Awori, Jeremiah Musungu
c. 1886 to 1971
A Giant who was larger than Life
Jeremiah Musungu Awori was a veritable giant in stature, character,
and overall influence. Throughout his life, he dominated every
sphere in which he operated, and his impact reverberated far
and wide. He left a considerable legacy. 
Apart from striving for effectiveness in the ecclesiastical
domain, he blazed a trail in socio-political affairs, farming,
and business, and to some extent in education and sports, setting
the pace for the highest standards of success and achievement
in each domain. On a personal level, this has paid handsome
dividends in that his sixteen children have inherited the legacy
of industry that he bequeathed to them. This legacy has propelled
the entire family into top leadership positions in politics,
education, commerce, sports, and other professions in Kenya
and in neighboring Uganda.
It needs to be underscored from the outset that Awori was richly
endowed with diverse abilities and that he led a life which
was multi-faceted and truly robust. His principal role in life
however, was that he was a clergyman of the Anglican Church
of Kenya. Everything else that he achieved came from that foundation.
Birth and Early Background
As it is with many others of his generation, Awori's date of
birth is difficult to pinpoint. In his case, however, there
is a connection with an historical occurrence. He was given
the name Musungu (for white man) at birth, because he was born
when the body of Bishop James Hannington  was being kept
overnight in the home of his parents. When all the research
is taken into account, it seems most likely that his date of
birth falls between 1886 and 1888.
For now, the best that can be said is that Awori was born in
the Funyula area of Samia, in the Busia region, between 1886
and 1888, and given the name Musungu. His father was Awori Khatamonga,
 an accomplished elephant hunter who plied his trade in the
territory which was later divided, with Kenya on one side, and
Uganda on the other. His mother, Namangale Osinya, hailed from
Ebuloma in Samia; her brother was named Ayienga. She was about
six and a half feet tall and had the strong and towering figure
that was inherited by many of the Aworis in successive lineages.
Awori grew up around Funyula, in Samia. When he was about five
years old, his father died after being trampled in a horrific
accident while on a hunting expedition. Following the death
of her husband, Awori's mother would normally have been inherited
as a wife by one of her brothers-in-law, who were named Wasya
and Mudei. However, because she was headstrong and refused to
be inherited, she was banished to her home at Ebuloma, Samia,
where she lived with her brother, Ayienga.
When Awori's mother went back to her original home, she took
Awori with her. Shortly after this relocation, Namangale Osinya
herself passed away, leaving Awori behind under the care of
his maternal uncle, Ayienga. Awori was now an orphan, and his
fate and future prospects now lay in the hands of his uncle.
Ayienga raised him with one of his two wives, Naomi Nambiro,
who then became Awori's foster mother.
Awori was from the Busia region of the Western Province of Kenya,
but he also felt at home in the eastern part of Uganda. Busia
itself is made up essentially of the Teso tribe, and of the
four Luyia sub-tribes of the Abasamia, Abanyala, Abamarachi,
and Abakhayo. He was completely at home in all five tribes.
First, although he was born in Samia (where his family had migrated),
his roots went back to the influential Abafofoyo clan of the
Marachi. Secondly, while in Samia among the Abasamia of Kenya
and Uganda, he acclimatized himself to the neighboring Abanyala
to such an extent that functionally, there was little difference
in his life between being among the Abasamia or the Abanyala.
Thirdly, in much of his Christian ministry, his ecclesiastical
seat and center was at Nambale in Bukhayo, and on the borders
of the Teso, as well as being in proximity to the Bukusu.
Awori Embraces Christianity
From an ecclesiastical perspective, the life and fortunes of
Awori were tied to the CMS Mission at Butere and its outpost
in Samia. The entry of the Anglican Church to the region is
detailed below.  The foundation had been laid in 1914 by
Isaka Sidandi, a local man who had a lot of Christian zeal.
He introduced Anglican CMS work in the area after his encounter
with the Christian faith at the CMS center in Kisumu. Following
the ground-breaking efforts of Sidandi, the CMS at Butere sent
out a Muganda named Malaki, to serve as the teacher-evangelist
in building on the foundation that Sidandi had laid. After commendable
efforts in 1915, Malaki left the scene. The next emissary of
Butere was another Muganda, Yese Werega, who was dispatched
to Samia in 1916 as Malaki's replacement. Of all the Baganda
who served in the Anglican Church in western Kenya, he eventually
turned out to be the most prominent. He distinguished himself
as the first of the Baganda Christian workers in the region,
and the first of all Africans in the region to become an ordained
clergyman. Weraga was the de facto missionary-in-charge
of this section of the Butere Mission for almost ten years.
In the process, he became the enabling mentor of his successor,
Rev. Canon Jeremiah Awori. Weraga also developed Namboboto,
which became the main outlying station of the CMS Butere mission
in the area.
When Awori and his mother relocated to her original home following
the death of her husband, it was a blessing in disguise. It
was while staying with his maternal uncle, Ayienga, at Namboboto,
that he was exposed to education and to Christianity. His Christian
education began under Sidandi in 1915, continued under Malaki
in the same year, and blossomed to the full under the tutelage
of Weraga from 1916 on. Seizing the providential opportunity
that came his way, he advanced rapidly and so well that when
Weraga (whom he had been assisting) relinquished the leadership
of the Anglican Church in that area, he was ready to succeed
Christian initiation in the early period in that region was
not a hurried affair. There was a series of clear steps that
potential members had to take before final admission. Among
the stratified categories were: enquirers or hearers, catechumens,
baptized, and finally, confirmed. It is most likely that Awori
was baptized in December of 1915, at which time "Jeremiah" became
part of his name. This would imply that he had fulfilled all
the other stipulations of initiation and commitment, so that
by the time he was taking on increased responsibilities in the
church in the late 1910s, and certainly by the time of his wedding
in 1918, he was already baptized. His confirmation must have
taken place with the first group on February 6, 1918 or 1919,
when Bishop Willis visited the Butere area.
Awori and other pioneer clergymen
From the celebrated time when Henry Venn was secretary (1841-1872),
the CMS had built its enterprise on two key planks. First, there
was evangelism, in which the Gospel is preached in order to
win hearers to salvation in Jesus Christ. Secondly, there was
consolidation, where those who had responded positively by embracing
Jesus Christ were organized into a viable indigenous church
which was self-supporting, self-governing, and self-extending.
This was the enduring twin tradition which the Rev. J. J. Willis
and his successors had brought with them to western Kenya when
they launched the work of the Anglican Church there.
The response of the dominant inhabitants of the region to the
Christian faith was phenomenal. The Luyia and the Luo embraced
Christianity so quickly and in such large numbers that in the
early decades of the 20th century, the CMS missionaries were
overwhelmed. This meant that the grossly outnumbered European
missionaries and the equally small band of Baganda catechist-evangelists
were too few in number to handle the task of organizing the
quickly emerging Christian communities, churches, and schools.
What helped to save the situation was that the pioneer indigenous
Christians themselves crafted a spontaneous leadership structure
which ensured stability and focus for the further expansion
and consolidation of the work.
When the CMS in western Kenya set out in earnest to identify
those who could be recruited and trained for the Christian ministry,
their attention was turned to the people who were already assisting
in the work. After preliminary discussions for initiating the
scheme were held in 1922, with the bishop of Mombasa at the
center of the projections, concrete action was effected in 1923.
It was resolved that some teachers from the region would be
selected for training as clergymen at the level of deacon. At
that time, the only African who was a clergyman was the Muganda,
Accordingly, to help steer the work in this rapidly expanding
constituency, four men were eventually chosen for training for
two years. The first year, 1923, would be under Rev. Albert
E. Pleydell, and the second year, 1924, under Archdeacon Walter
E. Owen. Three of the men were Luo: George Samuel Okoth, Reuben
Omulo, and Musa Auma; the fourth, sent from Butere, was Jeremiah
Musungu Awori, a Luyia from Samia. It is in this context that
Awori distinguished himself as the pioneer Luyia clergyman in
the Anglican Church.
Over the years, Awori had advanced quite rapidly to take on
the position of assistant to the Muganda teacher-catechist for
the Busia sphere, Yese Weraga, whose base was at Namboboto.
Indeed, when Weraga went to Uganda in 1920 to train for ordination
at Mukono, it was Awori who carried on with the work in his
absence. In 1921, Weraga was ordained deacon and returned to
western Kenya to continue with his labors. The choice of Jeremiah
Awori as the very first Luyia trainee for the Anglican Christian
ministry arose out of this rich and deep involvement. In the
end, he did not disappoint. In fact, after the two year training
for the deaconate, he emerged at the top of the class. As the
otherwise exacting Owen glowingly wrote of him,
Mr. Pleydell spoke most highly of him in every way.
Then I had charge for the year 1924, so saw a lot of him,
and all the good impressions I had formed deepened. Finally,
came the examination for ordination, and to our great joy,
Yeremiya headed the list and was Gospeller. On that day of
ordination in the fine new church at Nairobi … he stood, tall,
white-robed, reading the Gospel fluently in Swahili (he knows
five languages). 
Awori married Mariamu Olubo Odongo, one of the earliest girls
in the locality to have embraced the Christian faith. She was
the daughter of Mr. Ochwada of Luchululu, in Samia, a very respected
and forward-looking community elder whose family belonged to
a ruling lineage. Awori had first met Mariamu when they were
classmates in school. He admired her character, and was even
impressed by her academic prowess, as she often bested him in
mathematics. Her brother, Isaya Odongo, was one of the pioneers
in the establishment of Christianity and education in the Samia
The official legal and ecclesiastical ceremony took place at
Butere in 1918, after Awori had fulfilled the customary traditional
requirement for marriage by paying the agreed upon dowry. In
this case, it was set at twenty cows, and these were paid on
his behalf by his uncle and guardian, Ayienga. Throughout his
life, Awori was keen to keep tradition and Christianity in positive
and creative tension, and instead of viewing the two as fierce
adversaries, he maintained that they had complementary redeeming
values that were mutually beneficial.
The marriage took place in 1918, in St. Luke's Church at the
CMS Butere Mission station, and was presided over by the newly-arrived
head of CMS work in western Kenya, Archdeacon Walter Edwin Owen.
For Awori's immediate community, this turned out to be the first
church wedding that they had witnessed. When it was over, the
newlyweds joyfully took their two-day walk back to their home
in Namboboto. It is here that they settled and set up a new
family unit and home as husband and wife. Over the years, there
were seventeen children born to the family, with sixteen surviving
beyond childhood. 
Initial Progression in Christian Ministry
Two occurrences propelled Jeremiah Awori to an envied position
in the Christian ministry among the Abaluyia. First, his selection
and training in 1923-1924, as well as his eventual ordination
as deacon in 1925, singled him out as the first Luyia Anglican
clergyman. Secondly, Awori's mentor, Yese Weraga, had just been
transferred in 1923 from Samia to the Malakisi outpost of Bukusu-Teso
when the death of his wife forced him to return to Uganda. Consequently,
by the time he became a clergyman in 1925, Awori was the only
African clergyman of any kind in the Luyia-dominated territory.
Following the first ordinations for western Kenya in 1925, it
was clear that whatever the future held for indigenous African
ministry, it had become an irreversible reality. With his ordination
as deacon behind him, Awori took up Christian ministry responsibilities
in western Kenya with renewed vigor. He was essentially stationed
at Butere for the next few years, while still keeping watch
on his parent Busia constituency. As there were further needs
in the church, he was one of those selected for higher training
at the CMS Divinity School in Freretown, Mombasa in 1927-1928.
With this level of preparation, he was able to move up from
being a deacon to being a priest.
As more and more responsibilities devolved upon African clergy,
some of them were elevated correspondingly. A case in point
was what took place when the Registrar General registered Reuben
Omulo for responsibilities in Kisumu and Jeremiah Awori for
Butere, effective January 2, 1929.
In 1930, a year after he was duly registered by the government,
Awori was transferred from Butere and posted to Nambale to open
and be in charge of a new mission station there. This was a
tall order, but one which highlighted two basic facts: it was
a recognition of his own abilities as a capable leader and Christian
minister, and it was a demonstration of the confidence and sacred
trust which the missionaries were ready to bestow on emerging
African indigenous clergymen. To effect this transfer, the family
undertook the thirty-six mile journey from Butere to Nambale
in May of 1930. Apart from all other considerations, this placed
high demands on the family, which by then included six children,
with Hannington, born in 1929, being the latest addition.
Ministry from Nambale Base
Awori arrived at Nambale with the assignment of opening a new
mission station in the north-western section of the area covered
by Butere. With characteristic energy and zeal, he embarked
on traversing the territory under his jurisdiction, covering
such far off places as Webuye in the east. Prior to Awori's
arrival "Archdeacon Owen had demarcated the Nambale deanery,
school, and church,"  with a church made from temporary materials.
In these same preparatory stages, "Owen decided to move an old
school from Mungatsi to Nambale,"  and this became the foundation
of the educational establishment at Nambale.
One of the first major tasks Awori engaged in was to construct
the various buildings required in the new station. On top of
the list were houses for his family and for the church evangelists.
After completion of the residential buildings, the next major
project was to construct the church, St. Thomas, Nambale. Partly
because of his love for things Ugandan, the design of the building
was inspired by and modeled on St. Peter's Church (later Cathedral),
in Tororo, Uganda.
In his building endeavors, he called on the assistance of the
converts who had come with him from Butere, and on his own family.
One of the men who had come from Butere proved to be invaluable
in the production of bricks, as he knew how to fire them in
an improvised kiln. The roofing was done using a durable grass
straw known as tsimuli. This design feature allowed the rooms
to be naturally cooled, and when expertly woven together as
roofing material, the grass straw was very durable.
In his position as clergyman in charge, Awori's role was mainly
one of leadership and supervision. The time when European missionaries
were superintending the work was now past, and a new stage had
now been reached. Clergy with more training had to relinquish
the day-to-day tasks of the church to others below them. It
was understood of Awori then that, "As a priest, his main duty
would be to oversee the growth of the church in that area. He
would be responsible for supervising evangelists in the field
and providing baptism and confirmation classes."  As the
general leader, Awori lost some recognition value in that the
visibility of his achievements at the ground level of the church
was now curtailed. The compensation, however, was that he shared
in the total successes which were registered by all those who
were under him. It is in this connection that it has been pointed
out that "Awori helped establish 100 churches."  Today,
the territory which was initially under his charge is made up
of the three dioceses of Katakwa, Bungoma, and Nambale, together
with their thirty-three parishes. Because he was in charge of
the Nambale area of the Anglican Church, he sat on many requisite
bodies in the system, mainly in the form of councils and committees,
and he had a reputation for zealous and meaningful participation
in all deliberations.
In carrying out his duties, Awori had a bias in favor of African
themes, and in this direction, he borrowed heavily from the
Anglican Church in Uganda. The overall objective was to ensure
that the church was Christian, while conducting its affairs
in line with African expressions. This was the fundamental legacy
of the Anglican Church in western Kenya from the foundations
which Rev. J. J. Willis laid at Maseno. While the populist western
European citation of the use of drums as the sum total of culture
is trite and superficial in the extreme, the reference fits
here, but only as an integral part of a larger theme. As reported
accordingly, a case in point for Awori was the use of drums
in church music and the integration of traditional sports (such
as wrestling) in the games that marked the Christmas season.
Weddings were celebrated with feasting in the African sense
of the word. Awori can be described as an integrationist who
took what he considered good in traditional life and incorporated
it into the new faith.
Awori was also actively against any tendencies which inhibited
and were detrimental to the full realization of the individual
and the community. It was in this connection that he championed
the education of girls, long before it became popular in the
international donor community and its NGO network. He showed
the example in his own family, as virtually all of his daughters
are highly educated professionals who rank with the best of
men in their respective fields of specialization. 
A loving, caring, and responsible family man
Although Awori grew up as an orphan, it was under the loving
care of foster parents who were his close relatives. This family
background played a great role in his life in later years with
regard to the love and care he showed for his own family and
close relatives. He considered that the welfare of his family
was always a priority, and was worth investing in. Given that
he had sixteen children, commitment to the family in this manner
was a significant task! Because of the generosity of his heart,
however, what may have seemed to be burdensome responsibilities
turned out to be joys to be cherished. He loved his family immensely
and always worked hard to ensure that this affection was demonstrated
in very concrete ways. This caring and responsible family man
had an able ally in his wife, Mariamu. 
In guiding his children, Awori employed a fine blend of loving
care and strict discipline. This was calculated at ensuring
that the children accepted parental concern and direction as
being positive and serving their best interests. Although they
may not have fully appreciated the strict control to which they
were subjected when they were growing up, once they were adults,
and viewing everything in hindsight, they appreciated the love,
concern, and discipline which had been directed toward them.
Civic and socio-political champion
The following was written of him: "Jeremiah Awori's legacy is
the progressive contribution he made as a clergyman, farmer,
trader, [and] councilman."  Beyond his clerical role, it
is probably as a public socio-political figure that his image
is seen in a wider context. His example should enlighten the
debate over the meaningful participation of clergymen in politics.
His role was such that it was also said of him: "This legacy
is immortalized in Kakamega town, headquarters of the Western
Province, which has a street called Canon Awori Street." 
In 1925, Awori was appointed to the North Kavirondo (later Western
Province) Local Native Council (NKLNC), and continued in that
role for forty-one years. When they were being initiated throughout
the country, these administrative socio-political organs were
dominated by the emerging educated elite. Those in the leadership
of the church at that time felt very strongly that the church
must place itself at the center of such public structures, instead
of standing aloof or operating on the periphery. At that time,
the head of the Anglican Church in western Kenya was the politically
active Archdeacon Walter Edwin Owen. He played a leading role
in the appointment of Awori to the LNC. Once he took up his
seat there, whether within the council or outside of it, Awori
became an articulate champion of issues which improved the lives
of the people, and opposed measures which would have had a negative
impact on the community in western Kenya. In a related direction,
Awori was an active member of the original combined Kavirondo
(western Kenya) Taxpayers Welfare Association (KTWA), and when
it split in two, he moved on to the Luyia half, the North Kavirondo
Taxpayers Welfare Association (NKTWA). When the latter united
as the Abaluyia Welfare Association (AWA), he became one of
the founding members, holding the position of chairman in the
first group of leaders. Following in his steps, three of Awori's
children also had prominent roles in political matters.
Further Recognition and Retirement
In terms of overall ecclesiastical progression, Awori was definitely
one of the earliest Kenyans to have the status of canon conferred
upon him, taking up the chair of St. Thomas à Kempis at the
All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi. This honor was conferred on him
in 1945, making him the first Muluyia, or for that matter the
first African from western Kenya to be so elevated.
Awori could easily have risen to a higher level and status of
service and involvement in the church, but deliberately decided
against it. At one point, he was offered a scholarship to go
for theological studies in Australia, but he declined the offer
on account of his commitment to the work at Nambale, and to
his family. Since this took place long before the appointment
of the first African bishops in Kenya, there is conjecture as
to whether pursuing these studies would have propelled him into
the leading position for consideration as the first African
bishop of the Anglican Church in Kenya.
Awori retired in 1960, when he had attained the mandatory retirement
age of sixty-five. All the same, he continued to assist the
church when called upon. He was still so strong that he went
about this work driving his old Buick on his own. In earlier
years, of course, he had used a bicycle, before shifting to
his ever-present motorcycle, but that had been overtaken by
the Buick long before his retirement.
In recent years in Kenya, when prominent or prosperous men have
died, there have been serious quarrels regarding their proper
burial place. This often happens when they have many properties
or other attachments in more than one place. In the case of
Awori, apart from owning land in more than one locality, he
was also prominent in the church, which could have provided
him with a burial ground. Were it in today's Kenya, the potential
for contesting his appropriate burial place would have been
very high, with the various stake holders arguing for the merits
of their preferred choice. Always ahead of his time in his day,
he isolated and demarcated in advance about half an acre of
land next to the gate of his Nambale homestead as the intended
burial place for himself and his wife, Mariamu, together with
those family members who would remain at Nambale.
