Elimu Asilia

Kenya's Indigenous Knowledge

The Abasuba also recognize several sons and daughters as their prominent leaders and heroes. These great individuals include: Mamra, Kiboye, Thomas Joseph Mboya (Tom Mboya), Selemia Mbeo, Osimgo Migure, Alphonce Okuku, Ochieng’ Mbeo, Peter Otieno Nyakiamo, Dr Omolo Opere, Otieno Kajwang, Felix Nyauchi, Milly Odhiambo, John Mbadi, late Senator Mbeo Onyango, Hon. Zadock Syongo, educationist Mrs. Roseline Onyuka, Hon. Josephine Sinyo, prolific writer, Philip Ochieng, emerging leaders such as Caroli Omondi, Sam Wakiaga and a Microsoft Executive Dr. Mark Matunga, Leo Odero Omolo. Other respected Suba leaders are former chiefs such as Paramount Chief Kasuku, Senior Chief Damianus Ajwang’, Simion Wasonga and Thomas Okang’a Asango and prominent teachers like Madam Salome Reuben (the first female head teacher), (Romanos Omuto, Stakus Seko, Peter Odoyo, Sivery Achola)Professor Okoth Okombo, Professor Henry Okello Ayot, Prof. Fredrick Onyango former Vice Chancellor of Maseno University, Prof. Edward Akong’o Oyugi, Prof. Walgio Ogweno Orwa of Bondo University (now Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University), Dr Obiero Ong’ang’a, the executive Director of OSENALA, Prof Erick Otieno of Maseno University, among others. Prominent herbalists like Ogweno Mnyama (of Gembe) and Otieno Maemba of Kaksingri, and renowned basket-makers like Riwo Onyango and Achayo Mdondo, among others. 

Biographical details of some of these leaders are provided outlining the reasons for their fame and influence across Subaland. Source: Workshop with Suba elders in April 2015

Thomas Joseph Odhiambo Mboya

Tom Mboya was born in 1930. He was named after an uncle who was a great warrior and a wiseman. He attended several schools including Kabaa in Ukambani, St Mary’s Yala and Mangu High, and the Sanitary Inspector’s School. He became a Sanitary Inspector in Nairobi, and was elected the Secretary of African Employers Union. He studied industrial management at Oxford University, attended the Convention of African Nationalists at Accra, Ghana where he was elected as the chairman.

Mboya was the founder of the Kenya Local Government Workers Union (KLGWU) in 1952, which merged in 1953 and became the Kenya Federation of Labour (KFL). He was the treasurer of the Kenya African Union (KANU). In 1957 he formed the Kenya Convention Party (KCP) which was the Colony’s Legislative Council (LEGCO). In 1962 he was the Minister for Labour under the Colonial government. When Kenya attained independence in 1963 he became the Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Mboya was assassinated on 5th July 1969 along Government Road (Moi Avenue). He is recognized as a national hero. A Mausoleum was built in his honour in Rusinga Island and Monument in Nairobi near the Kenya National Archives.

Source: Freedom and After by Tom Mboya

Photos donated by NMK Archives



Chain Ferry That Carried Tom Mboya’s Casket

The first semi-modern mode of water transport in the 1960s in Subaland was a Chain Ferry. The picture shows the Chain Ferry which was used to carry the casket of the Late Hon. Tom Mboya from Mbita to Rusinga Island in 1969. It had chains on both sides used for pulling the Ferry towards the side it was going. 

Source: the Curator at the Tom Mboya Mausoleum

Chain Ferry Across to Rusinga 

Photo acquirred from Family Album at the Tom Mboya Mauseleum

 Hearse disembarking from Chain Ferry

The hearse carrying the casket of TomMboya arriving at the lakeshore in Rusinga Island. The hearse crossed Lake Victoria from Mbita Point aboard the Chain Ferry. Thousands of people gathered to receive the body by the lakeside at Rusinga. The entire Island was in tears as their beloved son made his last journey to Rusinga Island for burial in July 1969. The picture shows the hearse disembarking from the Chain Ferry to the Island.

Source: Camerapix Nairobi 

Mama Margaret Akoth Ndiege

Margaret Akoth Ndiege was born in 1948 and was a younger sister to the late Marsellah Awuor Ndiege, mother to the late Tom Mboya. She is the second wife to Leonard Ndiege Owuor and step-mother to Tom Mboya. Leonard had five wives. His third wife is Mrs. Esther Ogweno Ndiege, Mrs. Masliana Odira Ndiege, fourth and Mrs. Philister Amulla Ndiege fifth.

 The family provided the re-built house of Tom Mboya’s mother for the exhibition for continuity to the Tom Mboya narrative as a National Leader at the Mausoleum.

