Connect with Kenyan history

Western region Bantus

Western region Bantus are mostly found in the Western region of Kenya and speak a variety of languages and dialects. In modern times a large population has migrated to urban areas around the country.

The name Abaluyia
The Abaluyia community is made up of eighteen sub-groups. The sub-groups which constitute the community have a common background, common customs and speak closely related dialects of the same language. Each sub-group is divided into many clans and in the olden days, the sub-group formed the basic political unit. Although the Abaluyia had a common language and a common culture, they did not have a name embracing the whole community, that is, all the sub-groups.

In the 1920s these Bantu communities of western Kenya, realising that they had a common background and a unifying language, began to explore possibilities of the formation of a community association to cater for their common interests. Several associations were formed including the Bantu Kavirondo Tax-payers Association, In 1940 the Abaluyia Welfare Association was formed. The name Abaluyia quickly gained popularity particularly after the Luyia language was established and formulated an orthography for Luyia language. Within ten years, the name Kavirondo was discarded and the name Abaluyia stuck.

According to Abaluyia tradition, communities used to hold criminal tribunals at the junctions of footpaths. The area at the junction of footpaths was known as Uluyia or a meeting point and it is claimed that the name Abaluyia is derived from this. Another version states that in a polygamous home the courtyard outside the main father’s house is called Luyia. All the children are referred as children of one Luyia and hence the name Abaluyia.


Language: Kuria. Alternate names: Ekiguria, Igikuria, Kikuria, Kurya. Tende.

Kuria language dialects: Nyabasi, Bugumbe, Bukira, Bwirege, Kiroba, Simbiti, Sweta. The first 4 dialects are in Nyanza Province, while the last 3 dialects are in Tanzania.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, E, Kuria (E.10).

Origins of the community: The origin of the name ‘Kuria’ is a thorny point in the Abakuria history. The major Abakuria sub-tribes such as Abanyabasi, Abatimbaru, Abanyamongo, Abakira, Abairegi and Abagumbe have traditions to the effect that their ancestor was Mokuria (or Mukuria) who lived in “Misiri”. His descendants migrated from “Misiri” and after many years of wandering on the other side of Lake Victoria, they eventually reached and settled in the present Bukuria. According to this tradition, the Abakuria have been divided from time immemorial into two families: the Abasai of the elder wife of Mokuria and the Abachuma of the younger wife.

The Abakuria people appear to have sprung from too many directions to have a common historical origin, although a number of clans claim to have come from Misiri. The culture of the present Abakuria therefore is an amalgam of many different cultures which may originally have been opposed to each other in content and practice. Among the Abakuria today are found people who were originally from Kalenjin, Maasai, Bantu and Luo speaking communities.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Kuria number 260,401.

In 2006, the Kuria population was estimated to number 609,000 with 435,000 living in Tanzania and 174,000 in Kenya.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Kuria settled in Nyanza Province’s Kuria district.

The Kuria reside in the Tarime and Serengeti districts of the Mara region in Northern Tanzania, and the west and east districts of Nyanza Province in south-east Kenya.

The homeland of the Abakuria is between River Migori to the east and the estuary of River Mara to the west. On the eastern side the area stretches from Migori district in South Nyanza to Musoma district of Tanzania on the western side. To the south the land borders the Transmara district on the Kenyan side and the Nguruimi area in Tanzania. To the north is Lake Victoria with a small corridor occupied by the Luo and some Bantu peoples. The immediate neighbours of the Abakuria are the Abagusii, Maasai, Nguruimi, Zanaki, Ikoma, Luo and Suba of south Nyanza (Suba district).

Economic activities: The Kuria people are mainly agriculturalists and pastoralist, with the Kenyan Kurians leaning towards agriculture and the Tanzanian Kurians more towards pastoralism.

Cycles of life

Initiation Among the Kuria circumcision marks the identity of an individual within the community and defines a person in relation to extended family, lineage, descent group, and ethnic group.

On the eve of a girl’s circumcision day, her mother invites relatives to okorea obosamba- to sing praises for the girl and encourage her to be brave, not to shame the family by showing fear or crying. The girls and those accompanying them leave early in the morning.

Marriage: Total arrangements for a marriage may take months to complete from the moment a go-between, a friend of the male introduces the couple to each other away from the village. Tradition dictates that a man is to marry a woman in his ethnic group i.e. Kuria, but not from his village or clan. After the introduction, bride price negotiations begin between the families of the groom and the bride-to-be until an agreement is reached. Once bride price is paid the groom takes the bride to his village and they move into his hut. Later, prior to her having her first child, the man is to build a hut for her close to his hut.  Each wife is to have her own hut for herself and her children close to, but away from, the hut of the husband.


Language: Ekegusii. Alternate names: Gusii, Guzii, Kisii, Kosova, spoken by the Gusii. Kisii is the place and Gusii is the name of the people.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, E, Kuria (E.10).

Origins of the community: The ancestral Gusii population entered western Kenya from Uganda and later moved from the foothills of Mount Elgon towards their present lands. For two generations they lived at Goye Bay near Lake Victoria before moving to the Kano plains. They later moved to the present location due to the expansion of the Luo and Maasai tribes.

The Abagusii are Bantu speakers who migrated from the Congo together with other Bantus, who in the process of migration split up into different groups. The Kisii ended up in Nyanza Province near Lake Victoria while the other groups moved on eastwards across the Rift Valley to their current locations. They later settled in the areas now called Central and Rift Valley Provinces of Kenya.

Abagusii traditions acknowledge a close relationship with the following people: the Abakuria, Abalogoli, Ababukusu, Abasuba, Agikuyu, Ameru, Aembu, Ambeere and the Akamba. Their tradition has it that on their way from the country which they call ‘Misri’ they were accompanied by the Baganda and the Basoga besides the above mentioned peoples. The Baganda and the Basoga are said to have branched off from the rest of the immigrants around Mount Elgon taking a south-westerly direction. The Agikuyu, Ameru, Aembu, Ambeere and Akamba are said to have travelled eastwards towards the central highlands of Kenya, while the Ababukusu appear to have remained around Mount Elgon.

The remaining clusters – the Abagusii and the Abalogoli migrated southwards following the River Nzoia valley and arrived near Lake Victoria between 1490 and 1520. Following an easterly course along the lake shore, they settled at the head of Goye Bay in Yimbo location of Nyanza with their homeland spreading across present day Ulowa, Sare and Unyejra at the foot of Ramogi hill. Luo migrants found them settled in this general area.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census the Abagusii numbered 2.2 million.

The Gusii constitute the sixth largest ethnic group, comprising about 7% of the national population.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration the Kisii settled in Nyanza Province’s Kisii District, and south of Kavirondo Gulf.

Ekegusii is spoken in the Kisii district in western Kenya, whose headquarters is Kisii town (between the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria and the border with Tanzania).

They inhabit two counties – Kisii, formerly Kisii district and Nyamira – in Nyanza Province, western Kenya. Kisii district has a very high population density. It is one of the most densely populated areas in Kenya (after the two cities of Nairobi and Mombasa), and the most populated rural area.

The present Gusii homeland consists of an elevated plateau which rises to the south and east to altitudes of over 2000 metres above sea level and is cut into wide flat-bottomed valleys by the Kuja river and its tributaries. The plateau extends over 200sq. km. with a mean altitude of 2250m above sea level. Between the Abagusii and Lake Victoria are the Nilotic Luo. To the east and south-east they are bordered by the Kipsigis and Maasai respectively. To the south, though separated by a corridor of Luo, are the closely related Abakuria.

Housing: The traditional Gusii house (enyomba) was a round, windowless structure with a framework of thin branches, walls of dried mull, and a conical thatched roof. To date the Gusii continue to live in dispersed homesteads sited in the middle of farm holdings. Modern houses are rectangular, with thatched or corrugated-iron roofs, and cooking has been moved from the house to a separate kitchen structure.

Economic activities: The Kisii occupy the Kisii highlands in Western Kenya. Their land is very fertile and often wet throughout the year, thus a rich a rich agricultural area. The main cash crops grown in this region are tea, coffee and pyrethrum.

The proportion of cultivatable land in Kisiiland ranges between 70 and 80%. The area is a rolling hilly landscape on a deeply dissected peneplain (an area reduced almost to a plain by erosion) at elevations of 1,190m in the north-western corner of the territory and up to 2,130m in the central highlands. Rains fall throughout the year-the annual average is between 150 and 200centimetres.

Food crops grown by the Kisii people include maize, millet, sorghum, yams, pumpkins and green vegetables. Bananas are a popular fruit in Kisii.

The staple food food for the Gusii include ugali (made from sorghum or millet), matoke (cooked green bananas), green vegetables and fermented milk.

The pre-colonial staple crop was finger millet, which was grown together with sorghum, beans and sweet potatoes. Cultivated-plant food was complemented by meat and milk from livestock and by wild vegetables. By the 1920s, maize had overtaken finger millet as both a staple-food and a cash crop. Other contemporary crops include cassava, pigeon peas, green grams, onions, bananas, potatoes, and tomatoes. In the 1930s coffee was being grown on a limited basis. By the 1950s, Gusiiland had become established as a producer of coffee and tea. Farmers keep cattle (both the local zebu and European breeds), goats, sheep and chicken.

Trade: Pre-colonial Gusii exchange took place within the homesteads. Tools, weapons, crafts, livestock, and agricultural products were exchanged, with goats and cows used as the media of exchange. During the 19th century, there was regular barter trade between the Luo and the Gusii, conducted by women during periodic border markets. There was also trading of Gusii grains for Luo livestock at Gusii farms.

Cycles of life

Education: The responsibility of childcare and socialisation lies with the mothers, but they often delegate a great deal of care taking and training to other children in the homestead. Gusii infants are raised to understand how to behave according to the codes of shame and respect that apply to their relationships to persons in adjacent generations. Grandparents are supposed to inform grandchildren about proper behaviour and sexual matters.

Initiation: The Gusii practised mandatory female circumcision. This ritual has since been outlawed, however, it still persists but is not as frequent as it was in the past. Kisii boys continue to be initiated into adulthood and into Gusii as a group by circumcision.

Boys are circumcised at the age of 10 without anaesthesia during an annual ritual in the months of November and December followed by a period of seclusion.

After initiation a son cannot sleep in his mother’s house. Initiated girls must sleep in the house of a postmenopausal woman, usually the paternal grandmother.

Marriage: Marriage can only be established through the payment of bride-wealth, in the form of livestock and money to the bride’s family. This act establishes a socially sanctioned marriage. Residence is at the husband’s home. Divorce, though rare, entails the return of the bride-wealth. Upon the death of a husband, the widow chooses a leviratic (the custom of marriage by a man with his brother’s widow) husband among the deceased brothers.

In the first half of the 1950s the bride-wealth payment for peasant women was thirteen zebu cows, however, this number reduced to about three by 1985.

Death: Funerals take place at the deceased’s homestead. Women are buried beyond the yard, on the left side of the house, whereas men are buried beyond the cattle pen, on the right side of the house. After the burial the widow/widower is in a liminal (threshold – the strength at which a stimulus is just perceived) state and cannot move far from the homestead until after a period of a few weeks to two months, when ritual activities, including a sacrifice, are performed.

Their closest tribe among the Bantus is the Meru tribe, who have a similar language and culture.


Language: Suba.

Linguistically, the Suba are highly influenced by the neighbouring Luo, to the point of a language shift having taken place among large portions of the mainland Suba. As a result, their own language has been classified as endangered.

As a result of assimilation and intermarriage with the Luo, the dominant people in the region, the Suba culture has come under pressure and the language is now listed in UNESCO’s Red Book of Endangered Languages (2003).

The remaining speakers of the Suba language are mostly elderly residents on the island of Mfangano. However, efforts have been made to renew teaching of the language (as of 2004), with a goal of having half the Suba population speaking the language within ten years.

The name “Suba” means “the people who are always wandering”.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, E, Kuria (E.10).

Origins of the community: The Suba migrated from Uganda and settled on the two Lake Victoria islands of Rusinga and Mfangano, and are believed to be the last tribe to have settled in Kenya. Other subgroups migrated and settled on the shores of Lake Victoria in the early 18th century.

The Suba are descendants of one wave of the Bantu migration from Central Africa over the last 1500 to 1800 years. In the 16th century, it appears, small family groups related to the Ganda people on the western side of the lake migrated across Lake Victoria on boats to settle on Rusinga Island and other islands near what is now Kenya and Tanzania. Some gradually moved onto the mainland. They found settlers from earlier Bantu migrations just inland on the cooler highlands, known now as the Kisii (Gusii). About the same time, the Nilotic Luo were also moving along the shores of the lake from the north.

The Luo were fishermen and herders, who spread farther out from the lake for grazing land, setting up home settlements around the prominent hills in Western and Nyanza Provinces of modern Kenya. Moving gradually south, the Luo effectively established a settlement barrier separating the Suba from the earlier Bantu settlers and gradually absorbing some and fostering a cultural assimilation among many. The part of the Suba people who now speak Luo as a mother tongue are also called Luo Abasuba. (“Abasuba“ is the Suba language word for “the Suba people”).

The Suba migrated into their current locations beginning in the mid-1700s. They came from the region just west of Lake Victoria and settled on the islands and shores of the north-eastern side of the lake.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Basuba number 139,271.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Suba settled along Lake Victoria east shore; and in Mfangano and Rusinga islands. Housing

Economic activities: The main economic activity among the Suba is fishing in Lake Victoria; the catch is  consumed and transported for sale in major towns in Kenya. Further inland, the people practice agriculture; Suba district is known for its fruit production, especially oranges and bananas.

The traditional occupations of the Suba were fishing and boat-building. They were also renowned hippo hunters before killing of wild animals was outlawed. Today they are farmers and keep cattle mainly as a form of payment of bride price. Trade

Cycles of life

Initiation: In the Suba culture, male circumcision is held in high regard as only those who were circumcised were allowed to go to war or to enter sacred sites.


Luhya refers to both the people and their language. There are 16 or 17 (if the Suba are included) tribes and dialects that make up the Luhya. The word Luhya or Luyia in some of the dialects means “clan”, and Abaluhya thus means “people of the clan”. Other translations are “those of the same hearth.”

Anthropologists believe that the ancestors of the Luhya were part of the great Bantu expansion out of Western-Central Africa around 1000 BC.

Luhya beer drinking pot for celebrating the birth of twins called Eminwabir from Kitale Museum.

The most powerful centralized kingdom in what is now Kenya before the advent of European Christian missionaries and the British colonization of Kenya was founded by the Wanga, a Luhya tribe who claim Ancient Egyptian heritage.

The sixteen tribes are the Bukusu (Ava-Bukusu), Idakho (Av-Idakho), Isukha (Av-Isukha), Kabras (Ava-Kabras), Khayo (Ava-Khayo), Kisa (Aba-Kisa), Marachi (Ava-Marachi), Maragoli (Ava-Logoli), Marama (Aba-Marama), Nyala (Ava-Nyala), Nyole (Ava-Nyole), Samia (Ava-Samia), Tachoni (Ava-Tachoni), Tiriki (Ava-Tiriki), Tsotso (Ava-Tsotso), Wanga (Ava-Wanga).

The Bukusu and the Maragoli have the largest populations in the Luhya tribes. Though the principal traditional settlement area of the Luhya was in what is now the Western province of Kenya, many of them permanently settled in the Kitale and Kapsabet areas of the Rift Valley province.

The western province is the most densely populated part of Kenya.

The Kisii are considered to be closely related to the Luhya, and more specifically, to the Nyole and Maragoli, having split from them approximately 500 years ago. The Kisii are geographically separated from Luhya’s by the Kano plains, and the Nandi escarpment and their settlement is in south-western part of Kenya. The relationship between the Luhya and the Kisii is deduced from their connected oral history as well as linguistic similarities. The languages are still almost mutually intelligible even though the two groups have lived in locales hundreds of kilometres apart for several centuries.

Immigrants into present-day Luhyaland trace their ancestry with several Bantu groups, such as the Tutsi (who called their king ‘Mwami,’ just as the Maragoli do) and to other Nilotic peoples like the Kalenjin, Luo, and Maasai.

Migration to their present “Luhyaland” dates back to as early as the 1450s. However, some Luhya tribes have traditions of descent from “Egypt”, could mean the Nile Valley, around Sudan or Ethiopia.

By 1850, migration into Luhyaland was largely complete, and only minor internal movements occurred after that due to disease, droughts, domestic conflicts and the effects of British colonialism.


Language: Lubukusu. Alternate names: Bukusu. Lubukusu is a Luhya language from Bantu group.

Lubukusu is a member of the macro-language Ololuyia, spoken by the Bukusu people of western Kenya.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30), Luyia.

Origins of the community: The Bukusu myths of origin state that the first man, Mwambu (the discoverer or inventor), was made from mud by Wele Khakaba (God) at a place called Mumbo (which translates to ‘West’). God then created Mwambu a wife called Sela. Mwambu and his descendants moved out of Mumbo and settled on the foothills of Mount Elgon (known to them as Masaba), from where their descendants grew to form the current Bukusu population.

Other traditional stories relate to a place of origin called Misri, from Mizram (Hebrew for Egypt). Anthropologists believe that the Bukusu did not become a distinct grouping apart from the rest of the Luhya population until, at the very earliest, the late 18th century. They moved into Central Uganda as part of a much larger group of people, many forming the eastern extension of the great Bantu migration out of central Africa.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Bukusu number 1,432,810.

The Bukusu are one of the seventeen Kenyan sub-tribes of the Luhya Bantu people of East Africa. They call themselves BaBukusu, and are the largest tribe of the Luhya nation, making up about 17% of the Luhya population.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Bukusu settled in Western Province’s  Bungoma district, and in Mt Elgon.

The Bukusu mainly inhabit Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Kakamega and Lugari districts of Western Province of Kenya.

Housing: The majority of huts in Bukusu community are built with mud bricks and a grass roof.

Economic activities: The Bukusu were both agriculturalists and pastoralists. Today, they farm mainly maize for subsistence and sugar cane as a cash crop in the Bungoma area, as well as wheat in the Kitale area. They keep cattle and sheep: cattle mainly for milk, and sheep for meat and ceremonial functions (when a sheep has to be offered to elders for sacrifice). Chicken, a traditional delicacy, are nowadays reared on small to medium scales for commercial egg production.

Unlike other pastoral tribes, the Bukusu are not nomadic, they live in permanent villages.

Cycles of life Naming: Children were usually named after their grandparents or famous people, or after the weather. Males and female names were different: male names frequently began with ‘W’, while female names usually began with ‘N’. For example, a boy born during a famine would be named ‘Wanjala’, while a girl would be named ‘Nanjala’. Both names share the same root word, ‘njala’ from ‘eNjala’, the Bukusu word for hunger.

Initiation: Initiation ceremonies are spaced about two years apart. The young boys (usually about 15 years of age) to be circumcised first get the go ahead from their parents then invite relatives and friends to their initiation ceremony. The initiation was a public event witnessed by all. Going through the operation without showing any sign of pain was (and still is) thought to be an indicator of bravery. Once circumcised, an initiate became a member of an age-group.

There are eight age groups (Bakolongolo, Bakikwameti, Bakananachi, Bakinyikewi, Banyange, Bamaina, Bachuma, Basawa), forming a cyclical system, with each age-group lasting for 10 years apart from Bachuma which lasted for 14 years from 1872 – 1886.

Female circumcision (clitoridectomy) is not a Bukusu practice. However, some clans practised it especially those living around Mt Elgon, neighbouring the Kalenjin who practice a form of female circumcision.

Marriage: Traditionally, young men got married at about the age of 18-20, while girls got married at the age of 16. There were two types of first-time marriages: arranged marriages and enforced eloping. In the former, a young man from a well-to-do family solicited the help of his sisters to find him a girl to marry. Once the girl was identified, an emissary (representative) was sent to her parents to ask for her hand. The girl had no say whatsoever in the whole matter: bride price would be discussed and once it was paid, she would be sent off to live with her new husband.

The enforced eloping type of marriage occurred in a case whereby a young man from a poor family could not afford to pay the likely bride price. Traditional Bukusu society allowed such young men to ‘abduct’ the girls they intended to marry. Once the girl presented the opportunity to be ‘abducted’ the couple would then leave their home to live with a far-off relative for a while, until the young man acquired enough wealth to pay the original bride price, as well as a fine, to the girl’s parents. This practice has since died out, the arranged marriage is more common.

Children inherited the clan of their father, and were not allowed to marry spouses from either their own clan i.e. the patrilineal clan, or their mother’s clan.

Death: A sick person was looked after until he recuperated or died. When an elder died he was buried in a grave with a warrior’s weapons. The dead were buried facing east, the direction in which the sun rises. Ordinarily, burial pits ranged from 3-4 feet in depth. Sometimes wild animals like hyenas exhumed corpses from the graves and ate them. In the event of such an incident the people looked for the presumed skull of the desecrated body, once found they hung it in a leafy tree. When the family of the deceased migrated, they brewed beer for the ceremony of transferring the skull with them to the new home or settlement. An old woman was entrusted with the responsibility of conveying the skull to the new site.

If the deceased was a respected elder, a cattle drive (other Luhya call it esiremba) is staged around the grave, immediately after burial. The purpose of esiremba is to afford the cattle a chance to mourn their shepherd (owner) and to celebrate his memory as a cattle owner. Three days after burial, a hair shaving ritual known as lufu is conducted during which the deceased’s family members are shaved clean, especially those who were in close contact at the deceased’s death bed. The purpose of this ritual is to rid them of the ritual contamination caused by the blood and breathe of the deceased as life ebbed away from him.

If the deceased was an elder, lufu is followed by another rite known as khuswala kamuse “walk a public meeting”. Its purpose is to honour the deceased as a progenitor and ensure social cohesion, survival and continuity of the community. It is only staged for people who have left behind children to continue the life of the clan community in various capacities as warriors, leaders, wives, etc.


Language: Luidakho-Luisukha-Lutirichi. Alternate names: Idakho-Isukha-Tiriki.

Luidakho-Luisukha-Lutirichi is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia.

The triple name Idakho-Isukha-Tiriki indicates that the speech of these three Luhya communities is so close that they are considered one language with three dialects. Tha language is spoken by the Idakho, the Isukha and the Tiriki.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30), Luyia.

Origins of the community Idakho The migratory history of the Abitakho (Idakho) is largely intertwined with that of the rest of the Luhya sub-tribes who point to Egypt as their original land. According to Professor Gideon Were, a historian, Mwitakho was the ancestor of the Abetakho. He had six sons Musali, Kasam, Shikulu, Ngolori, Shiangala, and Masaba. The six are the direct founders of the six major clans of the Abetakho.

Isukha According to Professor Gideon Were, a historian, Mumwamu was the ancestor of the Abesukha (Isukha). Other views are that the name of the ancestor was Mundu or Muluyia. Mwisukha, the son of Mumwamu had nineteen sons from whom the Abesukha clans descended.

Mwisukha and Mwitakho (the ancestor of the Abetakho) were brothers and sons of Mumwamu or Muluyia. Mwisukha was the elder while Mwitakho was the younger one.

Tiriki The ancestor of the Abatitichi was called Khoba; he was the father of Alutsi who was in turn the father of Chisienya (Kisienya) and Wanga. Chisienya and his descendants became the forebears of the Abatirichi.

