Born in 1904, Peter Onzee Otsuong’o was the first born son to Mr. Luke Otsuong’o and Mama Otsuondo at Emutsuru village in what is now South Wanga division, Mumias district of Western Province, Kenya. He was one of three surviving children in a family of nineteen, along with John Marende and Nechesa Obonyo.
Later on the family migrated from Emutsuru to Namusasi in Bungoma district, then to Indechero, finally to Namulungu (in the current Mumias district).
Due to the scarcity of schools and a harsh family background, Onzee only managed to get an elementary level of education.
He was circumcised in 1918 and worked as a herds-boy for Chief Kadima.
In 1919 he moved to Kisumu (in Nyanza province) where he worked for a brief time as a house boy. Later on he became a driver. As a qualified driver, he worked for the East African Railways Company from 1924 to 1926. He was promoted and became the personal driver to the North Kavirondo (Western Province) governor.
Onzee married his first wife (Mama Rosa Wanga) in 1932. He later married five other wives.
In 1938 he started a business and after the Second World War (that ended in 1945) he left his employment and settled down to do large scale farming and business.
As a Christian in the Anglican Church of Kenya, Onzee helped to establish a church on his compound (St. Paul’s church, Shibale). He helped build many churches, schools, and clinics within Namulungu archdeaconry and Mumias diocese. As a church elder, Onzee is remembered by the church for his humility, faithfulness, and generosity towards God’s work. His heart was always burdened for the unprivileged people in his community. He was a very successful Christian businessman and farmer. He was a vibrant example of a man who integrated his Christianity with business and farming.
Peter Onzee Otsuong’o was born a healthy and strong man but later on developed health problems. He developed prostate gland complications in 1990 and underwent an operation. He regained his normal health and went on with his business up to December 26, 2005 when he developed a stomach illness. He passed away on December 29, 2005 at 2:45 p.m. while undergoing treatment.
At the time of his death, Onzee left three widows, fifty children, over one hundred grandchildren and several great grandchildren.
Alfred S. Keyas
Peter Onzee Otsuong’o, research and interview by author, June 2005.
Lilian Onzee, daughter, interview with author, May 2007.
Peter Onzee Otsuong’o, Life history, January 2006.
This story, submitted in 2011, was researched and written by Rev. Keyas Alfred Sheunda, a DACB Project Luke fellow (2004-2005), currently serving as the chaplain at Booker Academy, Mumias Sugar Company, Mumias, Kenya. Email: [email protected], [email protected].