Orie Rogo Manduli: The First Kenyan Woman Rally Driver

  • Ambassador Orie Rogo Manduli is a woman of many firsts as she revealed in an interview with the Daily Nation in August 2005 about her life on and off the public eye.

    Most Kenyans know her for her unique and massive head scarfs that more often than not match the Nigerian-style dresses she so much loves.

    One of her most recognisable feat was being the first woman of African descent to participate in the East African Safari Rally in 1974 and 1975.

    Former NGO council chair Orie Rogo Manduli

    "I was angry that we were hosting the Safari Rally annually and the few women who were participating were all foreigners. I wanted to prove that Kenyan women, too, could participate in car racing. I do not like to be put in a box or to be stereotyped," Manduli told The Standard's Eve Magazine in March 2014.

    Manduli never backed down from a fight as she time and time again proved that she could take on whoever came her way and establish dominance.

    She often described herself as “lioness in her cage” and in 2005 was embroiled in a leadership wrangle over the National Council of Non-Governmental Organisations that forced then Culture and Heritage minister Najib Balala to step into the fray and lock the NGO Council gates blocking all from entering or leaving the premise.

    Armed policemen stood guard, allowing journalists to speak with Manduli only through a small opening on the metal gate as she remained in her vintage defiant mood.

    Manduli was born in Maseno to Gordon Rogo, who was a headmaster and later a councillor and Zeruiah Adhiambo who taught at Kisumu Technical College.

    "I attended Ng'iya Girls’ High School, just like my mother, then Butere Girls and then “Masaku California” (Machakos Girls). Again, no dates please," she stated.

    She revealed that she was a trained teacher but never set a foot in class to teach as she got married immediately after attending the Machakos Teachers College.

    She and her husband left for Canada where she studied and graduated with a diploma in office management.

    The former KBC show host revealed that she was born Mary Orie Rogo but changed to Mary Orie Rogo Ondieki after her marriage but dropped Mary when the name became a mouthful.

    The couple would be blessed with three beautiful daughters, Elizabeth, Allison and Janice but they got divorced after five years of marriage and she kept the children.

    She would get remarried in 1980 to a Zambian and cousin of former president Frederick Chiluba, Norman Manduli, who was a politician and a businessman in Lusaka but worked right across Africa - hence her name Orie Rogo Manduli.

    "He passed away in 2003. We didn't part ways. We had been together throughout. He was a wonderful husband and father,"  she stated.

    Manduli recalled a question she was asked on her first day as a personal assistant to the then Kenya Railways and Harbours Corporation general manager PJ Mwangola, that was her first job ever.

    "Where are you going?" to which she replied "the stars".

    Below is her interview with KBC: