Luo Council of Elders Chairman Nyandiko Ongadi. [James Omoro, Standard]

Traditionally, Luo men enjoyed an elevated status in society based on the number of wives they had.

When elders would come together to enjoy traditional liquor, they would sit inside a house, surrounding the drink.

A man who had one wife was often asked to sit close to the door since it was believed he would cause unnecessary disturbance in case he received news that his only wife was no more.

On the other hand, a polygamous man was considered to be ‘safe’ in the sense that losing one of his many wives would not bother him as much.

Polygamy was considered a sign of wealth and good leadership skills. Leading such a family successfully earned men respect.

A section of Luo elders is, however, concerned that young Luo men are abandoning polygamy.

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Nyandiko Ongadi, chairman of the Luo Council of Elders, argues that failure to practice polygamy is to blame for the rising number of single women.

“I am not happy with what our young men are doing today. My observation is that majority of them are monogamous. It is unfortunate that young Luo men fear polygamy like death,” Ongadi said.

He gave an example of the eight wives he married at different intervals.

“Today, my first wife who is almost my agemate is no longer active in many ways due to old age. There are some duties that I cannot assign her. But such duties are assigned to my last wife who is still youthful. Let men who are blessed with money marry at least seven wives,” Ongadi said.

Ongadi’s comments were supported by a 98-year-old member of the council Jarongo Okumu, who said laziness was the reason young men don’t marry many wives.