Kisumu’s landmarks

The Walter Edwin Owen Memorial Park

The Walter Edwin Owen Memorial Park
The Walter Edwin Owen Memorial park is located at the Jomo Kenyatta sports ground Kisumu.

The park runs from the side gate of the sports ground located at the round-about at the intersection of Angawa avenue and Jomo Kenyatta highway to the side gate before the main gate.

Walter Edwin Owen was a British Anglican missionary and archdeacon in Kenya and Uganda. Born in Birmingham, England, the son of a British army warrant officer, the family soon settled in Belfast, and Owen was educated in Ulster. In 1930 he joined the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and went to their training institution in Islington, London. Ordained deacon in 1904, he sailed for Uganda, where he was ordained priest in 1905. In 1907 Owen married Isobel Barnes, who died in England in 1910. From 1904 to 1918 he worked in several parts of the British East Africa protectorate. In 1911 he married Lucy Olive Walton, a missionary colleague (d. 1953). In 1918 Owen was appointed Anglican archdeacon of Kavirondo (western Kenya), which was then part of the diocese of Uganda, with responsibility for organizing the new, rapidly expanding church among the Luo, Luyia, and Kalenjin peoples. Kenya having been declared a British colony in 1920, Owen founded the Kavirondo Taxpayers’ Welfare Association (1922) to teach Africans how to run their own affairs. Teaching how economic development actually takes place, he introduced ploughs, watermills, new crops, and bookkeeping as the secret of planned development.

Over the years he educated many Luo and Luyia civic and political leaders. From the 1920s onward, he was outspoken in opposition to colonial legislation discriminating against Africans, such as forced labor and the hut tax. He asserted the right of missionaries to take part in local politics; but after 1935 he came to be regarded as politically suspect and was no longer trusted by radical Africans in western Kenya.

Beginning in 1940, he worked on a revision of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (Luo version) until his death in Limuru, near Nairobi.

The Town Clock

The Town Clock
On the main street of Kisumu city, Oginga Odinga Road. A tall Town Clock stands in the middle of the road. It was unveiled on 19 August 1938 by the then Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Kenya HE Chief Marshall Sir Robert Brooke Pophan.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Henry Robert Moore Brooke-Popham, GCVO, KCB, CMG, DSO, AFC, (18 September 1878 – 20 October 1953) was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force. During World War I he served in the Royal Flying Corps as wing commander and senior staff officer. Remaining in the RAF after the War, Brooke-Popham was the first commandant of the RAF Staff College at Andover and later held high command in the Middle East. He was Governor of Kenya in the late 1930s. Most notably, Brooke-Popham was Commander-in-Chief of the British Far East Command only months before Singapore fell to Japanese troops.

The Town Clock was built in memory of Kassim Lakha who arrived in East Africa in 1871 and died in Kampala in 1910. It was erected by his sons Mohamed, Alibhai, Hassan and Rahimtulla Kassim, as the inscription on the Town Clock reads.

Kassim Lakha

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KassimLakha’s father Lakho, better known as Lakha, was a hawker and lost his house in a terrible famine. Reduced to extreme destitution, he wandered from village to village in search of livelihood. His son Kassim, who was born in 1853, had to toil and moil in Kutch. Nothing is known of his early life except that he worked in a grocery shop.

When KassimLakha was 18 years old, he left his birthplace and boarded a dhow at Porebandar, with few Ismailis, and landed in Zanzibar in 1871. He started his work in Sultan SayedBargash’s firm (1870-1888). Within a year, he was well established with the Sultan. He was promoted to an advance party responsible for providing logistics to the Sultan’s campment as he toured various parts of his lands, including Pemba and coastal strip of Mombasa and MalindiuptoLamu. He learnt how to cook for the retinue. He was tall, very strong, and well built and could lift a cooking pot weighing over 100 lbs. When he felt well settled, he called his mother and his wife, RatanbaiPradhan with whom he had married in 1870, just before he left India. They came both by dhow to Zanzibar by the end of 1871. In 1880, KassimLakha’s first child was born, a daughter Kursha. In 1884, a son, Mohammad, was born.

It is a known fact that most of the Indian Ismailis came to Africa with entrepreneurial skills in their blood, business in their brains and immense calibre to labour in their muscles, but with empty pockets. This illustration richly permeated the life of KassimLakha, who earned his bread and butter by the sweat of his brow.