Source: Validation meeting at the Tom Mboya Mausoleum in Rusinga, April 2016

Margaret Akoth Ndiege, a step-mother to the Late Tom Mboya

Photos by G. Busolo NMK 2016

CHIEF EZEKIEL KASUKU MATUNGA

Chief Ezekiel Kasuku Matunga was from Gwassi. He was engaged in the Colonial administration, accompanied police on safaris within Gwassi District. In 1908 he was appointed court interpreter to translate Dholuo into English at Kisii, then district headquarters. He started as a Police Askari’s boy carrying his blankets in 1909 and ended up as a chief after distinguishing himself as a proficient interpreter. He could speak Dholuo, Gusii, Kuria, Suba and Swahili. In 1913 he became chief government interpreter in South Nyanza District. 

Chief Kasuku was a wealthy man. By 1926 he had over 1,000 head of cattle, and was in control of South Kavirondo. Campbell relieved him of a large number of his cattle which were returned to those from whom he had obtained them. He had an advantage over other chiefs, appeared in public with the District and Provincial Commissioners whose speeches he translated and nothing could be done without his approval. King George the 5th awarded Kasuku a certificate for his loyalty to the government. All chiefs were under his influence and they used to pay him some retaining fee. He was a chief recruiter for a recruitment company. Kasuku was gazetted as chief of Gwassi in 1930. In 1938 he was promoted to Snr. Chief upto 1940 and in 1945 he was appointed Chairman, African Appeal Court (First African Appeal Court, where he worked until 1948 when he died.

Although Kasuku died a very rich man, he was weak administratively, lazy and a drunkard.

Source: Economic Change in South Nyanza, Kenya, 1880 to 1945 by T. Ayieko Onduru, 2009

Photos donated by Chief Kasuku Matunga’s family through Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango

History of Suba Council of Elders

The Suba Council of elders consists of 8-9 members headed by the leader known as Omugambi. In the 6 regions there are committees which deliberate on various community issues. The council is not allowed to engage in politics according to the culture. They do not vote when electing a new leader. The Council of elders maintains peace and observance of cultural practices, resolves community and clan conflicts, and where unresolved prepares the community for war. The wars that the Suba have fought include Wasaki, Wasweta, Wategi, Waganjo among others.

Chronology

The council of elders started in 1948, and was known as the Lowland Union. It became more vibrant in 2010. The first Omugambi was Vincent Oloo Ndiege (1996-2010). He managed to hold the Abasuba together as one cultural group. The general secretary was Sam Okello, who died by 2002. Omugambi Ndiege died in 2002. The 2nd Omugambi of the Abasuba was Apollo Okeyo Omuga from Rusinga. He was installed on 12th August 2011 at a ceceremony presided over by Hon. Peter Nyakiamo, although he was in the office since 2010. The Suba Council of elders was registered during Omugambi Apollo Okeyo’s tenure. He died on March 2012.

Achievements of the Suba Council of Elders

The Suba council of elders led a delegation to Retired President Moi to create a district in Nyanza, they attended the meeting dressed in Suba traditional regalia. They wanted Suba North (Mbita) and Suba South (Gwasi and Kaksingri) constituencies to be gazetted. This was done during Apollo Okeyo’s tenure. The 3rd Omugambi of the Abasuba is Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango (3rd from right). He was installed as Omugambi in 2012

Source: Workshop with Suba elders in April 2015

Suba Council of Elders 2013

The Suba elders attended the burial ceremony of the Late Hon. George Osingo Migure, the 1st MP of Mbita Constituency (now Suba North and South) 

The Elders are (Left to right):

Front Row: Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango, the Omugambi General of the Abasuba (in traditional attire). Elder Bishop Adede Ongola, the Chairman Rusinga Island Council of Elders (in traditional attire). Elder Silvester Ocholla Gaa, technical advisor (in White coat). Elder Samuel Oketch, Secretary General. Elder Councilor Joseph Abade, Rusinga Council of Elders (in black suit).

2nd Row: Elder Gabriel Oneko, Deputy Chairman, Rusinga Council of Elders. Elder Salmon Goa (behind Thomas Atsango), Organizing Secretary, Suba Council of Elders 

Source: Omugambi Bishop Samuel Adede

OMUGAMBI VINCENT OLOO ODIENGE

Mr. Vincent Oloo Odienge of Rusinga Island was the first Omugambi of the Abasuba from 1948 – 1994. He was the President of the Lowland Association or Suba (Lowland Union) from 1948, although it was not very active until 1994 when it collapsed. Samuel Okelo was the secretary General for the Association. The union was re-introduced in 1996. 