Apart from the Terik who originally came from Mt Elgon area, the rest of the clans that settled in Tiriki originally came from Egypt. They came in canoes on the River Nile as far as Jinja in Uganda where they stayed for sometime before resuming their journey eastwards until they reached Lake Victoria. When they reached Asembo they separated from the Luo and travelled as far as Gem then turned northwards until they reached Butere. Then they moved on to Luanda in Bunyore and thence to Ekhomo where they separated from the group led by Muwanga (the future Abashitsetse of Wanga). They then began to spread out in Maragoli as far as the Tiriki area.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the population count for the three communities is as follows: Idakho-170,720; Isukha-217,327; and the Tiriki-209,814.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Idakho, Isukha, and the Tiriki settled in Western Province’s Kakamega district.

The Idakho (also known as Abitakho, Abidakho), are a Luhya sub-tribe that reside primarily in the fertile Kakamega district, Western Kenya.

The Isukha, are a Luhya sub-tribe known as Abiisukha among the Luhya. They reside in Kakamega district, with the Idakho and the Tiriki as neighbours.

The Tiriki, are one of the sixteen tribes of the Luhya people. The word Tiriki is also used to refer to their geographical location in Vihiga district, Hamisi division in the Western Province of Kenya. Housing

Economic activities Isukha Isukha people are subsistence farmers. They grow tea, bananas, maize and beans.

Cycles of life Birth Isukha If one’s younger brother gets married earlier and sires a child, the older brother would not be allowed to see the baby because it was believed it would lead to the child’s death. The older brother would have to be given special herbs first before being allowed to see the child.

A new mother would not be allowed to mix with other people until a cleansing ceremony was conducted. From the time of birth, ash in the kitchen is collected for a period of seven days before it is removed and poured in a farthest place where people don’t go. Stepping on this ash was a taboo.

Naming Isukha A newborn child is named by its mother. To do this the new mother must test all the names from the her husband’s clan and her own before settling on the right name. A child can only be given the names of those people who died of natural causes and should be of a person who was of good character. Testing the name on the child involves giving a name to the child, if it cries the mother would continue trying out other names until the child stops crying – a sign that the name has been accepted.

Tiriki Naming among the Tiriki was done by the grandfather or an old man from the paternal side. Children were named after their dead relatives from either side two weeks after birth. The old man would bring into the child’s house a list of names both paternal and maternal departed people, hold a bowl filled with water and place it on top of the knife which stood firm on the floor and start calling out names starting with those from the paternal side and tell the person that if he or she would the child to be named after them, then he should make the bowl to balance on the top of the handle, if the bowl did not balance on the knife, it meant that that was not a name to be given.

He would continue calling other names from both sides until the bowl balanced on its own then that was the name to be given. The old man then would take the water, sprinkle it on the baby and bless it. The Tiriki did not name their children after people who died in a tragedy.

Initiation Isukha Traditionally, boys were circumcised between the age of 16-18. Boys who were ready to be initiated would be collected from all homesteads and put in one room where instructions were given to them by selected leaders. A day before the initiation, the boys were taken to the river very early in the morning where they were shaved and washed with ice cold water. Afterwards, they were taken back to the room for last instructions.

In the early morning on the day of initiation people would gather in song at the initiation grounds. When the door was opened the boys would step outside holding a stick called Tsinundu and rush towards the place of circumcision. After circumcision they were taken into seclusion, where they would stay for about three months before they were welcomed back home. On the day of their return there would be a big ceremony, called Shisialo, and in the evening every initiate would be taken to his new house built by the father.

Tiriki The Abatirichi adopted the practice of circumcision from the Terik in Asembo.

Boys were initiated beginning at the age of 12-18 years. Before initiation, the boys would go to the nearby bush to be taught by elderly people the rules of the clan and be given commandments. Initiates wore masks called Engorore made from sisal which ensured that they were not recognised by those who saw them. After initiation, they also stayed in the bush for some time before coming home. It is taboo to diverge information passed on to the initiates while at the forest. On the day they leave the bush a ceremony is organised where bulls are slaughtered and beer brewed for the clan to welcome their sons back home. After the welcome ceremony the initiates would go to their respective houses having been transformed from childhood into adulthood.

Marriage Isukha In Isukha, there were two types of marriage: forced marriage and an agreed upon marriage between the two families. In the former type of marriage, boys would forcefully kidnap a girl when she was collecting firewood or fetching water. Alternatively, the boy would inform his parents of his intention to marry. Though his parents would not object they would take him to the river, where to prove his readiness for marriage he would be required to pluck grass enough to thatch his house using his bare hands. The clan would organise and let the boys go to take by force a girl whom they valued and was very beautiful for the boy to marry.

In the second type of marriage, when a boy attained the age of marriage, he would inform his parents his intention to marry and give a suggestion of the girl he had identified. His parents and the girl’s parents would then investigate each other to find out if both families are fit to intermarry. The boy’s parents would go to the girl’s home and express their intention to have their son marry from that family. If they agree, a day was set for dowry payment which amounted to three cows and five goats. The evening of the day the dowry is paid the girl was accompanied by her peers was escorted to the boy’s homestead.

Tiriki Among the Tiriki when a boy reached marriage age, he was allowed to walk around the village in search of a girl to marry. When he spotted her, he was expected to go back home and inform his mother who would then pass the information to the boy’s father. He was not allowed to shake the girl’s hand. If the boy’s parents concurred with his choice, a lady friend of his mother would be sent to give the message to the girl’s parents who would rubbish it saying that the girl was still young and not ready for marriage. However, this was just a tactic used to buy them time to investigate the boy’s family, a process which could take as along as a year. This was done with an intention of ascertaining if the people from the boy’s side die young, grow old and how they look like when they grow old; is there any hereditary disease in the family; how they die and what causes their death.

The boy’s family would be carrying out their own investigation of the girl’s family. In the meantime the messenger would constantly visit the girl’s family. At the end of the investigation the families either agreed or disagreed about the proposed marriage. If they agreed to it dowry negotiations would commence but the girl would not be allowed to meet the boy until dowry payment was cleared. They paid two cattle, three goats and twelve hoes natively known as Tsimbako. After the dowry was agreed upon a day would be set for a team of four or five people (sometimes including the girl’s father, elder brother and other relatives) to visit the boy’s home very early in the morning before the sun rose to inspect the animals set to be paid as dowry. The animals would be brought out of the shed and those proposed to be paid as dowry would be shown by touching them with a stick. They would then proceed to count the hoes. The team would then report their findings, and on the next day dowry would be paid.

The young man would then wait for almost a month before setting out on a journey with his friends to the girl’s home who coincidentally was waiting for him with her friends. On arrival the girl would not welcome the boy but instead rubbish his proposal. The two would play hide and seek until late into the night without coming to an agreement and then the girl would climb on the firewood rack to hide. Her friends would light a fire so that the smoke could force her to come down and the boy and his two friends would leave at night.

After a week, the girl’s parents would send for the messenger who was sent to them earlier to give the marriage proposal and request for an official visit of the boy where a date was set and at this time a warm welcoming ceremony was organised. The girl would go round to all her relatives collecting beans and bananas to be cooked during the ceremony and at the same time invite them starting from the furthest relative. The boy did the same. After the ceremony the boy together with his relatives and friends left. The girl and her friends would then follow them later in the evening of the same day singing and dancing in the boy’s compound and then go back to their homes at midnight. The next morning, the girl was shaved and smeared with sim sim , then released to go back to the boy’s home accompanied by her friends. The bride and groom would then be left alone in the house while the couple’s aunts would eavesdrop. If they noticed that the girl was a virgin, the girl’s aunt would get hold of the grass at the door of the grass-thatched house and pretend to be pulling it off and that signified that an extra goat was to be paid.

Both sides would engage in mocking songs way past midnight, at which time food (bananas) would be served. The elders were served with ugali and chicken. The girl’s team did not eat, instead they took the food smashed it then threw it away, then run away. The girls from the boy’s side were expected to run after and catch up with them and ensure they brought the girl back home where the two will join and settle as husband and wife. The married couple were not allowed to cook in their own house until their cooking stones were set up in a small ceremony which was done after the birth of two or even five children.