Awori's wife preceded him in death, passing away on September
28, 1964, of diabetes, while undergoing medical attention in
the hospital in Kisumu. After the death of a child, Musa, at
the age of two in the early 1920s, this was the first death
in the close-knit nuclear family of the Aworis. The loss of
the family matriarch was almost unbearable. As it was aptly
stated, "Awori and the children were devastated…. Awori had
lost a friend, partner, and helper, and the distraught children
had lost a friend and counselor."  Because the two were
very close, it has been observed that her departure affected
him so much that he "was never the same." He outlived her by
seven years however, and passed away in 1971, after a visit
to his beloved Uganda to attend the burial of his friend, Kabaka
Mutesa II, the King of Buganda, Uganda. After he had been deposed,
Kabaka Mutesa II took his exile in London, England, where he
died in 1969. When his delayed burial took place in Kampala
in February, 1971, Awori traveled there and attended the burial,
the last major public occasion in which he participated. About
three months later, on May 23, 1971, Jeremiah Musungu Awori
passed away of a heart attack, at the age of seventy-six. Following
a funeral service at the All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, the
body was flown to Kisumu and then taken to Nambale by road.
It was there that the final funeral and burial ceremony took
place, with the head of the Anglican Church in Kenya, Archbishop
Festo H. Olang' presiding. As pre-arranged, he was buried at
his Nambale burial site next to his wife, Mariamu.
The legacy of an incomparable dynasty
There are many people whose lives literally end with their death,
when everything they represented virtually disappears. There
are others whose lives are perpetuated for a considerable time
through memorials of one kind or another which they leave behind.
For still others, the most tangible legacy is represented by
the exploits of their offspring. Their legacy then survives
through an enduring dynasty which projects their image to the
future. In addition to all the other forms of memorial, it is
this latter form that seems to best apply to Awori. It begins
with his sixteen children from one wife, but stretches on through
his grand-children and great grand-children. Were it limited
to his immediate family alone, few families in Kenya could compare
with what the larger Awori family represents and has achieved.
The record of the many firsts in Awori's life is quite significant,
but these were often not achieved through innate endowments
and abilities. He seems to have been goaded forward by a dogged
determination to succeed, a boundless sense of duty, and a disciplined
rejection of distractions. As he played his part, God took over
and provided him with rare opportunities for advancement, under
such seasoned mentors as Weraga and Owen.
When we consider the scope of his life, we need to see the overall
superintending hand of God and to be mindful of the words of
Psalm 127:1-2, "Unless the Lord builds a house, its' builders
labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchmen
stand guard in vain."
Many tasks the Awori children were involved in at home proved
to be channels of awakening and nurtured the talents and abilities
that shaped their careers in later life. Whether it was intentional
or by force of habit, the correlation was, in most cases, quite
direct. The following examples illustrate this point:
Mrs. Ellen Peres Owori:
She was the eldest child and the first daughter in the Awori
family. She was unique in the sense that she was the shortest
of the generally tall Awori breed. It has been said of her that
"what she lacked in height, she more than made up for in a dynamic,
daring, and vibrant personality."  She was born in Butere,
when her father was stationed there in the early days of his
Christian ministry. She pursued her substantive education at
Kima, Bunyore, in the Church of God institution, Bunyore Girls
School, which preceded the present Bunyore Girls High School.
As the eldest son in the Awori family, Joshua often deputized
for the father when it came to administrative and management
issues among the children. In later years, he had a long career
in company administration and human resource management. At
the peak of his working life, he had a long tenure as the personnel
director of Caltex Oil Company. Totally committed and devoted
to the All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, of the Anglican Church,
Joshua served there for a long time as a highly placed leader
in the lay structures of the church. While holding this position
in Nairobi, he was also in the forefront in giving maximum moral
and material support in the running of the Anglican Church in
his home in Gulumwoyo or Funyula.
Wycliffe Works Wasya Awori:
Wycliffe Works Wasya (W. W. W.) Awori was a trade unionist who
played a key role as a pioneer in the agitation and struggle
for political independence in Kenya. He turned into a career
politician who eventually became an early African representative
in the Legislative Council in Kenya in 1952 at the age of twenty-seven.
Just as it was with his father, Wasya Awori's family boasts
a number of high profile politicians. It is fairly accurate
to say that, given the period and terrain in which he operated,
W. W. W. is the premier politician in the family, and from that
perspective, has served as a positive inspiration to others.
Mrs. Rhoda Ouya:
She first trained as a teacher, and later as an agriculturalist.
She was a teacher for many years, and in her retirement she
became an influential lay reader in the Anglican Church. In
this regard, she helped establish St. Mary's Parish of Munjiti,
in the diocese of Maseno North, which included shouldering the
main burden of building the local church there, St. Mary's Church.
Hon. Moody Arthur Awori:
There are many notable aspects of the life of the honorable
Moody Arthur Awori that would be worth mentioning. He was a
long-serving vice president of Kenya, and was also a member
of parliament numerous times for his home constituency of Funyula
from 1983 to 2007. He is also an accomplished senior executive
in other fields, and an astute and active businessman with a
strong financial base. In fact, this combination of service
in financial and business circles has been a major boost to
his long political career.
Hannington Ochwada Awori:
Hannington Awori ranks with the best corporate executives in
the world. Initially trained for a career in teaching, he changed
direction and developed into an extraordinary corporate executive
before his retirement. He trained as a professional in Britain
and worked there for a long time before relocating to Kenya.