Source: Economic Change in South Nyanza, Kenya, 1880 to 1945 by T. Ayieko Onduru, 2009

Photos donated by Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango

OMUGAMBI APOLLO OKEYO OMUGA  

Mr. Apollo Okeyo Omuga of Rusinga was the 2nd Omugambi of the Abasuba until 2012. Before then, he was a retired school teacher, who rose through ranks to become the provincial Adult Education Officer before his retirement. Apollo was installed as the chairman of the Abasuba Council of Elders on 12th August 2011 at the Abasuba Community Peace Museum in Mfangano. His installation ceremony was presided over by Hon. Peter Nyakiamo, and attended by elders from Mfangano, Rusinga, Gwassi and Kaksingiri. During his tenure as the Omugambi, the Suba Council of Elders was registered officially. He is also best remembered for spearheading reforestation of several hills including Ligongo Hills in Rusinga Island through initiating plantation of million tree seedlings. He was also the founder of Rusinga and Suba cultural festival. 

Source: Economic Change in South Nyanza, Kenya, 1880 to 1945 by T. Ayieko Onduru, 2009 validated by Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango 

Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango


Thomas Okanga Atsango during his installation ceremony as the 3rd Omugambi of the Abasuba community in 2012. He succeeded Mzee Apollo Okeyo Omuga of Rusinga Island who was installed on 12th August 2011. He is also the current Chairman of the Suba Council of Elders in Homa Bay County. Omugambi Thomas Okanga being a famer, introduced Sun-flower farming in Gwasi location. 

Source: Workshop with some Suba Council of Elders in Mbita April 2015

Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango hails from Magunga Sub-Location. He was the Chief of Gwassi Location from 1978 to 1997 and rose through the ranks to become Senior Chief. He was instrumental in the development of Magunga to an Administrative Division in 1993. During his tenure, Gwassi was split into 5 locations with 15 sub-location. He initiated women groups like Mosa Women Group and linked them with DANIDA for development matters. Many beaches (Nyandiwa, Rasira, Kinda Kisegi) were created during his tenure. He introduced Sunflower farming in Gwassi Location. 

He was school teacher for 16 years. He was headmaster of Uriri and Awendo Secondary schools, and helped establish God Bura secondary and primary schools like Wachara and Miramba. He also served in the board of governors of St. Gabriel Girls High School and Gwassi Girls’ High School.

Source: Interview with Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango during validation session April 2016

Some Suba Council of Elders

Some Suba Council of Elders Posing for a photo With the statue of Tom Mboya on Moi Avenue, Near the Kenya National Archives in Nairobi. Tom Mboya hailed from the Abasuba community. He was assassinated outside a chemist on 5th July 1969, near the place where a statue was erected in his honour as a heroe.

  1. Left: Mr. Samwel Okech, Secretary General
  2. Middle: Omugambi Thomas Okanga Atsango, Chairman
  3. Right: Nic Ouma Ajuang, Assistant Secretary

Source: Inscription on the Photo

Photo donated by Omugambi Thomas Okanga Asango

Peter C.J. Otieno Nyakiamo

Peter Nyakiamo went to Mang’u High School in 1946 and joined Barclays Bank Kenya (formely Barclays Bank Dominion and Colonial) in March 1947 as a junior clerk and became the first African bank branch manager in Kenya in 1964. There were only three Africans clerical officers at the Bank then. The rest were Europeans, Asians and a few Arabs.

He went to England for managerial training in 1957, and also appointed as the assistant manager at Bungoma branch on his return. In 1959, he was transferred to Kisii branch where he served until 1962. He was transferred again to Queensway branch in Nairobi and promoted as the sub manager, the highest position in the bank as an African. He returned to England for further training in 1962, and on his return he was made a branch manager at Kenyatta Avenue in 1964 and promoted to the position of assistant Executive local director of the bank, the same year and moved to the head office at Moi Avenue.

Hon. Nyakiamo served as Mbita MP from 1983-1992 and served as Minister of State in the Office of the President, Minister of Health and Minister of Lands and Settlements. Thereafter he served in various public and private portfolios including Chairman of Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), executive Chairman Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB). He left politics and joined the National the Fund for Disabled of Kenya. Hon. Nyakiamo presided over the intallastion ceremony of Mzee Apollo Okeyo Omuga of Rusinga Island as the 2nd Abasuba Omugambi at the Abasuba Peace Museum on 12th August 2011. The ceremony was attended by thousands of Suba people including elders from Meru, Maasai, Luyia, Kikuyu, and Luo among others.

Source: Workshop with Suba elders in April 2015