1. Name the places in Kenya where tools attributed to Homoerectus have been found.
  2. Name the Late Stone Age tools that have been found in Kenya.
  3. Identify the types of evidence by which Kenya is proved to have been inhabited by humankind as far back as two million years ago or earlier.
  • Tools attributed to Homohabilis were found in Koobi Fora near Lake Turkana.
  • Hand axes, cleavers and other tools attributed to Homoerectus have been found at Olorgesailie near lake Magadi, Mtongwe near Mombasa, around lakes Victoria and Turkana and at Kariandusi.
  • Tools associated with the late Stone age such as the Crescent, arrowheads, pottery, bone harpoons and ornamental egg shells have been found near lake Naivasha, lake Nakuru, Lukenya hills and Athi river.
  • Microlith tools, axe heads, polished stones, stone bowels, platters and grinding stones have been discovered all over Kenya.
  • Iron was used as far back as 270AD. Evidence of iron use have been found at Urewe near Ng‟iya in Siaya and in Kwale at the coast.
  • Animals such as cattle, sheep and goats were domesticated in Kenya during the late stone age.

Describe the lifestyle of early inhabitants of Kenya.

  • Their language resembled that of the Khoisan.
  • They originally were nomadic peoples.
  • They gathered fruits and dug up tubers and roots to supplement their diet.
  • They used stone tools, bows and arrows.
  • They fished in rivers and lakes, using harpoons.
  • They lived in rock shelters and caves.
  • They made and used pottery.
  • They buried or cremated their dead.
  • Because of their nomadic lifestyle, they lived in seasonal camps and had no permanent homes.
  • Being hunter-gatherers, they were very few, with very few belongings i.e. a variety of stone tools, bows and arrows.
  • By the 7th century BC, they had learnt and practised fishing. They started living in semi permanent homes of rock shelters and caves.
  • After acquiring the skill of food production, they settled down in more permanent homes and owned more materials such as grinding stones, pestles and stone bowels, pots and calabashes.
  • They kept humpless long-horned cattle and grew food-crops like sorghum and millet.
  • They passed on many customs such as circumcision, age-set organization, the taboo against eating fish, etc. There was a lot of cultural exchange between them and the new comers.

These early inhabitants of Kenya may have been subdued by other stronger peoples, particularly the Bantu and the Nilotes through intermarriage, assimilation and war.

Identify the communities that descended from early inhabitants of Kenya and much of east Africa.

  • The Irak and Burungi of Tanzania,
  • The Boni, Dahalo and Sanye of the River Tana basin.
  • The Nguye and Okuro in western Kenya.

Some remnants of these early inhabitants speak the languages of the groups near or with whom they live. E.g.  some speak Kikuyu while others speak Olmaa: the language of the Maasai. A majority of them speak Kalenjin dialects. The Kalenjin refer to them as Okiek while the Maasai call them Dorobo. In western Kenya, the Nguye and Okuro were totally assimilated by the Luo and Bantu groups.

Identify three main linguistic groups into which African Kenyan communities are divided.

  • The Bantu,
  • The Nilotes,
  • The Cushites.

Of these groups, Bantu speakers form the largest group, followed by the Nilotes. The Cushites form the smallest.


Describe two groups of the Kenyan Cushites.

  • The Southern Cushites, who moved southwards and settled in the highlands and plains of Kenya and northern Tanzania. They were later assimilated by the groups that found them in the region, such as the Irak, Boni, Burungi, Nilotes and Bantu. In Kenya, the only remaining Southern Cushites are the Dahalo, who live in the lower course of River Tana.
  • The Eastern Cushites, who may have first settled in the Horn of Africa i.e. somewhere to the north of Kenya: either in Ethiopia or Somalia after migrating from Arabia in 1000BC.

They then migrated into Somalia and reached northern Kenya in 1000AD.

Identify Kenyan communities that make up the Eastern Cushites.

  • The Borana,
  • The Somali,
  • The Oromo,
  • Gabra, Ø The Rendile, Ø The Burji.

The Eastern Cushites migrated into Kenya much later than the Southern Cushites.

 Explain/trace the migration and settlement of the Oromo and Borana into Kenya.


  • They arrived in Kenya in the 16th century and settled on the eastern shores of lake Turkana.

They tried to move eastwards but were stopped by the Somali. They therefore moved south-eastwards and reached the coast in around 1600AD.