Through his dominance in the powerful corporate sector of society,
he carved out an enviable position and was widely acclaimed
as the king of the boardroom with regard to strategic interests.
In that capacity, he headed key companies that exercised major
control on the country's financial market, as well as its entire
economy. He died in 2010.
During his funeral service at the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi,
Kenya's Attorney General, Hon. Amos Wako, represented the president
and read a prepared speech on behalf of the head of the country.
In his own unwritten remarks, Wako extolled the virtues of Awori
and the critical position he had held in society over a long
period of time. He rightly pointed out that in the death of
Hannington Awori, Kenya had lost one of a small cadre of influential
men who quietly and unobtrusively ran the crucial affairs of
the country behind the scenes. In Wako's view, H. Awori had
clearly demonstrated that real power does not lie in the loud
noise and open publicity that is characterized by the overrated
political class. He was far above the most vocal politicians.
Mrs. Winfred Odera:
Although the Awori family had six daughters, Winfred was invariably
in charge of the kitchen and cooking duties when there were
visitors. This was useful to her later, as she trained for a
career in catering and worked in that field for a long time.
Being entrepreneurial, she then set up and managed her own successful
catering college in an up-market area of Nairobi until her retirement.
Mrs. Margaret Openda:
Firmly rooted in the widely respected Weche family, Margaret
was a career educator. She had a long and illustrious association
with Siriba College in Maseno when it was in its' prime, in
the capacity of Matron.
Prof. Nelson Awori:
Prof. Nelson Wanyama Awori was a distinguished surgeon and researcher
in the field of kidney related ailments. He achieved a major
breakthrough in his career when "he led the team that carried
out black Africa's first successful kidney transplant," 
which was performed at Nairobi Hospital on November 30, 1978.
In the Jeremiah Awori home, Mrs. Awori used to devote a lot
of her energy and time to treating the sick who came to their
homestead. Her closest and ablest assistant in this work was
Nelson, who may have chosen medicine as his career as a result.
Eng. Ernest Awori:
When he was growing up, Ernest was charged with the responsibility
of cleaning and oiling his father's gun and motorcycle. This
would certainly have had a positive role in his career choice,
which was engineering. He initially trained for the teaching
profession, but after teaching for about ten years, he went
to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States,
where he studied structural engineering. Upon his return he
worked in construction, and he was involved with projects like
Kenyatta National Hospital in Kenya, and two major military
installations in Uganda.
Hon. Aggrey Awori:
He was a student leader and athlete at Harvard in his student
days. He went on to win fame in Uganda as a top athlete who
represented the country in such international competitions as
the Olympics. He still holds the Ugandan record for 110 meter
hurdles. He is a career political participant in Uganda, where
he was once a serious presidential contender. He is the present
Minister for Information, Communications, and Technology (ICT)
in the Ugandan government.
Mrs. Grace Wakhungu:
She trained to be a teacher and taught briefly. She then went
abroad, studying social work in Germany and business management
in Britain. Upon her return to Kenya, she first worked as the
general manager of Kenya Reinsurance Corporation before moving
on later in the same capacity with the Consolidated Bank. When
she finally retired, she went into the road construction business.
Dr. Mary Okelo:
She is known as the founder and successful director of the widely
acclaimed educational network, the Makini Schools, which have
consistently achieved best performance in the results of the
national annual competitive examinations. She has thus distinguished
herself for her landmark contribution to education in Kenya.
She was also the first woman bank manager in Kenya, with Barclays
Bank, and was also a founding member and first chairperson of
the Kenya Women Finance Trust, which has achieved considerable
growth. She credits the experience of counting the Sunday collections
for her clergyman father as a formative influence on her life.
Mrs. Christine Hayanga:
For the wider public, the name Hayanga is rightly associated
with the prominence of an established Judge, Justice Andrew
Hayanga. The stature of his wife, Christine Hayanga, is not
merely based on his position in society, as she is an accomplished
lawyer in her own right. She was very methodical in her work
and activities at home, and this background commitment to logic
and detail has served her well in her chosen legal profession.
He studied political science at Makerere University in Uganda
before entering the insurance industry. He eventually became
the general manager of the Kenya National Assurance Corporation,
and moved on to assume the position of Commissioner of Insurance,
where he worked until his retirement.
Willis Mwendi Awori:
The youngest of all the Awori children is Willis Mwendi Awori.
He gleaned a wealth of valuable lessons from those who were
ahead of him in the family. Out of this rich experience, he
established himself with his own distinct reputation in administration
and human resource management. It is in this connection that
he has served for a considerable period of time as the Personnel
and Human Resources Director of the global International Center
for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).
Awori's multi-faceted contributions:
As has already been emphasized, Awori was a multi-faceted man.
His main activity was carried out in the church, but he was
also successful in the socio-political sphere, farming, business
and trade, and sports.
