top of page
  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Updated: Jul 11, 2020

We have just gone through Tom Mboya’s anniversary of 5th of July with others quoting one of the most celebrated writing after his death, “Tom Mboya, the man Kenya wanted to Forget.” In a common audio-visual recording in black and white which is very common in the social media, Tom Mboya propounds African Socialism so graphically that one is left with clear image that an African child is not determined by DNA testing. In the memory of Tom Mboya it is not just right to show we sing of how great he was when every institution he left us and he believed in we are either in a hurry to forget or are busy tearing down if at all they are still standing.

The Luo Community must opt out of DNA Testing to determine paternity. In fact, determination of paternity in this way is repugnant not only to Luo way of life but African communal life. And in my understanding the test discriminant is sacrilegious as it is rubbishing Genesis 38: 8-10 as biblical work of fiction.

A Luo homestead just like any African homestead is held together not by biological accident but by a serious of relationships that even the English language will be hard put to describe with shallow words like step, cousin and auntie. The brethren are also so strong that words like cousin have ended up sounding like round pigs in square holes.

To now introduce the laboratory in the mix of a social web will just cause untold suffering and also replace a custom that has carried us so far into a broken unknown culture rife with incest and all the health hazards that incest brings along.


Luo women are best placed to fight of this technic not only because all the Luo sub clans are named after women making women the custodians of paternity but because the custody and stewardship is one area that a Luo woman has done so well. For example, a Luo governor will not give siphoning billions of shillings from the state a thought but will be hard pressed to tell the mother the source of the wealth is illicit.

On many occasions when the tradition card is flashed it is usually men flashing it to their advantage. Where women have flashed it is only when the brothers or the brother in-laws assert rights based on those customs and cultures. When women need to flash it they either concede or flash it in a manner that they are the major losers.

Take the fight using the DNA to determine who are really the dependants of the spouse to be recorded in the sharing of the property upon the death of the man. This is path the Luo woman should not take. The Luo woman is best advised to stay away from this path as far as possible.

Half-baked measures like cremation of the body will not work as other sources of the man’s DNA like from the dentist can still be found. The woman has a ready path in customs of the Luo people. And ever since SM Otieno on case of 1987 when it was illustrated that customs can indeed be litigated to become a law to govern the matters of a Luo community over and above the English common Law, what are we waiting for.

In the Luo custom biological parentage has never been a way of determining the father of the child because the contention has never been there. A Luo child first and foremost belongs to the community and when the lineage is sought a child is never determined by biological accident. Even with the disintegration of the community, the smallest cell of the family still holds things together and that is why in social media we still run things in community.

The fear that Luo women have that if all children are subjected to DNA then she is also at risk of losing the entitlement to some of her suspect children is an area that is very irrelevant in Luo customs. The children belong to the husband with or without cremation and much less the DNA paternity testing. The introduction of DNA testing in a man’s household is repugnant and must be fought back. I would rather a more deliberate system of proof of paternity e.g. was there any evidence of responsibility by the man even for the closet families.

The concept of DNA paternity is less than 50 years old and there was no need for its introduction to the life of a Luo. In fact, the issue of how, when the child came to the community is never a discussion in Luo customs because it would be a fiasco if carried out in detail. Some who claim Luones could find themselves in Outer Mongolia, let alone in another Luo homestead


The Luo ancestor Kuku Lubanga born around 1100AD is the ancestor of all peoples of Luo origins in Eastern Africa bar the Luos of Ethiopia and Luos of Somalia Ogaden. That means all the Luos in that region must be related by DNA. Is that so?

Let us narrow it a bit if that is too wide to include the Elgeyo, Tutsis and Toros and Busoga. Ramogi 3RD also known as Ramogi Ajwang’ born in 1492 is the ancestor of all Luos in Kenya. So anybody claiming to be a luo in Kenya biologically must have the DNA related to Ramogi Ajwang’. But is that so?

Let us narrow it to Kenyan Luo clan like say the boisterous Gem of Siaya. Gem was the son of Oremo but then we know that Gem fostered nephew Ojuodhi. So again DNA cannot be used as a discriminant as to who is Gem because Ojuodhi DNA would be found in Gem’s other kinsmen.

In the same the neighbouring all the most illustrious MPs in Ugenya have been from the so-called assimilated clans within Ugenya. And this repeated on both sides of the Nam Lolwe.

All in all, ‘fostering’ in the Luo community means that the use of DNA as a discriminant is repugnant to Luo customs more than burying a Luo away from Luo land. If practised to the letter of the law, then it can only bring divisions in families.


The laws of parenthood have traditionally been skewed against the Luo woman. As mentioned above the final cell of any Luo community, Nondi are also named after women. The design was cunning and very unfair to Luo women. But that is not the most skewed of customs. The shame for a child out of wedlock was a woman’s. In fact, it begins early that when a girl lost her virginity the marriage was degraded as “por” and it was the woman’s shame, “nene odhi por”. It is not the man even though the woman has now relocated and is living in the man’s home and has taken the man’s name and bearing the man’s children.

And talking about children should a woman fail to bear children, the shame was hers and if she died in that state, then kudho (thorn) punishment awaits her. Ironically kudho is an ancient dholuo word that goes thousands of years back and is one of the implements used by jocholo (traditional birth attendants)

Of course the man is also driven to extreme measure and has a lot of safety valves like conceding some marital ground of fidelity. However, it is the woman who bears the brunt as to why she did not do anything about it. Was the ritual of thorn in the feet to punish her because she did not use her feet to travel enough to bear children? I am not sure. I only know that symbolically she suffers that and not the man.