  • In the area around Shungwaya, they confronted and forced the Mijikenda and Pokomo to leave. They occupied Malindi and Kilifi.
  • Even before their arrival in Kenya, the Oromo had conflicts with the Somali, which continued up to early 20th century when both signed an agreement by which they settled in their present homeland. Today, the Oromo are found on the southern part of the river Tana and are neighbours to the Pokomo.


  • The Borana, who are part of the Oromo-speaking people of southern Ethiopia, migrated into Kenya in the last quarter of the 19th and the first quarter of the 20th They were running away from the heavy taxation and rule of Menelik ii).
  • They spread into Kenya and settled in Wajir, Marsabit and Moyale.
  • About 1000AD, more Borana groups migrated into present-day Kenya from Somalia due to war between Somali nationalists and British colonialists.

Explain the economic activities of the Borana during the pre-colonial period.

  • They were nomadic pastoralists. They kept cattle, sheep, camels and goats.
  • They traded with their neighbours and acquired grains in exchange for livestock. Their neighbours included the Pokomo and the Mijikenda.
  • Those who settled along river Tana grew some food crops.

Discuss the socio-Political organization of the Borana in the pre-colonial period.


  • They were divided into clans.
  • Each clan was led by elders.
  • The residential section was the camp.
  • The senior married man was recognized as the head of the camp. He was referred to as Abba Olla. His wife‟s hut was built on the extreme left of the camp.
  • The huts of others would be built from left to right, depending on their rank.
  • There was a Gada system, based on age-sets. Each Gada produced its own leader called Abba Boku.
  • The Borana had two kinship groups: the Gona and the Sabbo.
  • The man called Abba Wara, headed the family while the wife (Hatimana) was the female head of the household.
  • The Borana worshipped one God, who they called Wak.
  • The religious leader in the community was called Qaalu.
  • The Borana were patrilinial. The first male born would inherit all the property of the father. Today, Borana territory extends up to the area north of the river Tana.


  • They were divided into two halves (Moieties).
  • The Moieties were subdivided into submoieties, which were then divided into clans. Each clan comprised related families.
  • A hereditary leader (Kallu) headed each moiety.
  • The Kallu was a Judge and spiritual leader, who arbitrated in minor disputes.
  • There was an Age-set system, on which their military organization was based.
  • The Borana also had a Gada system, which comprised eleven grades. Each Gada class lasted eight years and passed through eleven grades from birth to death.

Members of the Gada elected a Gada council, which made decisions.

Trace/discuss the migration and settlement of the Somali into Kenya. 

  • The Somali were living in Mogadishu by the 10th century AD. Around that time, they began to move southwards,, probably because the Oromo presented a threat, or because they were looking for pasture, since they were nomadic pastoralists.
  • Between the twelfth and the fourteenth centuries AD, many of the Somali converted to Islam and established the Ajuran state near Mogadishu.
  • By the 17th century, the Somali pushed the Oromo out of their traditional homeland near river Juba. The Oromo responded by migrating into Kenya.

Identify/explain the economic activities of the Somali in the pre-colonial period.

  • They were nomadic pastoralists. They kept donkeys, camels, goats and cattle.
  • Some of them, particularly those who lived in Oases regions and along river valleys, practised subsistence agriculture. They grew grain crops, vegetables, dates and bananas.
  • They practised iron smelting and made iron tools like swords, knives, bangles and arrowheads.
  • They hunted wild animals and gathered roots, vegetables and fruits.
  • They engaged in crafts such as leatherwork. They made handbags, belts and clothes.
  • Some of them who lived near rivers and along the Indian ocean practised fishing, using fence traps, hooks, and lines.
  • They traded, mainly with their Bantu neighbours, particularly the Bantu, to who they sold iron implements and leather products.

Discuss the socio-political organization of the Somali in the pre-colonial period.


  • They were organized into clans.
  • The clans were headed by a council of elders, who settled disputes and maintained law and order, among their other roles in the community.
  • Circumcision marked the transition from childhood to adulthood and was mandatory for both boys and girls.
  • They believed in one God (wak).
  • Men took care of animals as women concentrated on domestic activities.
  • Being nomadic pastoralists, they moved from place to place in search of pasture.
  • They converted to Islam and adopted the Islamic way of life.


  • They were divided into clans.
  • The clans were headed by councils of elders, who maintained law and order.
  • After circumcision, young people formed age-sets.
  • With Islam, the political system changed to give way to the new leaders: the Sheikhs and Islamic Law (Sharia)

Today, the Somali constitute the largest single group of Cushites in Kenya.