Farming and Agriculture:
An accomplished farmer, Awori produced a variety of staple foodstuffs
for his family and also sold cotton and sugar cane. He also
used his farm to teach and demonstrate improved farming to the
surrounding community. His efforts in this direction received
a tremendous boost in 1968, when the president of Kenya, Jomo
Kenyatta, came to tour his farm. This took place after Kenyatta
had presided over a public function in Busia town, during which,
in his brief address, Awori shocked everyone present by boldly
inviting Kenyatta to visit his farm to see improved agricultural
methods for himself.
Apart from bettering his livelihood and that of his large extended
family through farming and trade, he set the example as someone
who could pull the people in his community out of poverty. He
always planned in order to harvest excess foodstuffs which he
sold as he travelled to various markets in western Kenya. He
also cultivated cash crops such as cotton and sugar cane, and
he owned a truck and a bus, which he used for commercial purposes
in the farming and transport domains.
Sports and Games:
In the area of sports as a social activity for the wider community,
Awori and his wife Mariamu organized a regular festival of competitive
games and sports at Nambale, normally at Christmas time. Among
the many sports that were included was traditional wrestling.
Many people from all over western Kenya were attracted to these
events and traveled there to participate in them.
Awori was also an avid football fan and a sponsoring supporter
of the precursor of the current AFC Leopards Club, and he also
actively played tennis. Mariamu was a real star in sports, excelling
especially in basketball and athletics. It is even claimed that
the success of her children in sports can be traced to her achievements.
Projected in Posterity:
Every one of the Awori children can boast of having had athletic
prowess in the village, in school, and in university. A few
who have excelled on the national and international level would
include: the Hon. Aggrey Awori, who competed in the Olympic
Games, and who still holds the Ugandan 110 meter hurdles record;
a grand-daughter, Judy Wakhungu, a Kenyan national tennis star
on the international level; a grandson, Jeremy Awori, a swimming
sensation who represented Kenya in the World University Games;
and ambassador Dennis Awori, who won fame in rugby.
1. Much of the information contained in this
write-up is based on a number of sources. First and foremost,
the family biography on Rev. Canon Jeremiah Musungu Awori as
written by Mr. Edwin Maina proved to be immensely valuable.
Indeed much of the content and its related structure have been
generously borrowed in the current writing. Secondly, this family
document, together with a few others were graciously provided
by Dr. Mary Okelo, as the family contact. To her, more than
to any other individual, the current author owes the materials,
the inspiration, and the moral support for this project. As
appropriately acknowledged elsewhere, Mr. Joshua Awori had provided
very valuable support and information in earlier years. In the
later stages, another family member, Mr. Horace Awori, forwarded
much-needed information on family members. Thirdly, beyond these
family-related sources, a most crucial source of information
was Watson Omulokoli, "The Historical Development of the Anglican
Church Among Abaluyia, 1905-1955," Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy
(Ph.D.) thesis, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland,
2. The body was being conveyed from Busoga to Mumias by a Muluyia
guide named Otsialo who had been tasked by the Basoga leaders
with the responsibility of taking it out of their land and into
western Kenya. The current official date of birth of 1895 is
not necessarily factual.
Hannington was murdered on October 29, 1885, together with most
of his party. A few escaped immediately and returned to the
rear group at Mumias under Hannington's assistant, Rev. William
Jones, with the sad news. In Busoga, two crucial things took
place. First, the abandoned body of Bishop Hannington was picked
up by well-wishers and taken to a homestead. Secondly, a Luyia
guide with the group had escaped death and found refuge in the
community. When it was feared that misfortune would destroy
the Busoga area if the body of the murdered bishop were not
removed, the leadership decided to get rid of it and made arrangements
for the Luyia refugee, Otsialo, to carry the body with him to
Mumias. It was while he was en route from Busoga to Mumias (carrying
with him the body of Hannington), that Otsialo paused for the
night in the homestead in which Awori was born.
After it had been at Mumias for some time, some officials of
the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA) found out about
the body. They assisted in placing the bones in a box and in
having the box buried in a house in Mumias village. When Bishop
Alfred Tucker went through Mumias in the latter part of 1892,
he exhumed the body and carried it to Mengo, in Kampala, Uganda,
where it was re-interred. Here, he conducted the final funeral
and burial service in the compound of the new church, the Namirembe
Cathedral, on December 31, 1892. In one of those strange twists
of history, the presence of Kabaka Mwanga, the ruler who had
ordered Bishop Hannington's death in Busoga, was very prominent
on the occasion of this solemn and moving ceremony.
3. Awori Khatamonga's father, Nabanja, had migrated from his
original home to Samia. The family belonged to the Abafofoyo
clan in Marachi, but with the father's blessings, he moved to
Samia with a core group from his own household with a considerable
amount of property. He was cordially received by the Abakhulo
clan of Samia, to live among them in peace and tranquility.
Once accepted, this Abafofoyo core group settled among the Abakhulo
and carved out for themselves a substantial enclave which they
now called their own.
4. The Church Missionary Society (CMS) was started in London,
England, in 1799, by a small group of zealous evangelicals as
a private concern for the promotion of the Christian missionary
enterprise for the Anglican Church. In 1844, a German Lutheran,
Dr. Johann Ludwig Krapf, pioneered not only Anglican work, but
overall endeavors in East Africa when he opened a mission station
at Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast. From there, the CMS endeavors
spread, finding a fresh foothold at Kabaka Mutesa's headquarters
in Buganda, Uganda, in 1877. It is from Uganda in the west,
rather than from Kenya in the east, that CMS Anglican work was
initiated in western Kenya in 1905.
