His Excellency? Not me, Orengo tells Siaya residents

Siaya Senator James Orengo during his campaign in Central Gem, Siaya county on January 2, 2022. [Washington Onyango, Standard] 

Siaya County Governor James Orengo is allergic to honorifics.

He has told residents to refer to him as governor rather than 'His Excellency'.

Orengo, who comes from a political tradition of simplicity and radicalism, said referring to him as 'His Excellency' makes him look like a boss instead of a servant of the people.

"I feel comfortable being called Orengo or governor," he said during his visit to Bondo Sub-County Hospital.

Many residents still refer to him as Senator, a position he served for two terms.

Orengo was given a direct ticket to fly the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party flag in the August 9 elections.

He won the elections with 220,349 votes against former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo's 147, 558.

 Orengo, who is a close ally of ODM party leader Raila Odinga, says his main agenda is to transform the county through good governance.

While many people have seen him as one who is not used to village life, the second governor of Siaya is set to prove them wrong.

"I will ensure that I stay with you in the village so that we can understand and find solutions to the challenges facing our people," he said.

The governor, who is yet to name his cabinet, has vowed to empower women and youths.

"Women and youth played a very big role during our campaigns and we must ensure that they are at the centre of my administration," said Orengo.

Orengo has been a Member of Parliament for Ugenya, Senator for Siaya County, and presidential candidate, arrested and incarcerated several times. He’s taken on the mighty in politics and government and even headed a national political party.

Just days after his appointment to the Cabinet in April 2008, one newspaper reported thus: “any rumour (Orengo) was to visit a corner of the country would see the adrenaline of the police rise with scores of them reaching for either a club, a tear gas canister or any other riot dispersal gear available to them”.

In 2202 he ran for President of the Republic of Kenya on a Social Democratic Party ticket and scored a distant fourth polling 0.4 per cent of the total vote. Ahead of him were Kibaki (61.3 per cent), Uhuru Kenyatta (30.2 per cent) and Simeon Nyachae (5.9 per cent).

His plan in 2002 to weaken Raila Odinga’s grip on Luo Nyanza politics floundered. But now Orengo is the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader’s super ally.

First elected to Parliament in 1980, and despite his proactive approach to politics and governance, Orengo has mostly been in the Opposition. The only time he has been in government was during the Government of National Unity, a coalition government, where he served as Minister for Lands and Settlement, for five years. As documented elsewhere in this profile, he had mixed success in this very sensitive ministry.

Orengo was born in February 1950. His father, Orengo Snr, went to school with Kenya’s first Vice President, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, at Maseno School.

Orengo senior was also a friend of Argwings Kodhek (a member of the Colonial Legislative Council). Orengo schooled in various primary schools in Nairobi, Kiganjo and Ugenya, and later at Ambira and Alliance high schools for his O’ and A’ levels. He then studied law at the University of Nairobi.

After completing his studies, Orengo worked at the Ministry of Lands and Settlement as an Assistant Secretary.

He was first elected to Parliament in 1980. But before long, he got into trouble with President Daniel arap Moi’s government and was forced to flee to Tanzania. He was later extradited to Kenya in June 1983 alongside the 1982 coup plotter Hezekiah Ochuka. Orengo lost his seat in January 1983

Luckily, with the onset of multiparty politics in Kenya, he was re-elected in 1992 and retained his seat in the subsequent election.

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