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  • Writer's pictureStephen Osieyo


Not long ago there was a flare up between Kenya and Uganda some time back. The reason for the tension was the fight over a small piece of island on Lake Victoria known as Migingo.

As the tension rose Uganda took a new angle. That Migingo island is not part of Uganda but the water around Migingo is Uganda water. The Ugandans appeared stupid indeed to concede the solid land and hang onto some useless water of which they have an abundance. TZ and UG portion of Lake Victoria is insanely large compared to the Kenyan side.

However, there is a something fishy. The story has it that the irregular shores of the lake are mostly in Kenya. The gulf waters are the breeding ground of all the fish in Lake Victoria. Every breeding season the Lake Victoria fish just like any fish in the world heads to where it was hatched to lay eggs. So what you see as mere dead lump of rock has a priceless value.

The phenomenon which has been studied is a stranger miracle than wildebeest migration on the Kenya TZ borders.

There is another very underrated migration. The migration of estranged Luo women to bury the departed husbands now lying as dead and isolated as Migingo rock holds similar similarities and burning it is as futile as burning Migingo rock. In most cases the fish eating Luo women will accompany their children to the burial but in very few cases they will send the children alone.

More than in any tribe Luo wives have an attachment to a former husband or estranged spouse than any other community. This attachment overrides even the most hostile separation when it comes to burial.

The permanence of the relationship that gave rise to the children or child is irrelevant when the man dies. Whether it was a one-night stand or a simple cohabitation the rules of marriage apply. Even the closet girlfriends become visible and are welcomed by all.

Also irrelevant is the status of the deceased. Whether he was poor at the time of death or rich, is irrelevant. They all follow the same pilgrimage patterns. A departed Luo woman will spend all her money to make sure the ex-husband gets a decent burial because they want the children to see the best of the father.

What drives Luo women to make this trip jumping hurdles like the salmon scaling up the North American rivers to the breeding grounds where they were spawned? Why do Luo wives seek the home of the departed with the children? Is it spiritual? And if it is spiritual when then is the indoctrination. At what age do they get this training.

Status symbol

Some of these Prophet Mohammed in his last years spent his last years preaching hard stance against the ills of slavery and slave trade. One particular teaching obliterated slavery in the Islam world and stifled slave trade. However, recognising that the bigger slave trade was too lucrative he concentrated on family values of a Muslim family in the practice of slavery. He laid out these two key family values that led to unshackling of Islams Black Slaves. I will paraphrase.

1. If you sire a child with a slave concubine, then that child cannot be a slave as Islam will not allow you to disown and enslave your own blood.

2. If you sire a child with a slave concubine, then the woman ceases to be a slave as it is inconceivable that the mother of your own free child should be left in slavery as you take/free your child.

In other words, a child became a status symbol. To procreate with the slave master gave the slave girl or concubine a status. I am not saying that to create with a Luo man gives a woman status or does it? I am saying that for over a thousand years these habits die hard. And where could the Luo pick it from

At one time the prophet did flee to Abyssinia which is very close to Pubungu. Did he learn these values from the Nile Valley?

I have not said the prophet told Luos to own and bring their children home plus their mothers at the funeral. I just found it a spitting image of what Luos are doing.


Why do I talk incest? Because in Luo customs incest is punished much much more than rape. In fact, the sound of the word incest makes Luo women hold their knees tight and Luo men cringe with fear like they have taken an ice cold shower.

The punishment for incest is unforgiving because Luos believe it's conceived by evil and will recur and stay with the family for years and years.

Incest and the fear of it is taken so seriously that only senior women were allowed to practice as midwifes or birth attendants due to the seriousness attached to extracting the identity of the responsible man. A woman with questionable reputation will be dreaded at the height of Labour that if they don’t reveal the true identity, the mother and the baby. In extreme pain and facing death the mother will reveal the true identity. The rest is then the work of these elderly midwives.

How are the rules enforced? For a start if you meet a Luo girl and ask her where do you come from. She will never say Muthaiga or Roy Samba or Florida or Manchester. She will say I come from Ugenya, Asembo etc.

And to the next question, Which Ugenya? The answer is never geographical like Ugenya Sega. It will be Ugenya Masiro (clan). And her answers will always be punctuated with "how about you?".

That is a drill that even a mentally challenged Luo in Mathare mental asylum will answer. Ask any mentally challenged Luo on the streets, "Omera in ja Kanye". They will answer and very respectfully and coherently because you have given them a chance to show, 'I am also a somebody'.

So naturally any Luo woman will choose the path of propounding the clannism.

Even a hard core siasa kali (feminists) Luo woman will never cross the boundary of incest. She will throw her clothes off and walk naked in public shouting ‘my body my choice’ or such slogan but incest is dreaded.

This explains why it is important that they mischievously soften their own hard stance in an estranged relationship to let the children view the body of their father at the ancestral place like a fish coming back to spawning waters at Migingo rock.

TRADITIONAL LUO 4-part wedding

The Luo wedding is in 4 parts and the first stage is primary and can make or unmake the process. At the initial stage the boy/girl or match maker report of interest to parents of the two separately. The first question is usually 'who are they?'. To mean what is their clan.

After that the next question is what is their sub clan. At that point it goes to sub- sub clan or what Luos call "nondu".

After that the due diligence moves to intense wider examination of the parents’ parentage and all that. For example, my grandfather’s sister was married into a royalty and is the queen mother of a Kapuny clan. Now we as Umira Kager can marry any Kapuny except descendants of my grandfather’s sister. But this Royalty cannot marry any of the 1 million or so Kager people anywhere in the world. I believe these are associative mathematical operations but let us keep of that path.


Luo family values dictate that children know their family lineage. And like any regulation or rules of an organisation that employers must constantly check it. Like a fire alarm, it must be tested that it is working. Out of habits the best way to preach kinship is at family gatherings like weddings etc. Whereas weddings are by invitation and do not command attendance family funerals are mandatory and are not by invitation.

It just follows naturally that this is the best chance to reintroduce. But first and foremost the primary concern is to avoid incest by any means necessary. Attendance at burial of the father is just a due diligence like ticking off a checklist.

But wait a minute, did Luos know anything about the perils to inbreeding. How could this primitive Luo practice be so relevant in genetic engineering?

The level of interbreeding in other continents and communities is mind boggling. A certain community in Kenya even has a saying of the wise approving interbreeding between brothers and sister (it’s okay to quench from a sibling’s water).

Does it mean that after all bringing extra family at the burial has some genetic science to it like the salmon migration in the oceans or at Migingo rock? We know the spawning ground river waters are rapid and full of oxygen just the waters of the Kavirodno gulf and rivers like Migori and Nzoia (Not Kuja, Nyando or Yala).

There is therefore some science to this Luo women fishy migration of bringing the children home to meet their clans people at the funeral! It looks like that to me.

Let us think of a better way to stop Luo pescatarian behaviour look fishy. The deceased mans will may be a better place to start re introducing the family, besides a will does not necessarily have to be monetary scripted. And for the closet family and estranged, how about making that migration colourful, regular and with brouhaha even if only annual so that the young clansmen are left with exciting memories of the relatives.


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