Manduli eulogized as fearless in trendy send-off
By Martin Ndiema
| October 10th 2021
The small village of Machewa in Saboti, Trans Nzoia County, was like a pageant arena yesterday as mourners donning spectacular outfits turned up to bid farewell to former NGO Council chairperson Orie Rogo Manduli.
Manduli, a woman of many firsts who inspired many through her bold approach to life, died last month at her Riverside home in Nairobi, aged 73.
She began her illustrious career as a journalist at a time when women in the media were just a handful. Against many odds, Manduli stood her ground to ensure that her female colleagues in the industry were not humiliated.
She also trained as a teacher at Machakos Teachers' College but never stepped foot into a classroom to teach. Instead, she made inroads in other fields where her fame rose, attracting the attention of many.
Known for her unbowed and stern advances, the mother of four rose to fame as the first female safari rally driver way back in 1974 after taking part in the World Circuit East African Safari Rally, alongside Sylvia Omino.
Manduli, who was then Mary Rogo before changing her name after her marriage in 1980 to Misheck Norman Manduli, was the first black female rally driver.
Through her firsts, and her fearless outspoken nature, she motivated women to take space in many male-dominated professions.
On the flip side, Manduli had a great sense of humour and would occasionally tickle ribs with her off-the-cuff jokes.
Endowed with beauty and a well-cut figure, the profound woman of intellect was once crowned Miss Kenya at the tender age of 16 after flooring several other older women in a hotly-contested beauty pageant.
Besides her bold moves that saw her brush shoulders with the high and mighty, it is her articulate choice of attire that made her most outstanding among the different cadres of people.
Manduli's handbag was ever-full of unique ornaments and jewellery that accompanied her stylish outfits and signature headgear.
And yesterday, as mourners paid tribute, her Tondorie estate home was colourful with myriad mourners emulating her style in the send-off ceremony.
The vast green compound hosted women clad in African designer attire waiting to escort Manduli's casket.
Most conspicuous were the "bigger than life headgears," as the deceased's daughter Elizabeth Rogo would describe, and which were donned by more than half of the female mourners.
Notable figures among them were former Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson Ms Zipporah Kittony.
Former Forestry Minister, Dr Noah Wekesa, also wore a colourful short-sleeved African design shirt.
At 11:15am, a red Range Rover limousine carrying Manduli's casket slowly drove into the open field where a requiem mass was scheduled to take place.
The state-of-the-art van with graphical inscriptions and photos of Manduli in the rear windshield pulled down next to a separate tent with a red carpet and adorned with roses.
The short procession was led by Reverend Kabiro Mbugua of the Kitale Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), who also presided over the requiem mass.
In her tribute, Catherine Omanyo eulogized Manduli as a selfless leader who fought for the space of women in the society.
"She once found me in my clothing shop and requested I make her a neck scarf. I made a tiny one, and she told me, 'Catherine, think big, do not make me things that are timid, pull that piece'," said Catherine, who designed some of Manduli's flashy outfits.
The clothing designer says she learned much about Manduli, who she later referred to as a 'Lioness', shoving her way past the men that dominated the political field.
Catherine said Manduli inspired her greatly. She revealed that she would be vying for a parliamentary seat in the forthcoming general elections, with confidence that women have great potential as depicted by the deceased.
Eulogizing her mother, Engineer Elizabeth Rogo described her as a strong woman who feared nothing in claiming her rightful space.
She reminisced an incident at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in which her mother engaged in a physical altercation with the guards in her defense.
"What kind of man would allow my child to be attacked by a foreigner at a Kenyan airport?!" she quoted her mother as having charged at the security guards at the airport in the confrontation.
The daughters described their mother as a lover of traditional food including Ugali and kunde and one who loved different genres of music.
A host of political and government leaders attended the colorful sendoff including Defense Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, his Public Service counterpart Prof Margaret Kobia, Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetangula, Caleb Amisi (Saboti), Dr Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), Fedinand Wanyonyi (Kwanza) and former Trans Nzoia Senator Henry Ndiema, among others.
Kiminini MP Dr Chris Wamalwa hailed the late Manduli as a 'total woman' who was strong and a fighter for democracy.
In his written speech read by the Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya, President Uhuru Kenyatta described the late Manduli as a fearless, courageous and a practical leader who always spoke her mind.
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