Akoko is the wife of Chief Owuor Kembo. She is the most prominent character. She is portrayed as the source of the river and the source of great, successful future generations. She can also be described as:
Kind and generous
The people who come to barter their animals given rest and fully fed before being dispatched to their homes. Nyabera, in lamenting her mother’s misfortunes, describes her as one who had never looked at any one with an evil eye, never denied anyone food, had been quite generous in sacrifice and libation
Akoko is responsible and supportive as a mother; she understands Nyabera’s suffering after the loss of her brother Obura. She snaps out of her personal grief and pays attention to her.
She understands that people are different and accommodates Alando Nyar Uyoma’s weakness. “She leaned over backwards to accommodate her weakness some of which she found irritating like her tendency to idleness.”(pg 70)
She lets Owuor Sino join priesthood even though she has hopes that one day he would sit on the chief’s stool, she consents him to take the new path. She tells him, “I will not stand in your way ……..Do whatever the spirit bids you.”
She stands by Nyabera during her trying moments and ensures that her grandchild Awiti is well taken care of.
Akoko believes in hard work and learns that the way to make a husband happy is by the work of her hands.
She tells Nyabera, ‘My daughter, should it ever be said that you are as lazy as your mother, I will turn in my grave.”(pg 66)
Through hard work, she amasses a lot of wealth. Her herd of cattle is so big it takes almost two hours for it to drink its fill. (ref.p.66)
Akoko’s granaries are full to bursting so that during the lean season, “…..people coming to barter their cattle in exchange for food were rested and fed.”(pg 66)
When Akoko returns to Yimbo with all her property she has salvaged…….”It was a mighty herd which moved in three cohorts.” (pg 93-94)
She advices Nyabera that laziness opens the door for evil to rule one’s mind and body. She says, “It is a shame for able bodied person to feed off the sweat of others.” (pg 93)
When Akoko moves to Aluor mission with daughter and grandchildren, she continues to work hard because, “She had never begged for food and she was not about to begin……” (pg 117)
Determined and resilient
She amazes everybody when she utters her first words ‘dwara mara’ (want mine). “Akoko grew fairly slow but she made up for her lack of height….a determination that would be the hallmark of her entire life…she would be a very determined person someday. (pg 14-15)
Her resilience and determination enables her to overcome many obstacles in life. For example, the death of her husband, the death of her sons and her daughter’s suffering.
Despite her positive personality, Akoko at times behaves in a rash manner. She reacts with temper when her mother-in-law accuses her of witchcraft and does not wait for her husband to return. She goes home to her people in Yimbo. Chief Kembo comments, I know all your virtues, but your weakest point is your temper and impatience…..you must exercise self-control.”(pg 44-55)
Decisive/ Independent minded
When her mother-in-law accuses her of witchcraft, Akoko takes her and Otieno head-on in front of the village. She makes a hasty decision to go back to her people in Yimbo.
Soon after Otieno Kembo takes over the chief’s stool with glee and arrogance, Akoko decides that, “….the time had come for battle lines to be clearly drawn.” (pg 73) She treks to Kisuma to seek justice from the sirikal.
As a child, she faces her brothers head-on when they try to take something she is playing with.
During the marriage negotiations, she stares straight into the eyes of the husband-to-be and Otieno wonders at her courage. (pg 24)
When Otieno Kembo gets wind of some people nosing around with his affairs and confronts Akoko, she responds courageously , “Go away you fool…..Are you the village chief or the village fool?” (pg 90)
It is out of courage that she dares to undertake the journey to Kisuma. She is not scared of the hazards of the long walk that include wild animals and the dangerous Lang’o people.
She grows up as an intelligent woman and is full of wisdom. “She believed that a young woman had to be intelligent…..”(pg 65)
She offers wise counsel to her daughter who is mourning the loss of her sons through an outbreak of measles. She tells her, “cry my child, for one does not bury a child without burying a part of one’s soul with it,…Yesterday is not today and today is not tomorrow for each day rises fresh from the hands of Were….”(pg 75)
Her wisdom is further illustrated during her visit to Kisuma to appeal against her brother-in-law. While the twins are dissatisfied with the verdict of the D.O, Akoko tells them,” Do not decide the wisdom of a man by the brevity of his quiet or the multitude of his words……..A fool knows everything.”(pg 88)
She acknowledges that she cannot physically confront Otieno Kembo who has reduced her herd of cattle and decides to wait for the D.O’s intervention. She says, “There was no advantage in knocking one’s head against a tree trunk ……if you want to cut a tree, take time to sharpen an axe.”(pg 89)
She encourages Nyabera to seek a new life at the mission in Aluor with these words,”Bitterness is poison to the spirit…..if you are walking along and you find your path leading nowhere, then it is wise to try other path.”(pg 103)
She plays the voice of reason when a conflict arises between Nyabera and Awiti over her fiancé whose background she has not investigated. Akoko tells Nyabera, “Accept it Maria, the world is changing.” (pg 143)
She supports Peter Owuor’s decision to become a priest despite the fact that he is the chief in waiting. She says, “Things have changed and people are turning to different things.”(pg 126)
She is the main character in the story. Without her there would be no story. She is symbolically referred to as the source of the river. She is also a symbol of change, wisdom, determination, hard work and focused people.
Theme development – she contributes to development of themes such as: Tradition, change, education, religion and death.
Character development – She helps develop other characters e.g. through her Owuor Kembo is brought out as loving, committed, wise. Through her, Otieno Kembo is portrayed as abusive, cowardly, selfish, greedy and chauvinist.
Style development – Through her several aspects of style such as proverbs, similes, vivid description, songs, myths and legends are brought out.