Orengo ordered to pay Ongwae’s mother Ksh1M for insulting her

Tuesday, April 16th, 2024 12:41 | By
Siaya Governor James Orengo
Siaya Governor James Orengo. PHOTO/@orengo_james/X

Siaya Governor James Orengo has suffered a major blow after the court ordered him to pay Ksh1 million to the mother of former Kisii governor James Ongwae for hurling insults at her during a political rally organized by the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya Coalition party in Kisii County on February 17, 2024.

Kisii Senior Resident Magistrate Paul Mutui slapped Governor Orengo with a Ksh1 million fine for harm caused by the defamatory statements made to the 97-year-old Grace Moraa Ongwae, whose words were widely published on YouTube and social media. 

Mutai has also ordered Orengo to publish and upload a clear public apology of equal prominence to Ongwae's mother with national coverage. 

Further, the court has issued a permanent injunction restraining Orengo and his agents or servants from further remaking or causing to be published the defamatory words against Moraa. 

While awarding the damages, the magistrate found that Ongwae's mother, through lawyer Peter Wanyama, had proved beyond reasonable doubt the defamation suit against Orengo.

"I am satisfied that all the ingredients of defamation have been proven. The court also holds that the respondent (governor Orengo), when he appeared before me for hearing, justified his attack on the applicant and was not at all remorseful for his actions," Magistrate Mutai ruled.

Defamation suit

Moraa filed the defamation suit last year, arguing that Governor Orengo had infringed on her right to human dignity when he made offensive, vulgar, crude, false, and derogatory remarks against her on February 17, 2023, which have since painted her in a negative light and exposed her to hatred, ridicule, and mockery from the residents of Kisii County. 

Orengo is said to have made the defamatory attacks against Ongwae's mother at an Azimio coalition public rally held in Kisii as part of the planned country-wide demonstrations that were held on March 20, 2023. 

“The defendant (Orengo) referred to me as a mother incapable of raising a person deserving a position of such high stature without any basis, with the intention to ruin my good standing amongst my family members, friends, the residents of Kisii County, and the state itself,” Ongwae's mother told the court during the hearing.

“Orengo infringed on my right to human dignity by making a crude, false, and defamatory statement that painted me in a negative light. This statement by Orengo has significantly damaged my reputation and made me a target of derision, odium, suspicion, opprobrium, and mockery from the general public," Moraa added.

During the hearing, the court was informed that Moraa and her husband learned about defamatory remarks while listening to the radio at their village home in Kisii when they heard Orengo utter the defamatory words repeatedly. 

Ongwae's father informed the court that if Orengo had a political problem with his son, the best way was to confront him directly, and there was no need to drag his wife Moraa into the matter. 

Through lawyer Wanyama, Moraa stated that Orengo made the alleged defamatory remarks towards her and Ongwae because of the latter’s decision to shift from the Azimio coalition to President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance.

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Former Kisii Governor James Ongwae during a past function. PHOTO/Robert Ochoro

Ongwae's mother said that the governor dragged her name into his speech and humiliated her through derogatory words. The speech was in Kiswahili, according to the court papers.

“Orengo deliberately invoked ridicule, mockery, and suspicion because Moraa’s son, who is a well-known public figure, recently shifted from the Azimio la Umoja coalition (the opposition) to the UDA (the ruling party),” Wanyama told the court. 

"For all intents and purposes, the words used by Orengo were derogatory in nature and meant to denigrate, discredit, and embarrass Moraa. The statement is not only untrue; it was made without basis and is an insult to Ongwae's mother," Wanyama added.

As a result of the defamatory statements, Ongwae “received numerous telephone calls from persons in shock and disappointed by the humiliating address delivered by Governor Orengo.”

According to Wanyama, the governor’s statement drew the attention of many listeners due to Governor Ongwae’s status as a prominent member of society.

Since Orengo is highly influential, the lawyer says the alleged derogatory statement was aired on an online YouTube channel.

“The specific utterance gained a large audience, as shown in its publication on the said digital platform, which has 581,000 subscribers,” Wanyama said.

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