The avenues open to both the man and woman meant that DNA paternity was never to be an issue as it was negated from the onset. That is why it is in the interest of a Luo woman to reject it as a custom and then as a Law of the land which I am sure can be upheld in court if it is not repugnant and does not go against any decency.

It is therefore in the woman’s interest to put this DNA paternity testing aside and find other less repugnant ways of determining who is a member of the household.


A Luo homestead was and is still made of combination of some of the following breeding of the following permutations in the homes

1.where it was known that the man cannot bear children culturally the wife was exempt from fidelity

2. where a woman is married in a polygamous home

3. where a woman suddenly has problems conceiving there was room for wise men intervention.

4. where it is in the community’s interest that a woman be given latitude

All these cases point to the fact that biological parenthood is an alien culture in Luo people just like most African communities. The idea that a child can only be belong when biologically conceived between the father and mother is an alien culture born out of envy, greed selfishness of capitalist economies of scale.

Of the cases above hongo roth or jadoho otweyo gara is the most common, dher-pap is not dying by going underground supported with modern medicine.

Ong’ora which was borrowed from the word ng’or (chick peas) was used not only in fertility challenges but also where a family unit desires a sex diversity in the family. This is the mostly known among the Luos of yester years and has been mostly confused with sordid sex and silly romping around by latter day Luos who have mistaken the word to be close to Swahili 'ukora' (waywardness). I am not sure which one borrowed from the other but the essence of ng’or and ong’ora is that they both enhanced variety, haste in ripening or fertility and bridging the period of scarcity before harvest/plenty. Details of it and the mechanics and methodology are pretty heavy stuff.

Then there are Luo offspring that came from inbreeding with slaves including the descendants of assimilated clans of the conquered women and children. Of which the Luo being a magnanimous community such fostering of communities are almost in ever clan. Myths like Nyamgondho wuod Ombare are all about the virtues of fostering that DNA paternity discriminant is designed to negate. Why should we embrace that which does not give us life for that custom that mothered us. Why is all that is spiritual so bad that we have to start walking on a DNA discriminant alley to darkness?

My mother is from the Ugenya Boro clan. Her mother was from Masiro a daughter of some rich Ugenya Masiro guy by the name Odenyo. And my very straight laced mother in pride at her grandparents would tell me that Odenyo was betrayed by one of the Mumias notorious slave traders because he was an extremely opulent guy. My mother says, “nene omew ma monde moko nene opgni wasumbni ema nyuol ne go”. (Basically, he was very rich and had many children).

Much later I laughed to myself. Was my mother trying to tell me something I did not know about myself. She had ways with illustrations more than me. Once she told my wife, (nanga ni ma ihero ikano I sanduku. Maok ihero to iyuari go, idhi beto go to imuono go. To ma ihero dak imi kata ng’ato). Basically your Sunday best you keep neatly. And never use/misuse everywhere you go.

My wife chuckled then later in our privacy narrated to me the story as to how my mother is sly with words in protecting any bad manners I may have, ending with the deterrent of I know where this is ending with something like ‘apples don’t fall very far from the tree’. Anyway that is my mother, not me. I am different.

Another anecdote comes from Ugenya. Legend has it that the Ugenya paramount chief Muganda Okwako heard about the murder of marital interloper in a nearby chiefdom’s domain. Muganda castigated the neigbouring chief by touring the houses of his huts in dead of the night and counting the number of his huts that were occupied with his wives in varied stages and forms of nightfall. Finally, Muganda told the neighbouring chief, “That is the essence of polygamy and being a big and an important man in a Luo community. It comes with the territory that such juvenile words like infidelity you must delete from your vocabulary. All those children are yours”

From the above it therefore follows that there is enough recourse to avoid the expensive and sometimes cantankerous battles if Luos could just put a case forward that for Luos DNA does not determine paternity. Paternity of a luo child is not a biological accident but a communal term to be determined using Luo determinants.

This recourse will not only protect the woman of the house but it will speed up closet marriages to be regularised.


Culture like all laws require a strong law enforcement. With a dying communal belonging it appears that the sooner these customs and referenced to be law executed and supervised the better for all of us. Which brings me to the heart of the matter. One of the greatest benefits that should have been derived from the new constitution and county governance is the localisation of our laws to tap and retain relevant and useful ethical and humane customs. Just like African independence speeded up negritude, county governments need to stem useful local customs and standardise them.

The use of DNA discriminant will only harm in herding up children who are already in shock to be tested. I grew up in a communal lifestyle where sitting by magenga bonfire to listen to anecdotes of listening to storytelling at siwindhe and simba had no biological boundaries. I am now living a fully functioning welfare state. I see no competition. The only problem is replacing one functioning one with nothing or one that is hardly set to function. Suddenly at magenga bonfire we may end up telling other children not to bask in the warmth or not to hear the folklore because they do not culturally belong.

And this is exactly why County governments must be involved. We are still in transition from traditional welfare community to a welfare state like in Western Europe if that is where we are going to against Tom Mboya’s African socialism. Biological paternity which I am opposed to is leaving so many children without recourse to any support because the state welfare system is not ready.

This welfare state will take years to fully come into operation, if you take into account that even Child Support Agencies in most western countries in Europe is still struggling. In the meantime, local counties are well advised to patch up traditional customs rather jump to irrelevant mechanics like DNA paternity discriminant.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page