Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Awori, Jeremiah Musungu

Anglican Communion

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. [1]

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 [2] 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, [3] 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.

His environment

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. [4] 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 him.

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, Yese Weraga.

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). [5]


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 area.

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. [6]

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,” [7] with a church made from temporary materials. In these same preparatory stages, “Owen decided to move an old school from Mungatsi to Nambale,” [8] 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.” [9] 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.” [10] 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. [11]

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. [12]

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.” [13] 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.” [14]

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.[15]

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.

His death

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.” [16] 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.[17]

Concluding reflection

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.”

Watson Omulokoli

Postscript Addendum:

Section A:

Family careers:

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.” [18] 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.

Joshua Awori:

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,” [19] 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.

Henry Awori:

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).

Section B:

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.

End Notes:

  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, 1981.

  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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. These are:

Mrs. Peres Owori

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.

  1. Edwin Maina, Biography of Rev. Canon Jeremiah Musungu Awori; Family Typescript, Nairobi, July, 2010, 90.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Ibid., 91.

  4. Family Typescript, “Pioneer African Pastor leaves a lasting legacy,” 2.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Edwin Maina, Biography of Rev. Canon Awori, 78.

  8. Ibid.

  9. 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.

  10. Maina, Biography of Rev. Canon Awori, 61.

  11. 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.

  12. E-Mail message from Mr. Horace Awori on family members, on January 24, 2011.

  13. 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.