State the reasons for migration and settlement of the Cushites into Kenya in the precolonial period.

  • Family feuds (internal rivalry) back in their original homeland.
  • Population increase or pressure in their area of origin.
  • Search for better pastures for their livestock.
  • Outbreak of diseases in their area of origin, which affected people and livestock.
  • Famine and drought in their original home-area.
  • Hostility and attacks by the neighbouring communities, such as the Somali.
  • The spirit of adventure, especially the Eastern Cushites.
  • Heavy taxation by the rulers of the areas they originally lived in, especially Menelik ii).

Explain the economic activities of the Cushites in the pre-colonial period.

  • Pastoralism, characterised by keeping of camels, cattle, sheep and goats, which provided them with milk and meat and gave them prestige.
  • Trade, mainly with their Bantu neighbours such as the Mijikenda and Pokomo.
  • Fishing, particularly by Cushites living along the coast and near river Tana.
  • Agriculture, also practised by those living near river Tana. Grains, peas, beans, pepper and other crops were cultivated.
  • Wild animals were hunted for meat, ivory, hides and skins.

Discuss the social organization of the Cushites in the pre-colonial period.

  • They were organized into clans, each of which comprised related families with a common ancestor.
  • They had the Age-set system.
  • They believed in one God.
  • By the end of the 16th century, most Cushites had been converted to Islam through interaction with Muslim immigrants and therefore adopted Islamic culture.

 Explain the principles under which the Age-Set system operated among the Cushites in the pre-colonial period. 

(Explain how the Age Set system functioned among the Cushites in the pre-colonial period).

  • Boys were grouped into age-sets after circumcision (between 10-15 years of age).
  • The Age-set system was based on about ten groups.
  • Once placed in a set, a boy remained in it all his life.
  • Age-sets provided the community with professional warriors.
  • Senior age-sets were retired from active public life and were settled in different territories.
  • A ceremony was performed at the end of every age-set cycle to keep the age-set system strong.

Identify religious aspects/practices among the Cushites during the pre-colonial period.

(Explain the influence of religion among the Cushites in the pre-colonial period).

  • They believed in one God.
  • They referred to God by different names. For instance, the Oromo called him Wak.
  • They regarded God as all-powerful and controller of everybody‟s destiny. Ø They prayed to God for all their needs.

Discuss the political organization of the Cushites in the pre-colonial period.

  • Each clan existed and operated independently, except in times of difficulty, e.g. in case of an invasion, when clans formed alliances to face the enemy.
  • Each clan was headed by a council of elders, who were major role players, particularly in maintenance of law and order.
  • After circumcision, young people formed age-sets.
  • With Islam, the political system changed to give way to the new leaders: the Sheikhs and Islamic Law (Sharia)

Explain the role/duties of the council of elders among the Cushites in the pre-colonial period.

(Explain the functions of the council of elders among the Cushites in the precolonial period.)

  • They presided over assemblies.
  • They maintained law and order.
  • They served as ritual experts.
  • They settled land disputes.
  • They had the final say or were the final court of appeal in decision-making.
  • They had the final power and were the final authority, even among clans that had the Sultan, such as the Somali.

What were the effects/results of migration and settlement of the Cushites into Kenya?

(Explain the consequences of the migration and settlement of the Cushites into Kenya).

  • High mortality rate due to fighting among various groups during migration. E.g. the Somali and Oromo frequently engaged in warfare, in the process of which many people were killed.
  • As new groups came into Kenya, they pushed out others. For example, in their southward movement in the 16th century AD, the Oromo forced the Mijikenda and Pokomo out of Shungwaya.
  • Exchange of cultural practices as some of the communities interacted and formed alliances. E.g. the Samburu and the Rendile formed an alliance against the Turkana. Ø Increased population as various peoples migrated into Kenya.
  • introduction of new cultural practices in Kenya. For example, the taboo against fish consumption among some Bantu speakers has been traced to the Cushites. Other new cultural practices include circumcision and the age-set system.
  • Intermarriage,, e.g. between the Pokomo and the Borana.
  • Intensification of trading activities in Kenya. For instance, by the 19th century, they were trading with the Samburu and Maasai.
  • Population redistribution in Kenya. For example, the Mijikenda were scattered at and from Shungwaya and had to change their course of migration.
  • They adopted mixed farming methods, which they got from the Bantu. Ø They converted to Islam, which they spread among their neighbours.




Who are Bantu-speakers?

(State the meaning of the term Bantu.)

The term Bantu refers to a group of people who speak related languages. They constitute the largest language group in Africa and occupy two thirds of the sub-Saharan region.

Trace the origin of the Bantu.

  • The original homeland of the Bantu was between eastern Nigeria and the Cameroon highlands.
  • They moved from Cameroon through the Congo forest into the lake region of east Africa, Zambia and Shaba province of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • They then spread into east, central and southern Africa.
  • Due to their size and strength, they managed to conquer and now occupy two thirds of subSaharan Africa.
  • They form the majority of Kenya‟s population.
  1. Describe Bantu migration.
  • Bantu migration was slow and gradual, involving small groups at a time.

Around 500BC, they were living in the Congo forest, which was a major dispersal point from where they began to migrate.

Their movement was in four major waves, two of which led to their settlement in Kenya.

Describe four major waves of Bantu migration into east Africa. 

(In what four waves were the Bantu divided as they migrated into east Africa?)

  • That which moved south-eastwards through the area west of lake Victoria, which became the second dispersal point and from where some groups, especially the Western Bantu, passed through present-day Uganda and eventually settled in Western Kenya from 1000AD as others, such as the Banyoro and Baganda, settled in Uganda.
  • That which moved and entered east Africa at a point south of lake Victoria and proceeded eastwards across northern Tanzania up to the area between Taita hills and mount Kilimanjaro. At this point, some Bantu groups such as the Sukuma, Kuria, Nyamwezi and Haya were left in Tanzania.
  • That which proceeded northwards from the area between Taita hills and mount Kilimanjaro up to Shungwaya.
  • That which proceeded from Shungwaya up to the Kenyan coast. These became referred to as the Eastern Bantu.

Identify the dispersal points through which the Bantu migrated from and settled in various areas.

The Bantu migrated from and settled into various places through four major dispersal points, namely:

  • The Congo forest
  • The area west of Lake Victoria,
  • The area between Taita hills and mount Kilimanjaro,

State the reasons for the migration and settlement of the Bantu into Kenya.

  • Population pressure due to food production, enabled by their knowledge in ironworking, with which they made and used better farm implements.
  • Their might and strength due to better weapons and farm tools, which enabled them to easily fight and defeat other people and to clear new lands for agriculture.
  • Internal pressure (family or clan rivalry).
  • Natural calamities such as famine, drought, etc.
  • Search for new farmland.
  • The spirit of adventure i.e. their desire to taste life in new lands.
  • invasions and frequent attacks by warring neighbours.
  • Diseases and epidemics, which affected both people and livestock.

Discuss Socio-political organization of the Kenya Bantu during the pre-colonial period.


  • They were divided into clans, with the clan as the basic unit in the community. o They practised circumcision. o They believed in the existence of a supernatural being: God. o Diviners and medicine-people were highly valued. Some communities had seers.
  • They had rituals that marked different stages of life, e.g. birth, naming, circumcision, marriage and death.
  • They had a regimental (Age-Set) system. circumcision formed the basis for an age-set and age-grade system.


  • They were divided into clans, each with a clan head.
  • They had councils of elders, who settled disputes and presided over ceremonies.
  • Some like the Wanga were centralized under monarchs. The Wanga were led by a King (Nabongo).
  • Some, like the Mijikenda, lived in fortified villages.
  • They were organized into Age-sets and age-grades.
  • They had warriors chosen from the Age-sets to defend the community or enrich it through cattle raids on their neighbours.

Explain the economic activities of the Kenya Bantu in the pre-colonial period.

  • They participated in local, regional and international trade.
  • They practised farming.
  • They kept cattle, sheep, goats and other domestic animals.
  • Some were hunter-gatherers.
  • They practised crafts such as iron smelting, basketry and pottery.
  • Some communities such as the Mijikenda practised fishing.


Describe two main groups in which the Bantu were divided as they migrated into Kenya.

  • The Western Bantu, who were part of the first wave of migrants that moved southeastwards from the Congo forest through the area west of lake Victoria, passing through present-day Uganda, where some of them settled as others proceeded to and settled in Western Kenya from 1000AD.
  • The Eastern Bantu, i.e. Bantu-speaking groups that occupy the area between the rift valley and coastal Kenya, who entered Kenya after migrating eastwards across northern Tanzania. They had began to settle in Kenya by 1000AD and may have followed different directions to get to their present homeland.