After having worked with the Sultan’s firm for nearly 10 years, he moved to Lamu with his family, where he opened a small grocery shop. His family enlarged with the birth of Fatima, Alibhai, Hassan, Sakina, Rehmatullah, and Jina. He employed a Hindu teacher, Raval, from Zanzibar, to teach reading and writing to his children.

KassimLakha was a social worker and focused on helping the Ismailis who came from India. He was also appointed Mukhi of the LamuJamatkhana. In 1898, he and his family moved from Lamu to Mombasa, where he stayed for a few years to establish a small shop. In 1903, soon after the railway reached Kisumu, this city became their new home. In 1905, he was appointed by VarasAlidinaVisram (1815-1916) to be the inspector of all his shops in Uganda. His son Mohammad was also employed in the same firm as a manager of the Kisumu branch. The other three brothers, Rehmatullah, Hassan, and Alibhai were also employed in the same firm as junior accountants, where they learnt bookkeeping. KassimLakha’s job required a great deal of travelling, which was difficult because bicycles and bullock-carts were used in and around Kisumu, while dhows were used to navigate on the lake. Because of such excessive travelling and poor medical facilities, he died in Kampala in 1910 of malaria. It should be recorded that the plague broke out in Kisumu in 1905, resulting in heavy casualties in the town. Without discrimination of cast and creed, KassimLakha hurled in the field as a savior by supplying medical facilities at his own expenses. In appreciation of his invaluable services, the government built a clock tower in Kisumu to honor his memory. Sir Robert, the governor of Kenya, performed its opening ceremony on August 19, 1938.


Attractions in Kisumu


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Kisumu Museum, established in 1980, has a series of outdoor pavilions. Some of the pavilions contain live animals. For example, one pavilion contains numerous aquaria with a wide variety of fish from Lake Victoria, along with explanatory posters. Another pavilion contains terrarium containing mambas, spitting cobras, puff adders and other venomous Kenyan snakes. Additionally, out of doors, the museum has a few additional exhibits, including a snake pit and a crocodile container.
Other pavilions show weaponry, jewellery, farm tools and other artifacts made by the various peoples of the Nyanza Province. Additionally, there are exhibits of stuffed animals, birds and fish. One pavilion houses the prehistoric TARA rock art, which was removed for its own protection to the museum after it was defaced by graffiti in its original location.

The museum”s most important and largest exhibition is the UNESCO-sponsored Ber-gi-dala. This is a full-scale recreation of a traditional Luo homestead. Ber-gi-dala consists of the home, granaries and livestock corrals of an imaginary Luo man as well as the homes of each of his three wives, and his eldest son. Through signs and taped programs in both Luo and English, the exhibition also explains the origins of the Luo people, their migration to western Kenya, traditional healing plants, and the process of establishing a new home.

Kisumu Impala Sanctuary

Kisumu is location of the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary. Measuring just 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2), the sanctuary is one of Kenya”s smallest wildlife preserves. As its name suggests, it is home to a herd of impala. Some hippos, as well as many reptiles and birds are also present. Additionally, several caged baboons and leopards who faced difficulties of one sort or the other in the wild are held in cages there.

Kit-Mikayi

Kit Mikayi, a large rock with three rocks on top, and is located off Kisumu Bondo Road towards Bondo. It is a weeping rock; it is believed that Mikayi (which means, literally, “the first wife”) went up the hill to the stones when her husband took a second wife, and has been weeping ever since.

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The Kisumu Bird Sanctuary, 8km southeast of town, covers a large area of swampland and is an important breeding ground for herons, storks, cormorants and egrets. The best time to visit is in April or May. Transport is easy along the A1, but you will have a 3km walk from the turn-off. Visitor fees may be implemented in the near future.

Kisumu Yacht Club

Sitting on the lake”s edge, just past the Impala Sanctuary on the Dunga road, is this fine choice with a lovely patio and teak furnishings. The menu ranges from delicately stuffed fish to Indian selections such as chicken biryani, butter chicken and palakpaneer. A temporary membership is necessary to indulge.

hippo

Hippo Point is a 600-acre viewing area on Lake Victoria. Despite its name, it is better known as a viewing point for its unobstructed sunsets over the lake than for its occasional hippos. The point is near the village of Dunga, a few kilometres southwest of the town. The village also has a fishing port and a camping site.

Ndere-Island

Ndere Island National Park is a forested, beautiful housing of a variety of bird species, hippos, impala, and Crocodiles. Chartered passenger boats can be taken to get there—keep an eye out for hippos on your way!