Time Orengo and Njonjo Traded Insults in Parliament

Former Attorney General Charles Njonjo and Siaya Senator James Orengo are by far some of the most polished politicians Kenya has ever had when it comes to political rhetoric.

Blessed with the gift of the gab and the skill to fashion the Queen's language into a punitive weapon when it comes to unsettling an opponent during a debate, the two are remembered to have a tiff on the floors of parliament.  

When President Moi assumed the presidency in 1978, seven backbenchers in parliament gave his administration a headache. They were vocal in opposing most of the government's policies, especially what they saw as the government's close association with western powers.

The group was unofficial and most of them only knew each other through the motions they proposed and debated in parliament. They found most of their support in the student bodies of public universities, especially the powerful SONU (Student Organization of Nairobi University).

The seven were Abuya Abuya (Kitutu East), Onyango Midika (Nyando now Muhoroni), Mwashengu wa Mwachofi (Wundanyi), Orengo, Lawrence Sifuna (Bumula), Chibule wa Tsuma (Kaloleni) and Koigi Wa Wamwere (Nakuru North, now Subukia). 

Others closely associated with the seven were George Anyona, Chelagat Mutai and Wasike Ndobi.

Seeing that the MPs, Orengo included, refused to sing the same song as the government of the day, Njonjo named them 'The Seven Bearded Sisters' having picked the name from the 1975 book The Seven Sisters

The book was about how seven of the biggest oil companies in the world conspired to overthrow governments. Njonjo used the word 'bearded' to draw a comparison with Karl Marx as he observed that these MPs to upheld Marxist ideologies.

At one point, as Mr Orengo was about to move a motion to have workers get a five per cent bonus of the profits made by a company, the powerful Njonjo entered into the chambers. 

Orengo remarked: “The honourable Member for Kikuyu has just come in and I almost thought I was seeing the Queen’s butler walking into the House.”

An infuriated Njonjo pointed at Mr Orengo: “What did he say?” Orengo ignored him and continued with his motion and after a few minutes. He again, out of the blues, remarked that Njonjo “dresses like the Queen’s Butler.”

Njonjo stood up: “Mr Speaker, this is the second time we are hearing that stupid word that this honourable member is using. If (Orengo) has nothing to say, he should leave me out of the discussion.”

But it seemed that Orengo had a bone to pick with Njonjo after he was forced to withdraw the reference: “Last week, some members here were called “bearded sisters” which is clearly offensive, very provocative and we did not rise up to say that that was very offensive.”

“I am trying to show the honourable member that I like the way he dressed. Today, I have copied him. I am looking like the Queen’s Butler so that if I went to look for a job in Buckingham Palace, I would get it.”

A few weeks later, Mr Orengo was arrested and charged with forgery, uttering false cheques and stealing client’s money. 

Also, his passport was seized by immigration officials together with that of Wundanyi MP Mwashengu wa Mwachofi, the MP for Kitutu East Abuya Abuya and the MP for Kilifi South Chibule wa Tsuma.


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