus when he was minister for Economic and National Planning in the NARC government.
As for Julius Kobia, Admission No. 2422 in the class of 1968-1971, Campbell thought the latter who served as district commissioner and later provincial commissioner in the Moi government, “was not cut out for academia” and was “a student of average ability who does best at subjects which involve less memory work”.

Talking of Kobia’s weak memory, one who is likely to agree with Campbell is Scotland Yard sleuth John Troon, who investigated the 1990 murder of Kenya’s Foreign Affairs minister Robert Ouko.

Troon grilled Kobia on three different occasions and remarked: “He displayed an amazing loss of memory on matters of grave importance to the murder probe.”

Campbell predicted that Green Ogola Josiah, Admission No. 1924, in the class of 1963-1968, would make a good career abroad.

He wrote: “He was not the kind of person to fit easily into a boarding school routine; he should find university life and a career abroad more to his liking and nature.”


True to the prediction, after Alliance and college education abroad, Green Josiah, just like his brother, Frost Josiah, made a great career in the diplomatic service and was Kenya’s ambassador to several countries before his retirement.

At one time, he was Kenya’s High Commissioner in Australia and his brother the ambassador to Germany.

Their father, Samuel Onyango Josiah, was Kenya’s first African Provincial Commissioner.

In Jeremiah Matagaro, Admission No. 2755 in the class of 1970 -1973, Campbell identified qualities that perfectly fitted a career in the disciplined forces.

He wrote: “He has great vitality; was a sterling member of the cross-country team; was of reasonable academic standard.”

Matagaro went ahead to make a sterling career in the Kenya Police Service where he rose to be traffic police commandant, police spokesman and later provincial police head.