Death Isukha Upon death, relatives of the deceased would mourn and light a fire outside his house. The body would be moved outside and laid in a tent built using banana fibres. The Isukha did not stay with the dead in the house. However, on the burial day which was two days after death, the body would be taken into the house shortly then moved out for the burial, through a temporary door made at the back of the house.

A father was buried on the right hand side of his house’s door, a mother on the left hand side and a child at the centre. People who committed suicide or died from tragedies or were epileptic were buried to the extreme left hand side of the house. They were buried at night and their graves were not filled to the brim.

On the third day, family members shave their hair to signify a new beginning. When a man passes on, his wife is not allowed to interact or eat with other people. She will only eat with another widow who will be taking care of her. Seven days must pass before she can cook or eat with her children.

Tiriki When a person died of natural causes they were mourned and the corpse was left in the house for two days before burial. During the mourning period no fire was lit in the homestead until the burial, mourners would eat food prepared in the neighbourhood or donated by well-wishers.

The dead were buried naked with no cover, facing Mount Elgon. If the deceased was rich, animals would be drawn from every corner of Tiriki land to dance and fight on the grave. If someone committed suicide, they were not mourned, nobody was named after them and they were buried at night. If a mature person died without giving birth, the corpse was taken out of the house using a temporary door made at the back of the house. A long thorn from a special thorny tree would be pushed into his or her buttocks as the clansmen disown him or her. No child would be named after them.


Language: Lukabaras. Alternate names: Kabras.

Lukabaras is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Kabras or Kabarasi.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: The ancestors of the Abalasi (the Kabras) originally came from Judea in Bethlehem and settled in Egypt where the rest of the Abaluyia people also lived. After leaving Egypt they went to Karamoja in Sudan and then to Eyembe near Mbale where they found the Sebeyi and the Bagishu. They then moved on to Tororo, Mumias, Isongo in Wanga (Mukulu), Emusire and then to the Bunyala Forest. All these places were uninhabited at the time.

After leaving Emusire they went to Mwihune near Ingotse and thence to Burundu in South Kabras then also uninhabited. They moved on to Maundukunyu in South Kabras, Sambuli’s, Chibole’s, and then to Mushiruku, all in South Kabras. They then went to Bachekulo and Chiriboti in North Kabras, uninhabited at the time, and gradually dispersed and spread out.

Munyala, the ancestor of the Abanyala, was the same man who was the father of Muhongo, the founder of the Abalasi sub-tribe. However, the Abalasi came to their current location ahead of the Abanyala.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Kabras number 252,761.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Kabras settled in Western Province’s Lugari and Kakamega districts.

The Kabras, or Kabarasi, reside in Malava, in the Kabras division of Kakamega district neighboured by the Isukha, Bunyala, Tsotso and the Tachoni.

They are located between the Kakamega and Webuye townships.

Economic activities: The Kabras keep livestock, and grow maize and sugar cane.

The economy of Kabras is largely subsistence. Villagers produce maize and beans largely for domestic consumption and any surplus is traded at the market centres of Lubao.


Language: Lulogooli. Alternate names: Llogole, Llugule, Logooli, Luragoli, Maragoli, Maragooli, Ragoli, Uluragooli.

Lulogooli is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Maragoli, or Logoli (Ava-logooli). They are the second largest tribe of the 6 million-strong Luhya nation in Kenya, after the Bukusu.

The people are called ‘Avalogoli’. ‘Mulogoli’ is a person from Maragoli.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30), Luyia.

Origins of the community: The story of the Maragoli people begins with the man called Mulogoli. According to their oral history Mulogoli was born of the union between Andimi and Mwanzu. Andimi had three wives: Mwanzu the mother of Mulogoli; Amugovolie who had no children and Ndiegu the mother of Mwenje or Anyole (these are the Wanyore, who inhabit Vihiga district together with the Maragoli). Mulogoli had four male children-Musaali, Kizungu, Kilima and M’mavi. They make the four major clans.

Maragoli oral history records a migration from the north. In Maragoli, the word ‘Abaluhya’ or ‘Avaluhya’  means “the people of the North”, “the people of the higher place”, “the people from the North”, or simply “Northerners”. They lived in the place today called Lokitaung, a modern town in north-western Kenya, before moving further south, probably along the Turkwel river, whose primary source is the Suam River. The Luhya ancestors kept moving along the Suam River into what is now Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda, and settled near the source of that river, Mt. Elgon.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Maragoli number 618,340.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Maragoli settled in Western Province’s Vihiga district.

The Maragoli are a sub-tribe of the Luhya who live in an area of about 200 square kilometres just north of the equator on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria. Housing

Economic activities: The Maragoli grow a variety of subsistent crops such as bananas, maize, beans, cassava; cash crops such as tea, coffee, French beans; and keep livestock such as cattle and goats.

Farming in Maragoli is rain-fed. The annual agricultural cycle is characterised by two rainy seasons: the short rains (September to November) and the long rains (March to June), with a high average rainfall of 1800mm to 2000mm. Crops grown by the Maragoli include: grains (Sorghum, millet, lentils), Vegetables (cabbage, beans, pumpkins, squash and indigenous green collards such as Sukuma wiki, Mito, Mutere, cow peas, tsisaga), fruits (bananas, guavas, paw paws, avocado, tomatoes, berries), root crops (onions, ground nuts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, carrots, arrow roots), Woodlots, sugar cane and cash crops such as tea, coffee and French beans. They also keep livestock including chicken, cross-bred cows, indigenous cows, goats, turkeys, ducks/geese and sheep. Crop harvesting is carried out by hand or with the use of machetes.

The Maragoli traditional foods are pumpkin leaves “Nderema” “kitiezo” bean leaves, cow peas, cassava, millet and sorghum flour.

Cycles of life Birth: From birth the newborn baby is kept indoors for seven days before being brought outside.

Naming: Names are given according to the place, time or situation at birth, or names are passed on from the ancestors. For example, the name Kisia depicts a situation at birth in this case that the child was born after the birth of twins.

Initiation: In traditional Maragoli society only boys were circumcised. The initiates were kept in one place, called Itumbi, in the forest until they are healed. After their stay in the Itumbi the initiates were dressed in animal skins. Nowadays the initiation takes place in hospitals.

Marriage: Married men were not allowed to greet their mothers-in-law before paying dowry as a sign of respect to the bride’s parents. A son-in-law was not allowed to face his mother-in-law directly as respect for moral good. Marriage between relatives is a taboo, which if broken, children born of the union would die. Incest in Luhya community leads to expulsion.

Death: If somebody is killed he/she is buried at night and only old men are allowed to go to the grave.

In Maragoli, after the death of both parents, the house in which they lived is destroyed. The area where the house lay is then used as a vegetable plot.


Language: Lutachoni. Alternate names: Tachoni, Tatsoni.

Lutachoni is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Tachoni.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: The Tachoni, originally thought to have originated from Egypt (along other Kalenjin sub-nations), were once the dominant tribe in the area around Bungoma, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu. According to a study entitled “Tachon Peoples -History, Culture and Economy” by Demmahom Olovodes Lihraw, the Tachon were the original Kitoki who took in roaming bands of what came to be known to the Bukusu as herds boys.

It is not clear when the Tachoni lost the Kalenjin tongue, although Professor Gideon Were, a historian, estimates the period to be somewhere around the 16th century. Olutachoni, the language of the Tachoni is a cross-breed between Olubukusu and Olukabras.

Legend has it that the Bukusu intermarried in large numbers with the Kalenjin when they lived at Ebwayi (present day Amukura) and Mwalie in Malakasi. They called the offspring from this inter-tribal unions Yumbu, believed to be the ancestors of Abatachoni which, in Kalenjin language means ‘those who went or left’. With time, the Kalenjin language of the Yumbu disappeared and was replaced by a Bukusu dialect which later evolved into Olutachoni.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Tachoni number 118,363. By 1918, the Tachon were estimated at 26,561. Within 15 years, they had increased to 31,701 people on an area of 450mi².