Identify the communities that belong to:

1. The Western Bantu,

2. The Eastern Bantu.

The Western Bantu include:

  • Abagusi,
  • Abaluhyia,
  • Abasuba,

The Eastern Bantu include:

  • The Mijikenda,
  • The Pokomo,
  • The Taita,
  • Agikuyu,
  • Ameru,
  • Akamba,


Explain the migration and settlement of Abagusi, Abakuria and Abasuba into Kenya.


Abagusi may have originated from a place known to them as Misiri, under their ruler and ancestor called Kwitu.

From Misiri, Abagusi and some Abaluhyia groups migrated to the Mount Elgon region where they lived for several generations.

  • Around 1500AD, Abagusi, Abakuria and a section of Abalogoli migrated down Nzoyia river valley and settled at Goye in Yimbo and near Ramogi hill and other areas on the eastern shores of lake Victoria.
  • Due to arrival of Luo Ancestors In the lake region around 1550AD, Abagusi were pushed to Alego, Kisumu, Sakwa and Asembo areas.
  • Shortly after 1600AD, drought forced Abagusi to migrate and settle in the Kano plains. Their farther migration eastwards brought them into conflicts with the Kipsigis. Because of this, they moved to the fertile Kisii highlands and other parts of their present homeland, such as Kitutu, South Mugirango and others.
  • In spite of conflicts with the Luo, Maasai and Kipsigis, Abagusi exhibited and practised good interaction, due to which they intermarried, traded and had other forms of exchange with these communities.


  • Abakuria live in south Nyanza. Their traditions indicate that they are related to the Abalogoli of Abaluhyia and Abagusi too.
  • They also trace their origin to the Mount Elgon region and maintain that they came from a place called Misiri.
  • Abakuria may have migrated alongside Abagusi up to 1500AD when they took their separate direction.
  • Abakuria settled briefly around the shores of Lake Victoria, where they interacted with the Luo and the Southern Cushites. Abakuria may have picked up the practice of circumcision and Age-set organization from the Southern Cushites.
  • Some of the Kuria clans may have come from northern Tanzania.
  • By 1800AD, Abakuria had all settled in south Nyanza, where they again met and continued interacting with Abagusi. Indeed, some clans of Abagusi originally settled in Kuria territory in the second half of the 18th


  • Abasuba occupy Mfangano and Rusinga islands on lake Victoria, where they settled from 1750AD, after arriving as refugees fleeing from Buganda. Other Suba people were displaced by the in coming Luo.
  • Suba migration was mainly triggered by fighting in Buganda and Busoga, following the assassination of Kyabbagu by some of his children. Kyabbagu was King of Buganda. As a result of the assassination, there was a struggle for succession to the throne, which made some of the groups around Lake Victoria to flee.
  • In their migration from Busoga and Buganda, most of the Suba spoke either Luganda or lusoga.
  • The Suba later interacted with the Luo as they entered Kenya, although they at first saw the Luo as a threat to them. They traded and intermarried with the Luo among other practices.
  • Some Abasuba settled at Gwasi and Kaksingiri in later years. They adopted the social customs of the Luo. Today, most Abasuba have adopted Luo culture.
  • Because of Luo influence, Abasuba have almost lost their original language and way of life.

Explain how Abaluhyia migrated and settled into Kenya. 

(Analyse the migration and settlement of Abaluhyia into Kenya.)

  • Luhyia oral tradition traces their origin to an area called Misiri. Historical evidence shows that Abaluhyia resulted from intermarriage between various ethnic groups in the course of their migration into Kenya. Buluhyia is an area in which Nilotes, Bantu and some Cushites interacted.
  • Luhyia migration and settlement into Kenya started around 300AD. Their most recent ancestors spread from eastern Uganda from around 1300AD. Most of them may have originated from the mount Elgon region and then settled in Bukhayo, Marama, Tiriki, Bunyore, Wanga, Maragoli, Marachi, Kisa, Samia, Idakho, Isukha, Bungoma and other Bukusu areas, Bunyala, Busonga, etc.
  • As they migrated, they assimilated other groups, such as the southern and eastern Cushites as well as Southern Nilotes.
  • Between 1550-1750AD, Luhyia society began to take shape. By 1883, Abaluhyia had fully emerged as a community.
  • Abaluhyia interacted with Nilotic speakers such as the Maasai, Kalenjin and Luo, which led to a lot of cultural exchange.
  • The interaction of Abaluhyia with several other communities perhaps explains why there exists so many clans and dialects among Abaluhyia. In fact, the term Luhyia means Family. Abaluhyia means People Of the Family or Family-people.

