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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Updated: Jun 27, 2020

Legend has it that one-time Gulf Olympic Rangers Football club chairman’s wife refused to join him in bed but instead put a football neatly covered by the bedding at the side of bed she usually occupies. If you are truly a Luo then you know the position I am talking about. It is the position that defines you as a man with manly responsibilities in the family. When Peter Houseboy (not real name) asked, “What is the meaning of this mischief?”

Mrs Houseboy calmly answered, “since you always like spending time running football affairs, continue with the football affairs”.

Peter Houseboy the technocrat got the message contained in the mischief loud and clear. Why? It is a fact of history that 400 years ago Peter’s ancestor, Mr NO was the first Luo occupants of the area where Kit Mikaye the historical site off Kisumu is situated. The NOs’ found a light skinned southern African Bantus who they frog marched away but as usual in the Luo barbarian way, the No clan retained the women and the girls as ‘handling charges’.

Maybe now we know why Kano clans’ navy blue Nilotic complexion and the immediate Luo clan that followed, the Nyakach clan suddenly bred Swazi like fair skin in a sea of a quarter-to-midnight complexion. The two clans’ insistence to settle in flat militarily exposed terrain and a reeds friendly vegetation does not rhyme with the martial Luos trend of vantage home locations. I think in the whole of Luo areas from Sudan to Kagera region and from Ogaden to Congo these are the only two Luo groups that enjoy inhabiting reeds friendly lands.

Anyway those days’ men used to fetch food and wealth and protect the community. Retooling and sharpening of arsenal was a permanent occupation of the men. This one guy was an expert in retooling and sharpening. His workstation was at one of the caves in Kit Mikaye rock. And he was not only busy but he loved his work. In general, the Luos of those days were separated by how manly one was.

Folklore has it that this guy spent so much time at his pace of work that any new clients would now be directed to the rock site to fetch him. This went on until his harem got fed up and in the legendary Luo wives mischief directed the clients, “He is out at the first wife’s house” while pointing towards the rock

Soon the mischief of calling his working place the first wife’s house became a direction. Today we know it as just Kit Mikaye or the rock of the first wife. It was just a mischief of 400 hundred years ago and is no different from the biblical “pier ra-riw” (eye of the needle pass).


What comes out as arrogance by the Luo woman is really nothing but innocent mischief culturally coached by the brothers and sisters. It is the brothers who are responsible for all that pride and arrogance you loathe about Luo women. All that walking tall that you despise about Luo women is routinely coached and groomed by all Luo men on their sisters. If the mischief is too much all Luo men must take a close look at themselves.

How many Luo men that you know raise their daughters to be abused physically, mentally and even financially in their marital relationship.

From Conception Luo women are never groomed to be anybody. They are not just any woman.

All a Luo man talks about their daughters is their future mothers. This makes a Luo girl a goddess even before they are born. And in childhood they are referred to in superlatives, Nyar gi yawuoyi, jaber, min ji, koth min chiemo, achienge, okinyo. The amount of extolling being pumped into Luo girls at that tender age is constantly reinforced to make them not settle for a man worth less than their salt. The girls are spoilt more than the boys. The girls share the safe grandmothers’ quarters; the boys must build their own. The protection has no end. The privacy of a daughter is sacred. The chastity of the girl is jealously safeguarded.

By the time a Luo woman reaches marriageable age, she is literary a princes looking for a throne.

And this does not end there. It is not uncommon for a brother to welcome the sister, “aye yawa nyathinwa, ithagri I od chwodho” (my sister you are suffering in mud house). When the sister is living in a brick house which is found even in Europe. And when it is cemented house then it is mhichwa odak I kwoyo ka nyang’ Or she can be welcomed back, “I knew that man will not care of my sister, look at how the corrugated iron sheets has burnt her skin”

And when the sisters come home the wives of the home, the sister in laws will be living hell during her stay.


In Europe a Caucasian girl will enter a pub in a 'studious inattention' giving stiff smiles but after a few glasses she is flattering and saying hi to all and sundry. Not a Luo girl. The more she drinks the more her royal status is affirmed. If she did not say hi to you when entering the pub, then after a few glasses she is ready to slap just because you don't look right.

There is this incident that took place in Sunset Hotel Kisumu. This is a true story and you can dig from the newspapers. Then then vice president, Mwai Kibaki seemed to have lost his bearing and fell beyond a Luo woman's standard of a fit and proper person. And nyar gi Owete let rip at H E Vice President Mwai Kibaki, EGH. To make a long story short, she was charged and taken to court 6 months later. The court proceedings were in all the daily newspapers. I wonder where she is these days.

Then there is this incident at Malindi Stardust discotheque in mid-1980’s. This is another true story. In my other life working with a Third sector organisation I was overseeing the project administration for this overseas funded group and would pay regular visits. Okinyo (real name) was a sex worker in Malindi living in Kisumu Ndogo of Malindi but don’t tell her I said that. So this night Saturday night Okinyo nya Alego nene omatho na. This is when someone has a score to settle with you but needs courage or excuse to fall back on. So they go and drink and pretend that they are drunk. Luo wives are experts at this mischief because the next day they will claim that they were not responsible for their actions because they were under the influence. Especially when you have disposable income that you keep spending on things they disapprove of. They will drink then convert all breakables things in the house into crystals so that you can use that excess money to replace the broken things.

I was on regular routine visit to complete my monthly tour of duty. So Okinyo (real name) turns the heat on me to withdraw our Malindi project coordinator or bring him two wives from Ugenya Kager, Asembo, Gem or Karachuonyo to discipline him. Reason being that the Luo coordinator is embarrassing them as Luo sex workers. Can you believe this mischief? Even a Luo sex worker has morals to be maintained.

What I discovered later is this guy had a past with Luo sex workers. During the low season these Malindi Luo sex workers just live normal lives. At that time, they either travel to the Lake basin or visit their husbands or just hang in Malindi. The lady who came to save me from Okinyo was Majuma Nyager (real name). Majuma was a war lord. Nyager would board a bus to go raise hell back home in Alego with the husband for mistreating her co-wives who are the carer of her children. Have you ever heard anything like that? A first wife protecting wife no 2 and 3?

The project coordinator told me his side of the story. That he is not gay. That the problem is that one time he went out with Majuma Nyager during the low season when Nyager housed by a southern Italian had the cottage to herself. Then in the morning, the coordinator wrongly assumed that even to a Luo these sex workers are still prostitutes. The project coordinator then proceeds to produce Shs 100 note and pleads, “Nya Ugenya, mae ema adong’ go nyaka giko dwe. koro kaw 50 idwok na 50?” (This my last resort let us split 50/50).

He narrated that Majuma Nyager went berserk. In a torrid of insults, “iwe ni an ochodo-roro”, (you think I am a sex worker to a Luo?). Nyager got up, pulled the coffee table a side, lifted the carpet and proceeded to key in the safe code. This released a click from safe on the wall covered by the famous tourist portrait of a post puberty bare breasted Maasai woman. She fished Shs300 and gave our coordinator with a stern warning that they are not ‘ochodo-roro’.

“Ma watimo gi mana oyuma. An gi oda”. (I am here for just some mischief. I am happily married). She said as she ushered him out gently but firmly.

Now I understood better that from then on our project coordinator was a marked man to be above board in Malindi. So when word got around that he was frequenting hotel corridors at odd hours of the morning they prepared to read for me the riot act. When I left Malindi Chalets opposite the Leopards Hotel for Stardust disco where the late student lawyer Don Amollo used to scratch for fun as a Deejay, I did not know I was earmarked man to undressed for posting a gay Luo boy in Malindi. To them that is, “goyo opuk I pige”. I don’t know the equivalent in English.


Kenya as a nation has been around for 60 years. The so called Kenyan culture has been there for 30 years or so. And just to put it into perspective the famous Zulu nation only came together in 1800s.