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Tachoni settled in Western Province’s Lugari and Bungoma districts.

The Abatachoni are spread across at least four districts -Kakamega North, Lugari, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Bungoma East in areas around Chetambe Hills, Ndivisi and parts of Kimilili, Webuye and Bokoli locations.

They live mainly in Webuye, Chetambe Hills, Ndivisi-of the newly created Bungoma East district-and Lugari District in the former larger Kakamega District. Housing

Economic activities: The Tachoni practice farming as well as rearing of cattle.

Cycles of life Naming: Naming among the Tachoni was based on three main issues: (1) the name handed down from generation to generation i.e. named after an ancestor, (2) the name revealed to the parents relatives or themselves during pregnancy or after delivery, (3) in the case where a newborn cried incessantly keeping people awake at night, elders or diviners would be consulted and they would reveal the name of the dead relative whose spirit wanted to enter the body of the newborn – the child would therefore be named after this relative.

In cases where there were complications at birth, for example, a child born with the umbilical cord around the neck would be named Kutondo, Wetondo or Litondo if its a boy, and Netondo if female. Children born legs out first were named Amakulu (male) and Lukela (female).

When a woman gave birth to twins, the first one out was named Mulongo while the last one out was named Mukhwana. If they were triplets, the third one was named Khamala.

Initiation: The Tachoni practice circumcision in August of every even year (2006, 2008, 2010, etc.). During circumcision, Tachoni boys face towards the East as they are ‘cut’ (circumcised). Circumcised boys are not allowed to wear pants, instead they tie clothing called lesos or khanga around the waist as they hunt all day in the forest. They paint their faces with white clay from the river, they do not wash their body for one month after circumcision and are exempt from menial work. They hunt in the village’s forest for birds and wild chickens (called likhanga) which are prepared for them -they must eat protein-rich food to replace blood lost during circumcision.

After circumcision, the boys are taken to ‘Esitabicha’ where they are taught before they pass out as adult members of the community. They are told secrets of the community  which they are not supposed to reveal to anyone. They are also taught Tachoni beliefs, philosophy, values and practices.

Death: In traditional Tachoni society, an elder was buried not in a coffin but wrapped in a shroud of fresh cow skin. The head of the cow was placed above the main entrance of the elder’s house. Women and children were not allowed to attend the interment rituals.

The Tachoni usually buried their dead immediately. The burial was followed by three days of feasting to welcome the spirit of the deceased to move freely among the community.


Nyala is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Abanyala. The Banyala are in two groups -Banyala ba Ndombi (Kakamega) and Banyala ba Magero (Busia).

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30), Luyia.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Banyala number 273,198. Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Banyala settled in Western Kenya, Lake Victoria area, and  Kakamega.

The Nyala occupy Busia district and the north-western part of Kakamega district.

Cycles of life

Marriage: The Banyala do not intermarry with someone from the same clan.


Language: Olukhayo. Alternate names: Khayo, Xaayo.

Olukhayo is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Khayo. The Khayo are a tribe of the Luhya people of Kenya. They refer to themselves as Bakhayo, their Luhya dialect as Lukhayo, and their land Bukhayo.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: Like other Luhya sub-tribes, the Abakhayo settled in their present land via Uganda. After the Abaguri and their three companion clans had first come in, the Abakhabi and the Abakhone clans were the next settlers to arrive. Originally, they lived near the lake at Ibanda in Busoga. After leaving Ibanda, they travelled until they reached Khaenderesi in South Iteso in Busia District. They next moved to Sirabale in Bukhayo.

The Bakhayo clans include: Abachabe, Abaguri, Abakhadonyi, Abakholo, Abamenya, Abamwaka, Abatura, Abachimo, Abahamani, Abakhauka, Abakhoone, Abamudiru, Abarunga, Abadiru, Abakhabi, Abakhibe, Abamakunda, Abamukwe and Abatsohe.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Bakhayo number 124,555. Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Bakhayo settled in Western Province’s Busia district.

The Khayo reside in Busia district, by the Kenya-Uganda border. Their fellow Luhya neighbours are the Samia, Marachi and Bukusu. To the north, they are bordered by the Teso, a non-Luhya Nilotic people of Kenya.


Language: Olumarachi. Alternate names: Marachi.

Olumarachi is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Marachi. They are one of the sixteen tribes of the Luhya people of Kenya. Their territory in Busia district is nestled between the Samia, Khayo and Wanga.

In their native Luhya language, the people of Marachi are known as Abamarachi, their land Bumarachi or Ebumarachi and their dialect Lumarachi. Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: The ruling clan of Abafofoyo came from Bunyoro in Uganda, where they previously lived. After leaving Bunyoro, they went to Buganda and then crossed the Nile into Busoga. From Busoga they went to Bunyala near Port Victoria on the shores of Lake Victoria. They crossed River Nzoia and settled in North Ugenya. They then dispersed and spread out in north Ugenya and beyond as far as the Kholera River and northwards into their current aboard. Here they spread out as far as the Nzoia River and, on the Bukhayo side, the Sibo (Sio) River.

The Marachi clans consist of the Abafofoyo who are the dominant clan, the Ababere,  Abang’aya, Abatelia, Abarano, Abapwate, Abakwera, Abasumia, Abasimalwa, Abamutu, Abonwe, Abamalele, Abamutsama, Abarunga, Abakolwe, Ababule, Abamulembo and the Abatula. All these clans descended from different ancestors with the Abafofoyo being the majority clan, and were also the first people to come into Marachi.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Marachi number 155,341.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Marachi settled in Western Province’s Busia district.

Economic activities: In traditional Marachi society, they grew cassava, sim sim, ground nuts, millet, sorghum and traditional vegetables. They kept cattle, goats, sheep and chicken. Today the Marachi grow sugar cane, bananas, maize, beans, coffee and rice.

Cycles of life Birth: Among the Abamarachi, expectant women were not allowed to eat chicken or eggs. They believed that if she ate eggs or chicken, it would make the child stupid. After birth, mother and child were to stay in seclusion for a number of days: the mother would take four days to expose her newborn in case it was a boy and three days in the case of a girl child.

Children born from incest were not allowed to be part of the family. Such children would be taken far away and abandoned there.

Naming: During the naming ceremony, villagers would gather round the house where the mother and child lived, while the child’s grandfather or uncle would throw a cock on the roof then call out all the names on a list prepared from the clan. When the cock crows four times while still on the roof when a certain name is called out, the child is given that name but if the cock flies down from the roof without crowing four times, it will be thrown back and the process started all over again until it does so and the right name is found.

Initiation: The Abamarachi did not initially practice circumcision until early 1960s when they adopted it from Bamasaaba (Bukusu) people. Instead Marachi people used to remove six teeth on their lower jaw as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. The removal of teeth was done among boys and girls.

When they embraced circumcision it was carried out on boys alone. Boys were circumcised at the age of fifteen years. The whole exercise resembles the one followed by Bamasaaba where boys would first tell their mothers about their intention to be initiated. The mother would later inform the father but to confirm the information, the father would call the boy to tease him. The father throws down the boy’s jingles and ask him to take them if indeed he is ready for the cut. If he took them, the father would then be convinced that the boy is ready and therefore let him go ahead and inform the relatives to come and witness the initiation ceremony.

On the eve of the initiation day, the boy would dance the whole night as relatives abuse and tease him in readiness for the cut. He would be taken to the river very early in the morning and be smeared with soil which will stick to his body tightly. After initiation the boy would stay in a house constructed away from the homestead. In most cases boys were circumcised in a group and kept together under one roof where young boys would take food to them. Once they healed completely a big ceremony was organised to receive them home officially. They would move into their new houses and start a new life as adults. Unlike the Bamasaaba, the Marachi people did not embrace the idea of having age groups.

Marriage: To the Marachi, the right stage for a boy to marry was between 25 to 30 years while girls were 18 years and above. Before girls were allowed to get married, they would be tattooed on their faces and given bangles to wear on their hands and legs.

When a boy reached the age of marriage he would look out for a girl whom he would like to marry. Once he spotted her they would talk then agree to each inform their respective parents. The boy’s father will start to investigate the girl’s family the same way the girl’s father will do before any talk between them happens. If the boy’s father was satisfied that the girl’s family was  good family, he would proceed by visiting the girl’s home to ask for her hand in marriage. However, if he was not satisfied he would stop his son’s pursuit of the girl and advice him to look for another girl. Since they have investigated both sides, the girl’s father if satisfied with the boy’s family will confirm and the day for paying dowry is set. If the girl’s parents are not in support of the marriage they would object it and then everything would end there. Dowry was not fixed, one could pay the much they could afford. Dowry was paid in form of cows and one or two goats for the girl’s uncles.

Once dowry was paid the boy and the girl would start meeting secretly before they were officially married. The girl’s family would keep her and demand for additional gifts such as a goat or lesos. If the girls parents don’t hold her, a day would be set for the girl to leave their home and get married officially. In the evening, she would be escorted by her sisters up to the boy’s house, and the girls would stay there for a while before returning. The girl did not carry anything from her home on her departure, her clothes were brought to her by her grandmother.

The new couple will not begin cooking their own food until after two to three years when a ceremony would be organised for them to start cooking their own food, by which time they would have harvested their own crops. Another ceremony was organised for the couple to start eating from their own house. This ceremony was a great feast during which a cow was slaughtered and beer served. All the while the boy’s father cannot eat that food until another ceremony was organised to welcome him officially to the boy’s house. In this ceremony, only a goat was slaughtered and traditional food such as ugali made from millet flour was served as was traditional beer.

Among the Abamarachi traditional society polygamy was allowed to ensure one had many children, as they were valued as a measure of wealth.

If a deceased man left behind several wives, the first wife was to decide who would inherit her and her co-wives because the man she chooses was to take over all the widows.

Elders and leadership: Like the Wanga, Abamarachi called their ruler Nabongo. On the burial day of a dead Nabongo a cow was speared to death. The man who held the cow by the rope, usually the elder son of the deceased monarch became the new Nabongo. He was usually nominated by the dying Nabongo subject to formal concurrence of the council of elders. If the Nabongo died without nominating anyone, the task of appointing a new ruler was handled by a council of elders.

The Nabongo had a copper bracelet, a leopard skin, a cloak “Ikitusi”, head-dress decorated with cowrie shells and whydah bird feathers (whydah bird -any of the several weaver birds of the genus Euplectes), a spear, stool, and copper coils in the ears. These items of traditional authority were inherited from one Nabongo to the next. The clan of Abafofoyo produced the ruler who then appointed his ruling council of elders from all the clans of Marachi as his assistants.

Death: News of a death among the Abamarachi was relayed through drum beating and burial arrangements conducted within 24 hours after death. They feared death and saw it as punishment for sins committed by their forefathers against Were Khakaba (God). The dead were buried in cow skins. Men were buried at the right hand side of the main door to the house while a woman was buried on the left hand side. If a child died before any other person in the family, the body of the minor was buried at the back of the house. A person who suffered from epilepsy was buried outside the compound and their body moved from the house legs first as elders disown him or her.

A childless person was buried by elders who were past child-siring age. The body of the deceased was removed from the house by the elders through a temporary door made at the back. The Abamarachi believed that if such a person was buried by men still siring children, they would be affected and never make a woman pregnant. People who died as a result of tragedies such as being hit by lightening or accidents would be buried at night, the same day they died. If the body of a deceased person was not found, a banana stem was buried in its place.

On the fourth day after burial for men and third day for women, all the relatives who had come for the funeral would go to the river to bathe to signify a new beginning but before this shaving is done at the grave-site. After bathing at the river they would go back home mourn one last time for a few hours, hold a meeting to discuss the death e.g. the deceased’s debts and the person to inherit the widow, then food would be served.


Language: Olumarama. Alternate names: Marama.

Olumarama is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Marama, also known as Abamarama.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: The origin of the Abamarama: their ancestry originated in Ebubukachi. It is now upwards of two thousand years since the Abamarama settled in their present country of Marama. Bukachi was the leader of the migration from Ebubukachi; although, he trekked up the River Lukose until he arrived at Hebubi. He had six sons here -Mwichira, Omukhobero, Wangusi, Lisa, Walyuba and Wesamba.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Marama number 152,427.

Geographical location of the community: After the last migration, the Marama settled in Western Province’s Butere-Mumias district.

The Marama are a Luhya tribe occupying Marama location in Kakamega district of Western Province of Kenya.

Economic activities: The major cash crop in the area is sugar cane.


Language: Olunyole. Alternate names: Lunyole, Lunyore, Nyole, Nyoole, Nyore, Olunyore.

Olunyole is a member of the macro-laguage Oluluyia, spoken by the Nyole, also known as Nyore. They are a tribe of the Luhya nation from Bunyore in Western Kenya. Native speakers of the Nyole (Nyore) dialect of Luhya language refer to themselves as Abanyole. In Swahili they are known as Wanyore.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30), Luyia.

Origins of the community: The ancestors of the Banyore came from Egypt or the Sudan. They travelled until they reached Bunyuli in Uganda and thence to Ebusabakhwa (Sakwa Bondo). They continued their march until they reached Akala Gem. They then settled here for sometime but later migrated again to Ebuhando in Bunyore and settled there, from whence they gradually spread out.

After their arrival at Bunyore, some of the Abanyole people emigrated to Tiriki: the Ababayi, the Abang’ali, the Abamutsa, and the Abalukhoba. Others went to Kano, Gem and Seme. One group of the Abamuli clan went to Kadimo but another section (Umuri) is in Gem. Other Abanyole people are in Kisumu Location.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Banyore number 310,894.

Geographical location of the community: After the last migration, the Banyore settled in Western Province’s Kakamega district, and above the Kavirondo Gulf.

The Nyore are also found in Tororo, Uganda.

Cycles of life Birth: If a woman gave birth to a boy child, a spear was put outside the house on the right hand side, if the child was a girl, a pot supporter, Engaraa (made from banana leaves) was placed on the left hand side of the house. In this way visitors to the home would know the child’s sex before entering the house.

With the birth of a boy, a pelt of an animal (pelt – the hair, fur or wool that covers an animal’s skin, that has been stripped off the animal), symbolizing a great hunter, is placed outside the hut where the birth took place. A girl’s birth is noted by the placement of a ring of reeds outside the door of the hut. Since women are the carriers of heavy loads of food, water and cooking materials, the ring of reeds, which is placed on the head to enhance balance of these heavy objects, is symbolic of her future domestic tasks.

The mother’s “coming out” from seclusion was celebrated. On the day of “coming out” from seclusion, the father was to be there to receive congratulations from the other villagers, give a big beer party, slaughter a goat, and have a wise man chase away any evil spirits.

Naming: A child was named one week after birth. This was in order to give the traditional preacher who was tasked to grace the occasion time to pray for the ceremony. A sheep was slaughtered on this occasion and roasted for those in attendance. Children were named after revered deceased old people from the clan.

On the material day, people gathered around the Lusiola tree (this tree is highly regarded by the Banyore people as sacred, prayers as well as other ceremonies were held here) for prayers. Then they would move near the house with the mother holding the baby in her hands. Water is poured on the house and as it comes down it falls on the baby’s head and chest as elders loudly call the name chosen for the gathering to hear and officially offer the child to the gods. People who die from tragedies and suicide are not remembered by the clan through renaming.

