Thursday, June 21, 2012



By Felix Okatch
Gem Nyawara
Siaya County

Not even the Church can dare go against the edicts of the community’s beliefs
Your article on Saturday Nation (16/06/2012) at page 3 on the above subject refers. There is need to shade some light on customs, quasi-religious-magico beliefs of the community in question.

When you report that the widow is outcast, you ignored the fact that she is an atom and molecule of that culture. She is a part of people who have lived that way before the advent of Christianity in the 18th Century in Kenya. She was born and lives in that culture and socio-economic environment.

Every community has a culture. By definition, culture like environment is what we live in and surrounds us. It t is the culture that unites and identifies a community against foreign interference and adversaries.

If we revisit history, for example, the people of Denmark, as exhibited in Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, Queen Gertrude was inherited by her husband’s brother. In the case of England, King Henry VIII married his brother’s wife when his elder King Arthur died in the fifteen century or thereabout.

In the Holy Bible, there is contradiction on this subject matter. In the Old Testament,the book of Leviticus Chapter 18; verse 6 states that ‘You must not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife’. But the book of Deuteronomy 25:2 states that if a brother dies ‘ Her husband’s brother must take her as his wife and have sexual relations with her. He must do the duty of a husband’s brother for her’

The Luo community had their customary arrangement and practice that is akin to the above before the coming of Christianity in the 18th Century. This now negates your one sided article on widow care which you erroneously report as wife inheritance.

Worldwide, communities have cultures and cultural practices and these change over time. The woman you wrote about has no problem. She was born and bred in that cultural environment. What you reported is neither new nor strange since the silent majority of couples have gone through it including tero buru.

Your biased reporting creates a negative view about our community. Our community had a jater which is a person nominated and chosen by a widow to be a levir that is a man to take care of her leviratic cultural needs. This is a culture which is private and sensational reporing cannot change it. Like in football, a spectator is usually a better player than the person in the field. The parties in the game know it better than us. Let us not be like spectators who criticize and when given chance cannot do anything useful. We just need to appreciate the custom of our diverse communities

Now in Kenya, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 at Article 11 (1) states that‘The constitution recognizes culture as the foundation of the nation…….’

Please note that marriage and matrimony are some of the most important cultural conditions in human life. It’s also a condition which produces more problems than others due to ignorance of both men and women. It is good but can also cause physical and mental anguish. Sometimes its consequences can be tragic as well. However, it gets protected by culture, tradition and laws like the Marriage Act in Kenya and many more.

In conclusion, please note that the Luo community are a superstitious people who believe in the cultural principle of primogeniture. Out of this they fear and respect the elders who by this principle, socially and psychologically control the ghost of ancestors.

So the issue you reported cannot be solved by money, politics, science or any inventions but by culture. All human beings belong to a cultural group. Culture is what puts a people together and acts as an edifice against external aggressors.

Felix Owaga Okatch
Gem Nyawara, Yala in Siaya County
254-721-735489 or 0733-735489