It follows that Luo woman on the other hand has been mothering the Luo nation for over 1,000 years. And they have done a decent job from South Sudan to Musoma, TZ. From the Rift Valley Eastern escarpment to the western ranges on the edge of Congo Forest.

Was the lifestyle of Luo nation women in 1200 AD at Pubungu socioeconomically any different from now? Who was a Luo woman by then?

At this time the Luos were the Vikings of the River Nile. The Luo male pre-occupation on coming of youthful age was warring in combat and rustling cattle. A career of raid after raid to accumulate wealth and build their military just like any civilised nation today. By civilised I mean powerful nations like USA, UK, China, Japan not these anthills of the Savannah masquerading as modern republics that perfect in stealing from their people.

Internal self-governance was the docket of the Luo women (not kitchen alone) who were more grounded for socioeconomic management and administration. And it was a lot of work including retraining and inducting the new captives, matching the captives with breeding partners. Gainful economic production. And the perfection of skills and tools.

With these delegations came systems of government run by women. In turn this influenced the culture and mental strength of a Luo woman. And this went on for a long time and is grounded in rules taboos and parables. With the new way of life brought by invading Europeans girls’ education was hampered because the wealth acquisition was a man's. So it was seen as the man's headache to acquire education. And most of my generation as late as 2000 could not stand being treated on a lunch date by the wives as subconsciously you feel you are abdicating everything that makes you a man.

In the Scandinavian, the history of the Nordic Vikings is very similar to Vikings of the Nile. Needless to say the raids for wealth and women was similar.

The independence and single-mindedness of the Nordic women are very similar to the wives of Nile Vikings. And indeed as compared to other European women the Nordic women were very liberated. They also had their place in the nation clearly marked on sand.

And this could partly be because the Viking woman was a partner of separate but equal roles. It therefore follows that the latter day Luo woman has not done anything different from what they have always done for centuries saving for when the Europeans and Asians came with a more sophisticated system

And indeed what they have done is no different from what any community of women left in a place of responsibility all over the world has done in any situation be it Mau Mau uprising, World Wars or African independence struggles all-over Africa or Luo Urban migrant workers. Luo women like all the others have set themselves to occupy a vacuum.

So what is seen as Luo women mischief has been a tempering and hardening of Luo women not to settle for less. Has the empowering of the girl child tampered with the perceived mischief? I don’t think so. But it has certainly reconfigured the European and Asian class order.


I will tell you a story of white mischief. A few years back my daughter told me a very interesting story involving her flat mate.

In the U.K. people have this financial engineering idea. Instead of renting accommodation for their children at University, they use part of the first year’s accommodation for deposit to procure property mortgage around the University locality. Then the child student while attending the University sublets the house to 4 other students at cheaper mortgage loan repayment rate. After graduation the parents sell off the property at a profit and repay off the mortgage balance. Then they just move over the deposit for another child college accommodation and so on and so forth if the university is in another city. Sometimes 2 parents come together for the venture. This really works well for all parties especially those with girls to protect in safer higher education accommodation in these drug infested waters.

Anyway, my daughter's English landlord and live in mate had a boyfriend. She was really nice to all the house mates but she was "ralep" + "luswa" to the boyfriend. She could start a fight at any time and for no reason.

At one of the end year party, the English girl started her usual drama. Finding every reason under the sun, the moon and the stars to quarrel. The bf decided to ignore her and dance with gusto.

So my daughter turned to her English house mate, "You are at fault, you are the one who always starts these dramas with your boyfriend!"

"I am not at fault" She quipped back.

"I have always been a heckler like this. Ask him. He is the one who has changed that he does not like a mad woman. Me I have always been a heckler and a drama queen. This what I do best. Even my parents know this!"

Maybe it is the Luo man who is causing a mischief by trying to change because the Luo woman like our ancestors, our grandmothers and our mothers has always been like this for over a thousand years.


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