The pioneer CMS Anglican missionary to western Kenya, Rev. John
Jamieson Willis (J. J. Willis) opened the first CMS station
in the region in February of 1905, at Vihiga, among the Maragoli
sub-tribe of the Luyia tribe. In January of 1906, the CMS closed
the Vihiga Mission station and sold it to the Quaker Friends
Africa Industrial Mission (FAIM). Then, under the direction
of Willis' assistant, Mr. Hugh Osborn Savile, a new station
was opened up nearby in the already identified location of Maseno,
on the Luyia-Luo border, on January 4, 1906. When Willis returned
from a year-long furlough in October of 1906, he established
Maseno so well that the Maseno Boys Boarding School became the
driving force of all the CMS endeavors in western Kenya. In
time, satellite centers were established at Kisumu in 1909,
Butere in 1912, and Ng'iya in 1921.
5. W. E. Owen, "Musungu/Whiteman": A Story from Kavirondo,"
C. M. Outlook, October, 1925, 201. The sentiments of Owen here
accurately capture the stature of Rev. Canon Awori as he was
to distinguish himself throughout his life.
6. These are:
Mrs. Peres Owori
7. Edwin Maina, Biography of Rev. Canon Jeremiah Musungu
Awori; Family Typescript, Nairobi, July, 2010, 90.
Mr. Joshua Awori
Hon. Wycliffe Works Wasya (W. W. W.) Awori
Mrs. Rhoda Ouya
Hon. Moody Arthur Awori
Mr. Hannington Ochwada Awori
Mrs. Winfred Odera
Mrs. Margaret Openda
Prof. Nelson Awori
Eng. Ernest Awori
Hon. Aggrey Awori
Mrs. Grace Wakhungu
Dr. Mary Okelo
Mrs. Christine Hayanga
Mr. Henry Awori, and
Mr. Willis Mwendi Awori.
9. Ibid., 91.
10. Family Typescript, "Pioneer African Pastor leaves a lasting
11. The founder and director of the educational network of Makini
schools is Dr. Mary Okelo, Awori's thirteenth child. The Makini
schools have consistently achieved the best performance in the
results of the national annual competitive examinations.
12. The marriage of Awori and Mariamu brought together two people
whose temperaments complemented each other perfectly. Where
Awori was a strict disciplinarian who did not brook nonsense
easily, whether in the family, in the community, or in the wider
society, Mariamu was always diplomatic and given to approaching
issues from a conciliatory stance. This counter-balanced and
often disarmed Awori's inclination towards being forthright
and brusque in dealing with people and situations. Mariamu was
always firm, focused and fully in charge, but this was because
her grace, composure, and accommodating tendencies were not
a cloak for indecisiveness, but were instead built on certainty.
13. Edwin Maina, Biography of Rev. Canon Awori, 78.
15. From the roots of Awori's civic involvement, seeds of residual
influence that have had ongoing impact were planted. Here, three
pertinent high profile examples, strictly limited to his children,
will suffice to illustrate this point. First, in the struggle
for Kenya's political independence, the third child, and second
son, Hon. W. W. W. Awori, was in the forefront as one of the
most powerful agitators for independence. When token measures
were being tried by the colonial system, his efforts were appropriately
rewarded when at the age of twenty-seven, in 1952, he became
one of the pioneer African members of the Legislative Council
(LEGICO), the precursor of the later parliament. Secondly, from
1983 to 2007, the fifth child, and third son, Hon. Moody A.
Awori (affectionately referred to as "Uncle Moody"), was an
elected member of parliament, and served as an affable vice-president
of the country for a very long time. Thirdly, in the politics
of neighboring Uganda, the name of the eleventh child, and seventh
son, Hon. Aggrey Awori, is prominent and familiar. A career
political participant, he was a serious presidential contender
at one time. He is currently the Minister for Information, Communications,
and Technology (ICT) in the Uganda government.
16. Maina, Biography of Rev. Canon Awori, 61.
17. Awori's daughters now have the following family names: Owori,
Ouya, Odera, Openda, Wakhungu, Okelo, and Hayanga. In these
designations, the prominence of some of these "Aworis" together
with their associations and offspring is infinitely higher than
that of those with just the Awori name. Even without the Awori
association, these names have a highly valuable currency with
a treasured marketable identity of their own, which is distinct
and separate from the original Awori "label." Each one of them
is able to walk tall in society with the certainty of unmitigated
fulfillment, achievement, and contribution.
18. E-Mail message from Mr. Horace Awori on family members,
on January 24, 2011.
19. Family Typescript, "Pioneer African Pastor," 5.
This article, which was received in 2011, was
written and researched by Rev. Prof. Watson Omulokoli, Professor
of Church History, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies,
Kenyatta University, Kenya; Adjunct Professor, Akrofi-Christaller
Institute, Accra, Ghana; and Chancellor, Africa International
University, Nairobi, Kenya., and a recipient of the Project
Luke Scholarship for 2010-2011.