 Explain how Luhyia interaction with Nilotic speakers facilitated cultural exchange.

(In what ways did Luhyia interaction with Nilotic speakers lead to cultural exchange?) Ø Some Luhyia clans such as Abashimuli of the Idakho were formed.

  • Some Abaluhyia picked up and started speaking the languages of the people they interacted with. This is more so with the Marachi, Kisa and Samia, who started speaking the Luo language. On the other hand, the people with whom Abaluhyia interacted adopted Luhyia dialects.
  • From the Kalenjin, the Luhyia learnt cattle keeping and age-set organization.
  • Some such as the Wanga bought or borrowed military services from the Maasai, who also had entered Luhyia territory.
  • Sharing of practices, particularly in the border region resulted. E.g. Southern Luhyialand, especially Bunyala, Samia and Busonga (Usonga) have been heavily influenced by the Luo due to sharing of language and rituals, such as removal of teeth.

Identify the dialects that constitute Luhyia community.

(What dialects is the Luhyia community made of?)

Eighteen major dialects constitute Abaluhyia. These are:

  • Tiriki,
  • Maragoli,
  • Isukha,
  • Idaho,
  • Banyore,
  • Kisa,
  • Batsotso,
  • Marama,
  • Wanga,
  • Banyala,
  • Batura,
  • Kabarasi,
  • Bukusu,
  • Tachoni,
  • Khayo,
  • Marachi,
  • Basonga,

Each of these dialects consists of several clans and tended to exist independently, through remotely connected ties to the rest of Abaluhyia. In fact, Abaluhyia were constituted as a community in 1947, when the British colonial government administered all these Luhyia dialects as a single entity.

Trace the migration and settlement of the Wanga into Kenya. 

(Analyse/explain Wanga migration and settlement into Kenya.)

  • The Wanga Kingdom was founded by the Bahima, who had migrated from western Uganda and who settled at Imanga hills under their King: Muhima, who was referred to by the title Nabongo. Between 1544-1652, Nabongo Muhima founded the Hima dynasty by uniting the different clans that had settled at Imanga.
  • Shortly after 1652, the Hima dynasty was replaced by the Bashitsetse dynasty under their ruler called Wanga. It was after this ruler (Wanga) that the Kingdom was later named, to become Abawanga or Bawanga (people of Wanga). In most cases, the community is referred to just by the name Wanga.
  • The Bashitsetse established a more centralized system of government.
  • During the reign of Nabongo Wamukoya, a group rebelled and formed a parallel kingdom known as Wanga Mukulu of Kweyu. During Nabongo Mumia‟s time, Wanga Mukulu was ruled by Nabongo Sakwa.
  • The Abawanga suffered attacks from their neighbours. To resist these attacks, Nabongo had to seek assistance from the Europeans. They got assistance from General Hobley.
  • The British expanded the Wanga traditional rule and made Nabongo a Paramount Chief. As a Paramount Chief, Nabongo Mumia ruled what was known as Eastern Uganda, which include the present Nyanza and Western provinces and parts of Rift Valley (Turkana, Uasin Ngishu, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Bomet, Kericho, Buret, Baringo, West Pokot, Keiyo, Marakwet and Nakuru) up to Mai Mahiu.
  • Through Mumia, the British assisted the Abawanga to fight their enemies e.g. the Ababukusu, Luo, and Iteso. Mumia died in 1949.

Identify the Kings (Nabongos) that reigned over Wanga.

Apart from Muhima and Wanga, Other kings (Nabongos) that reigned over Wanga were:

  • Nabongo Wamukoya Netia (1760-1787),
  • Nabongo Osundwa (1787-1814),
  • Nabongo Wamukoya (1814-1841),
  • Nabongo Shiundu –(1841-1882), Ø Nabongo Mumia (1882-1949).

Describe the political organization of the Wanga in the pre-colonial period.

The Wanga are of special interest because of their centralized system of government, which no other Luhyia or Bantu group in Kenya had.