Among the Abanyore, children are named after the dead e.g. if someone dies in the village and there are expectant mothers, a child born after the death of that man will bear his name. A child may also be named after a world figure of significance at the time of the birth (e.g. Hitler, Winston Churchill) or from historical events of importance (e.g. a time of drought, locust infestation). They also give “praise” names to a boy child based on a particular strength of the child or something that the child has learned. Only those who stand out and do things to win approval and admiration earn “praise” names, philosophical names, or nicknames. Women, on the other hand, give girls names according to the evils that befall them, e.g. a woman who loses a child may be called “the biter” or “child consumer”.

Initiation: The Banyore did not practice circumcision until they interacted with the Idakho and Maragoli. Boys were circumcised at the age of 15. Before initiation the boys gathered in a homestead of one of the elders to be taught and practice clan rules and ethics. After initiation, they would stay in that homestead, where their parents would bring them food until they heal. Traditionally, since they did not have modern health facilities, they were treated using leaves from a traditional tree called Engai, which was good at treating the initiates.

Upon recovery, a ceremony would be prepared where the community’s elders would gather to offer advice to the initiates and thereafter every family leaves for home with its initiate. Back home the initiate’s father would slaughter a goat to welcome his son and late in the evening, the boy goes to his house, Etitsi built by his father. From this day, the boy is restricted from entering his parents bedroom and also staying up too late in his father’s house.

Marriage: The marriageable age for a Banyore girl was 25 to 30 years while for the boy it was 35 to 40 years. When a boy attained the age of marriage, he would tell his mother that he wants to build his own house. This meant a physical house and starting life with a companion i.e. a wife. He would even start cutting trees for the construction. The boy’s mother would inform his father who would then ask the boy if he really means what he told his mother. If the boy insists then the father would assist him in preparing the logs and facilitate construction of his house. Boys did not choose wives for themselves, instead they were chosen for by their parents.

The boy’s parents would scrutinize the girl they had identified as their daughter-in-law-to-be. They would investigate the girl’s clan and family especially in regard to the following areas: manners and enviable virtues, hereditary diseases especially epilepsy and sickle cell anaemia, involvement in witchcraft and night runners. If the clan and family passed this scrutiny, the boy’s parents would visit the girl’s parents for a discussion on the intention of marriage between their children. If the girl’s parents accept the request for marriage, the next visit after the discussion, the boy’s father would accompany him to the girl’s home in a meeting that is strictly between three people: the boy’s father, his son and the daughter-in-law-to-be. The girl’s parents kept off the meeting and only awaited the outcome. In most cases, the girl would not turn down the offer for marriage because that would mean that she has disobeyed her parents.

Wedding plans would then commence with the payment of dowry – which had to be paid before the couple got married officially. Dowry was two birds called chisindu but with time dowry was paid in form of goats, then they turned to cattle, which is the practice today. The boy would also provide two rings and a bangle. Once dowry was paid, the girl was escorted to the boy’s home by women and then a huge ceremony held by the father in law where people ate, drunk and danced the whole day and night.

The newly-wed couple were not allowed cook their own food, they are to eat at their parents house though they are restricted from entering other the rooms in the house other than the sitting room. Permission to start cooking their own food came from the boy’s mother. When permission was granted, the girl’s mother would bring millet, two traditional pots – one for preparing ugali called Yafuka and another for cooking vegetables called Yamunyu, a cooking stick Mwhikho and another pot for fetching water. The parents would not eat from their children’s house until a special ceremony was held to welcome them officially.

Death: Initially dead people were left in the wild to be eaten by wild animals, however, with time the Banyore started burying their dead on the same day they died. Today, the dead are buried two days after death. The deceased were not buried in coffins. When a person committed suicide, he or she was buried away from home. A person who had not given birth and the mad were buried in the homestead but not direct to the house.

On the second day after burial, family members shave their heads at the graveside to signify new beginning. After at least three weeks, the widow will wear her deceased husband’s shirt or coat, carrying his photograph, move around the whole clan collecting presents. This signified that the widow was now free to eat with other people, and that she was ready to be inherited as she has finished mourning her husband. A man was not allowed to inherit a woman before she showed herself out because the Abanyore people say the deceased will appear to them every time and if they gave birth to a child he or she would die mysteriously.


Language: Olushisa. Alternate names: Kisa.

Olushisa is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Kisa, also known as Abakisa or Abashisa. They are one of the sixteen tribes of the Luhya nation of Kenya.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: The history of the Abashisa is tied to that of other Luhya sub-nations and closely related to the Marama. Their earliest known ancestor is Kasam, originally a Maasai who came from a place called Ebuchimi in Maasai country in search of grazing land. He came along with his wife’s brother, Ebaba, who became the ancestor of the Abashirotsa. When they left Maasai country they passed through Kapsabet and Tiriki, then moved on to Ebushimuli in Idakho, where Kasam’s sons, Shimuli and Aboololo were born. Some of his descendants separated and came to Kisa while others remained in Idakho.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Kisa number 137,268.

Geographical location of the community: After the last migration, the Kisa settled in Western Province’s Butere-Mumias district.

The Abakisa occupy Kisa location in Khwisero division of Butere-Mumias district. They are sandwiched between the Marama of Butere, the Idakho of Kakamega and the Nyore of Vihiga district.


Language: Olutsotso. Alternate names: Tsotso. Olutsotso is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Tsotso or Abatsotso. They are a tribe of the Luhya group in Kenya.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: The Abatsotso of Lurambi in Kakamega district are part of the larger Luhya community who originated from Misri (Egypt). It is believed that Mutsotso is the quintessential ancestor of the Abatsotso.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Batsotso number 121,518.

Geographical location of the community: After the last migration, the Batsotso settled in Western Province’s Kakamega district.

The Tsotso occupy three locations – Bukura, north Butsotso and south Butsotso – in Lurambi division of Kakamega district.

Economic activities: The region experiences a tropical kind of climate with two rainy seasons in March to August and October to December. Crops grown include: maize, millet, sorghum, cassava, potatoes, yams, beans, nuts, sunflowers, peas and a variety of fruits. Coffee and sugar cane are also grown albeit on small scale.


Language: Oluwanga. Alternate names: Wanga, Hanga, Luhanga, Oluhanga, Kawanga. Oluwanga is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia, spoken by the Wanga.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: The origins of the Wanga kingdom, as its entire territory, belong to the migration and settlement period of the ancestors of Abashitsetse. The standard version of the migrations and final settlement of Abashitsetse at Imanga begins near Kaimosi in Tiriki. Abashitsetse travelled and lived together with the Abalubakha clan of the Abatirichi. They may have wandered together with other Luhya people from Egypt or West Africa into Buganda and Busoga; the Lake Victoria area in Kenya and as far as Naivasha and Kapsabet, before settling near Kaimosi in the middle of the 16th century. Muwanga later died and the generations of his sons Wamoyi and Muwanga II lived near Kaimosi for twenty years. Muwanga II succeeded his father as the Nabongo.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Wanga number 309,407.

Geographical location of the community: After their last migration, the Wanga settled in Western Province’s Butere-Mumias district.


Language: Olusamia is a member of the macro-language Oluluyia.Spoken by the Samia. They occupy Busia district in Kenya.

Language family: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Bantoid, Southern, Narrow Bantu, Central, J, Masaba-Luyia (J.30).

Origins of the community: The earliest ancestors of the Abasamia came from Egypt on foot. When they left Egypt they went to Mukono in Uganda. They then sailed by boat as far as Sikulu (Sigulu) Island, then travelled to Lwambwa in Bunyala. They then spread out all over the district. When they migrated from Egypt, they spoke Olusamia (the Oluluyia dialect of Samia). Their food was fish, meat, cow peas, fruits, sorghum, millet and eleusine (annual and perennial grasses of savannah and upland grasses) meal.

Population: According to the 2009 Kenya population and households census results the Samia number 124,952.

Geographical location of the community: After the last migration, the Samia settled in the East, Busia District, Kenya border; and the Lake Victoria south border. Housing

Economic activities: They are agriculturalists growing maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, sorghum, bananas, millet, cotton, ginger, sunflower, coffee and some vanilla. They are also fishermen on Lake Victoria.

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