Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Cathy Jenkins in western Kenya
"If change is coming it's because of economic factors"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 29 February, 2000, 17:58 GMT
Polygamist marries 100 times
Ancentus Akuku
Ancentus Akuku is known as Danger Akuku
By Cathy Jenkins in western Kenya

Ancentus Akuku, 81, has so many wives and children they need a new building to be able to worship together. The family has built a church for itself.

Josephine is Mr Akuku's youngest wife. She married him four years ago and the couple have a small son.

I'm called Danger because I defeated so many men

Ancentus Akuku
Among the Luo tribe of western Kenya, polygamy is a tradition to which the church has quietly turned a blind eye.

Even so, Mr Akuku is an exception. He has married more than 100 times, divorced more than 30 women and his most conservative estimate is that he has 160 children.

Josephine is Mr Akuku's youngest wife
He is known in the area as Danger Akuku.

"I'm called Danger because I defeated so many men," he says. "I was very handsome and so I could get many wives.

"When I passed, people would point at me and call me Danger."

Lucrative business

For a Luo man the richer he was the more wives he could have. And Mr Akuku is considered very rich indeed. He owns a fleet of taxis, driven by his sons. And that is not all.

In one street trading centre you will see a general store run by one of his sons and a tailor's run by a daughter. So prolific has Mr Akuku been in the business of marriage and reproduction his family has spread like a spider's web through the area. Mr Akuku can look at a place like this and call it his own.

Mr Akuku with some of his children
Mr Akuku says he has at least 160 children
Managing the family is a full-time affair. When Mr Akuku visits his son-in-law it is for a serious talk. Nicholas Otieno married Mr Akuku's daughter a decade ago, but he still has not paid the full dowry of 10 head of cattle. Mr Akuku wants the balance.

"My father-in-law asked for four, but I'll see what I'll get," says Mr Otieno.

"Because he has given me some time, two months. So within the two months I'll be able to get two, three."

Hellidah Otieno says her mother was happy with the polygamous arrangement. But she would not want the same herself.

"Things have changed. Those are olden days and nowadays things have changed," she says.

The Luo men who earn their living fishing on nearby Lake Victoria believe like their fathers and grandfathers that they have a right to as many wives as they want.

The difference is, these men cannot afford it. If change is coming, it is because of economic factors.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Africa Contents

Country profiles
See also:

07 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Turkmenistan to consider legal polygamy
25 Feb 99 |  Middle East
Gadaffi outrage over polygamy bill
21 Jul 99 |  Europe
Russia says no to polygamy
26 Oct 98 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Polygamy thrives in Utah
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories