Acentus Akuku, at the time of his death in his late 90s, was famed for being Kenya’s most prominent polygamist, having married 130 times, divorced more than 80 with nearly 200 children.
Growing up, he never failed the test of seduction, such that by the time he was 22 years old, he had married five women.
At 35, he married his 45th wife and his peers even named him ‘Danger’ because of the magic he had with women and his love for polygamy.
“I’m called Danger because I overshadowed many men when it came to women. I was very handsome. I dressed well and I knew how to charm women with sweet talk. No woman could decline my advances. I was a magnet,” Akuku once told The Standard.
Coming from the Luo tribe of western Kenya, polygamy has been a tradition but Akuku was an exception. Many attributed his large family to the fact he was very rich; he owned a fleet of taxis, and most of these cars were driven by his sons.
“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,” a BBC report in 2000 said.
Being a Luo man, the richer you are, the more wives you could have, according to the report. Thus, Akuku attracted a lot of women in his lifetime. He married his first wife in 1939 and became polygamist about 80 years ago when he was 22.
Reports said he outlived 12 of his wives, marrying the last one in 1992. With so many children in his family, Akuku had to establish two elementary schools specifically to educate his children, as well as, a church for his family to attend.
“Mzee sired 210 children–104 daughters and 106 sons, some of whom have since died,” family spokesman Tom Akuku said at the time of Akuku’s death.
So large was his family that when his wives and children “would finally be asked to stand up during his burial, more than half of the mourners would probably rise on their feet,” Standard Digital reported at the time.
Akuku, who was a global case study in the institution of marriage, was a disciplinarian in his home. He knew all his children by name and even had a schedule on when to spend on which house.
“I lived a lavish lifestyle. I was always ready to spend money on women.”
“I divorced women who misbehaved,” he once said.
Being a successful polygamist, his 200 sons and grandchildren are well educated and have good jobs. In 2010, it was reported that some worked in the civil service and the private sector.
Despite the large family that he had to take care of, Akuku never forgot to cater to his own health as he followed a strict diet.“I avoid too much fat and salt and it helped me to escape diseases,” he said. “I eat at the right time and I just don’t eat anything. I am served traditional food that is well prepared. I always eat a fruit after meals.”
Even though many Kenyan women had mothers and grandparents coming from polygamous homes, many believed, at the time of Akuku’s death, that his large family would not be possible to achieve in recent times as many women have moved away from their so-called traditional roles to hold more influential positions in society.
“Personally, I would never be married to a man who has another wife let alone a hundred more. Those women were clearly different. Try having an Akuku at this day and age, the women would kill one another,” said Linet Wambui, a Nairobi saleswoman.
Since his death, people have tried to compare him to other successful polygamists from the continent. Names like eSwatini’s King Mswati III, who has about 14 wives and 23 children, have come up. South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma is also noted to have five wives and 20 children.
But perhaps the one who comes close to Akuku is Abumbi II, the 11th king of the Bafut kingdom in north-west Cameroon.
The king has 100 wives and 500 children. The only exception is that he inherited 72 wives from his father, King Achirimbi II, who died in 1968. With 28 wives already, King Abumbi ended up with 100 queens and 500 children.
“I think Akuku Danger was a character of his own nature,” Jeff Kilumi, a businessman in Nairobi said in 2010. “He can only be compared to the prophet Solomon in the Bible.”
King Solomon of Biblical lore is recorded to have acquired a respectable 700 wives and 300 concubines, but as to the total number of children he fathered before the end of his days, that is not entirely clear.