By Mervyn Maciel
I shall never forget the first day I entered the D.C.’s office at Marsabit, on my posting there as District Clerk in 1949…
The D.C (Mr. Gerald Bebb) was away on safari, and on entering the office, I immediately noticed a handsome young man coming towards me and introducing himself as “David Dabasso”. His ivory white teeth stood out against his ebony dark complexion, as he smiled and said, “Welcome, Mr. Maciel, I am your assistant”. I was immediately impressed by his polite manner and general bearing, and was sure we would get on well together.
David belonged to the Gabbra tribe, and seemed very much at home working in his own district. All this was to change though in a few months time.
It was only some months after I’d arrived that I found out that David was not too happy to remain in Marsabit. This was chiefly because of the many domestic problems facing him; being a Government employee, and having most of his family around him, there were endless demands for financial assistance. I could sense that he was under a lot of pressure. We discussed his situation and felt that it would be best for him to ask for a transfer. This he did, and was duly transferred to Wajir.
Although David’s early contact must have been with the Christian B.C.M.S. Mission in Marsabit, he later converted to Islam and began using the name “Daudi” instead of David, although I always called him by his Christian name and used this in the frequent letters we exchanged.
While at Marsabit, I found David a very efficient and willing worker, and realized then that he would go a long way in the service. He had a neat hand-writing and was good at drafting routine letters. He spoke excellent English.
My next contact with David was when he was stationed at Malindi as a District Officer(D.O.)., and we were planning to spend our local leave there. Through some friend, we had rented a house in what appeared to be the Arab quarter of the district; sadly, the house had been left in a bad state by the previous occupants and needed a thorough clean out. Who should come to our rescue but David! On hearing of our plight, he promptly despatched a gang of prisoners and had the place looking spic and span. I couldn’t thank David enough –he was the personification of kindness.
Years went by, and I had moved on promotion to the Ministry of Agriculture but kept in touch with David. Kenya was preparing for independence, and in preparation for the big challenges that lay ahead, several African Administrative officers were sent to Britain for further training. David was one of the lucky ones to get on one of these courses specially designed for Administrative officers. Several months after returning from the U.K., he wrote and told me how excited he was over the prospect of being posted as District Commissioner (D.C.). to an important district in the N.F.D. I later learnt that this was to be Isiolo.
Sadly, David’s brilliant career was cut short while serving at Isiolo. The Somalis were agitating for seccession from Kenya, an idea that President Jomo Kenyatta could never entertain… It so happened that while on safari within the Isiolo district in June 1963, in the company of Senior Chief Haji Galma, a hail of bullets was fired by secessionists, killing both David and the Chief. It was a sad day for the N.F.D., and a sad day for independent Kenya too. David was mourned by his family and many friends(myself included).
It is gratifying that the Kenya Government saw fit to perpetuate the memory of this promising administrator, by having a street in Nairobi named after him – WABERA STREET stands to the memory of this gallant son of Kenya.