KITALE, Kenya Oct 9 – Hundreds of Kenyans braved heavy afternoon rain on Saturday and converged in sorrow, celebration and pride to attend the burial service for renowned fashion icon and activist, the late Orie Rogo Manduli.
Despite the profound sense of national sorrow triggered by the trailblazer’s death in September, the mood was upbeat at her Tondorie Estate in Kitale, with many determined to celebrate the memory of a woman of many firsts.
In a message of condolence read on his behalf by the Rift Valley Regional Commissioner and Trans Nzoia Governor hopeful George Natambeya, President Uhuru Kenyatta said the late Manduli will be remembered as the most recognizable, highly charismatic and accomplished leader and mentor who fought tirelessly for women empowerment.
President Kenyatta noted that the late Orie Rogo Manduli was a woman who never shied away from exploring new horizons.
“Farming made her a role model, and encouraged the community to venture into agri-business. As a Nation we are grateful for her many years of service to the country especially in raising a noble family which has continued to play a crucial role in our development. For those of us who had interacted with Ambassador Orie Rogo Manduli, we shall miss her motherly charisma, generosity and hospitality that made everybody around her comfortable,” he said in his message of condolence.
The Head of State recalled the late Manduli’s exploits as a sports woman and model saying Kenyans will forever cherish her achievement as the first African woman Safari Rally driver, a feat she achieved when she took part in the 1974 edition alongside her late co-driver Sylvia Omino.
“She took up and excelled in motor-sports at a time when many African women would never have dared thereby opening up the sport to women drivers in later years. At the tender age of 16 years, while still in secondary school, Manduli won Miss Kenya beauty pageant. She was simply a phenomenal and standout woman trailblazer,” he added.
Manduli’s youngest daughter Janice eulogized her mother as a strong woman who bred fighters.
“On Thursday, we traveled the Kisumu-Kitale route bringing Mum home with shouts of grief, disbelief, incredulity, respect, love and encouragement at the many centres we passed and silence where no humans dwelt. It was the whistling wind that as the convoy swept by that hit me that the world is just a transient stage, no matter how famous or loved one is,” she said.
She told mourners how her mother spent a “wonderful” Thursday surrounded by family as her coffin was borne through the countryside in a funeral cortege, to give as many people as possible the chance to pay their final respects.
“In truth I just wanted to drive with her in silence to the ends of the world and never return. In my mind, Mum died on Thursday when we drove her. All this is just a formality,” said Orie Rogo Manduli’s daughter.
Janice left the crowd in stitches as she recounted an incident in which her mum brought business at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi to standstill after she reprimanded taxi drivers and other onlookers for failing to help her daughter who had gotten into a physical altercation with a foreigner.
“I remember a few years back before mobile phones had cameras, I got into an altercation with a foreigner because he pushed his way through at an ATM. Mum had gone up to Customs to get Eng. Elizabeth as she always did, because Mum always broke the rules.
So there was a fight and she heard and come down, (if you can remember JKIA had those big sliding doors), with the biggest headscarf possible and she shouts, ‘nani amepiga mtoto yangu’ (who has beaten my child) and told the taxi men and people who had come to receive their loved ones, that “you are men in skirts, what kind of man would allow my child to be assaulted at a Kenyan airport?” she recalled.
Defence Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula are among government officials who attended the burial service.