How Drunk Minister's Confession Saved Senator Orengo’s Life

  • James Orengo and Raila Odinga in a past undated event File
  • In 1983, Siaya Senator James Orengo had to run away to seek asylum in Tanzania after a drunk Justus Ole Tipis, the then State Minister in charge of Internal Security, confessed to him that he had signed detention papers to arrest and torture the lawyer. 

    He was being linked to the 1982 aborted coup on former President Daniel Arap Moi's government. Orengo was arrested and charged with trumped-up charges. 

    "There was a time I was in parliament and I had a conversation with the late Ole Tipis, who was a little bit tipsy and he told me that they had different ways of dealing with me like they have dealt with people like JM Kariuki," Ole Tipis threatened. 

    A photo showing Justus Ole Tipis, Ronald Ngala & Daniel Arap Moi.

    While speaking on KTN's 'The Untold Story', Orengo explained how he had planned to play coy and assume that vital information. However, Joseph Nyaga, then a minister, followed him instantly and reminded him to pay attention to Ole Tipis' warning.

    "As he was telling me that, Joseph Nyaga followed me to where I was sitting with others and told me not to take it as a joke what Tipis was telling me. He asked me to confront it as a politician if I wanted to or not, but those people really meant to hurt me," Nyaga alarmed Orengo.

    After a few consultations, Orengo decided to seek asylum in Tanzania, but he escaped Kenya through Uganda. His personal life at that time was messed up a little bit. Orengo lost his mother during that week and he buried her on a Saturday before running away to hide in Tanzania on Sunday.

    Orengo, who was elected to Parliament as Ugenya MP in 1980 in a by-election, also lost his seat after he ran away. 

    However, fate was against him as his asylum was shortlived. Together with other fugitives in Tanzania, they were extradited to Kenya by the then Tanzania Prime Minister Edward Moringe Sokoine.

    Tanzania was reluctant to exchange the prisoners with Kenya, however, they were forced to bow to pressure as providing asylum to the fugitives tainted her image.

    After a few diplomatic calls, Orengo and the other fugitives were thrown in a bus which brought them to Kenya.

    "I have never had such a rough ride in my life. We were lying on the floor of a truck and the police were stepping on our heads with their boots. They kept questioning us on how we were so daring to try and overthrow the government," Orengo recalls. 

    They were all driven to Kamiti Maximum Prison. Orengo had lost his parliamentary seat and his freedom too. 

    James Orengo during a demonstration