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How I spent over a decade to demystify my loathed clan’s lineage, identity

By Kevine Omollo | Published Sun, February 11th 2018 at 10:24, Updated February 11th 2018 at 10:28 GMT +3
Mboya Kaguma during the interview at his home in Chemelil. He embarked on a mission to trace his roots as a Luo in Karachuonyo. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

It all started with teasing and name calling of members of his Kanyadhiang’ clan of Karachuonyo in South Nyanza.

Their neighbours claimed they not Luos, and their ancestors could have become tribesmen by coincidence.

The narrative gained traction and Mboya Kagumba found himself in the Luo nation, but with a tag of Jamwa (outsider). And his peers made fun of him.

But Mr Kagumba, a scientist, never bothered about his identity, having been born in Kendu Bay. Three decades into writing scientific research papers in Kenya and abroad, the zoologist retreated back home in 1993 to trace his roots. His aim was to demystify the myth surrounding his Kanyadhiang’ clan.

“Identity is a key thing in human life, and I felt pained that the belief I had about my roots was being questioned by other people,” he said.

And 28 years into the fact-finding mission, Kagumba can now sit back and enjoy his sunset days, certain that he is truly a Luo. But it was during his time as a researcher when he developed interest in finding his roots, given the mysteries which surrounded the history of his Kanyadhiang’ clan.

One day, as he was going through a collection of the Luo History books, he came across a title; The Luo Settlement in South Nyanza, authored by Teodor Olunga Ayot.

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“The book was not clear about the links of Kanyadhiang’ clan and other clans within Karachuonyo, (which occupies Eastern part of Homa Bay County) a situation which pained me, and seemed to justify the fact that we are not descendants of Rachuonyo,” he said.

He said history books ignored the story of the clan, making it difficult for him to achieve his objective of discovering himself. And when he retired from his research work in 1993, Kagumba never bothered to get a lecturing job in the universities which had expressed interest to tap his vast skills in microbiology, neither did he venture into publishing books for future microbiologists.

“I felt the research papers I had published during my time as a researcher were enough, and I was not into academia so I had little interest in publishing books. But I had an interest in finding the truth about my origin,” he said.

He retreated to his rural home in Kendu Bay, where he spent over a decade piecing his roots through tens of elders who recalled their lineage story.

To ascertain the facts, the engagements were revisited after some time, corroborated, and facts sieved and compared with existing facts published in other quarters.

New book

“Most of the people I spoke to were in their sunset days, and several of them have since died. I am glad I extracted this information from them at the right time,” he said.

When Sunday Standard caught up with Kagumba at his Chemelil farm in Muhoroni, Kisumu County, he was putting final touches ahead of the launch of his book, Kadwet, which has taken 28 years to write. In the 400-page book, Kagumba argues that Rachuonyo had six wives; Omieri, Owaga, Achieng’ Nyajuok, Auma, Nyipir and Adwet where he tracks the generation of Kanyadhiang’.

According to Kagumba, Adwet, whose family is traced from Kisumu County was Auma’s relative and house help, but would later become Rachuonyo’s sixth wife, leading to the birth of Ogol Dhae, her only son.

Ogol then married three wives; Odongo Agola, Milanya and Akumu. Agola sired Nyagweno who married two wives; Odondo and Mikungu.

Odondo gave birth to Obuya (whose descendants settled around Mawego) while Mikungu gave birth to Nyadhiang’; whose descendants are referred to as Jo-Kanyadhiang found near Kendu Bay.

“Mikungu died when Nyadhiang’ was still young, and Odondo had to take care of him. But he used to cry a lot, prompting Odondo to call him names out of anger. At one point, he referred to him as a Jamwa (the cursed or non-Luo), implying that he was not a pure Luo, with a narrative that his mother was from a family of non-pure Luos,” said Kagumba.

And it was this narrative that spread across South Nyanza, leading to the discrimination of the Kanyadhiang’ clan, a situation which has made it difficult for them to redeem their place in the socio-political position in the area.

And he said it was this disconnect which propelled him to write the book in Dholuo, to demystify the Kanyadhiang clan. Today, Kagumba and his German-wife Helga, a human rights activist, spend their time on their 60 acre farm in Chemelil, where he grows sugarcane.

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