  • They were headed by a king (Nabongo).
  • The office of Nabongo was hereditary.
  • Nabongo was assisted by a chief minister and an army commander.
  • Nabongo levied taxes on the conquered communities and controlled trade in his kingdom. Nabongo mainly appointed members of the royal family as officials to administer the provinces.

Apart from the Wanga, all other Kenya Bantu had no centralized authority. Some Western

Bantu communities such as the Luhyia were affected by the spread of warfare in the Western Kenya region, so the political set-up among some communities had to be reorganized. The centralized system of government such as that of the Wanga was most reliable.

Discuss the socio political organization of the Western Bantu during the pre-colonial period.

  • They were organized in clans. The clan was the basic unit of their political and social organization.
  • Circumcision of boys was a very important practice, especially among Abaluhyia and Abagusi. It was at circumcision that the boys were taught the values and customs of their homeland. While Abagusi and Abakuria circumcised their females, the rest of the western Bantu did not. Some Western Bantu communities like the Khayo, Samia, Marachi and Abasuba do not have the practice of circumcision.
  • After initiation, the boys joined age-sets. Various age-sets had various duties, e.g. provision of warriors to defend the community, raid for animals,, help one another in tasks such as hunting, building huts, harvesting, etc. Senior age-sets advised the junior ones, settled disputes, distributed war booty, etc.
  • They believed in one God. They regarded God as controller of everything, who continues to influence man‟s life, even after man‟s death. They called God by different names. They also believed in ancestral spirits, to whom they poured libations and offered sacrifices.
  • Medicine men and diviners were highly valued in the society. Sorcerers and witch doctors were hated, because they were believed to use charms and medicine to harm others.

Apart from the Wanga, the Western Bantu were politically organized as follows in the precolonial period:

  • They were under village councils run by elders.
  • They were categorized into age-set systems, which provided the community with defence and security.
  • Positions of leadership were hereditary.

Explain the functions/role of the council of elders among the Western Bantu during the pre-colonial period.

  • They maintained and ensured law and order in the community.
  • They served as the final court of appeal in all matters.
  • They had power to declare, stop or call off war.
  • They presided over religious and other communal functions.
  • They served as ritual experts.
  • They settled land disputes.

Explain the economic activities of the Western Bantu during the pre-colonial period.

  • Keeping livestock. They kept cattle, sheep and goats, which provided them with milk, meat, hides and skins.

Agriculture. They grew grains, pulses and root crops such as cassava, arrow roots, potatoes and yams as well as legumes like beans and peas.

Trade.  Abagusi gave their Luo  neighbours grains, iron implements and soap-stones in exchange for livestock, salt,  hides, milk, pots, baskets, etc. The case was similar between the Luhyia and their Nandi and Luo neighbours.

  • They used hooks and lines, basket nets and fence traps to catch fish. They sold some of the fish they caught to neighbouring communities.
  • This enabled them to have better weapons and farm implements, which aided their migration and settlement in various places before they finally settled in their present homeland.
  • They were good in pottery and basketry, which boosted their trade and other economic activities.


                   THE EASTERN BANTU

Who are the Eastern Bantu?

 The Eastern Bantu are Bantu-speaking groups that occupy the area between the rift valley and coastal Kenya.

Identify the communities that belong to the Eastern Bantu. 

  • The Mijikenda,
  • The Pokomo,
  • The Taita,
  • The Agikuyu,
  • The Ameru,
  • The Akamba
  • The Aembu.

Identify two main classifications of the Eastern Bantu.

(Into what two main groups are the Eastern Bantu divided?)

  • The Coastal Bantu.
  • The Highland Bantu.

Name the communities that belong to:

1. The Coastal Bantu,

2.  The Highland Bantu.

The Coastal Bantu include:

  • The Mijikenda,
  • The Pokomo,
  • The Taita.

The Highland Bantu include:

  • The Akamba,
  • Agikuyu,
  • Ameru,
  • Aembu and Mbeere.



Trace/explain the origin of the Coastal Bantu.

  • They probably were the first Bantu people to settle in Kenya.

Their ancestors may have moved from a dispersal point west of Lake Victoria through northern Tanzania to the area between Taita hills and Mount Kilimanjaro.

Others such as the Mijikenda moved towards the coast, while the Chagga of Tanzania settled to the south. The Taita remained on the hills as the Mijikenda and other groups moved along the coast up to Shungwaya, which may have been somewhere between rivers Juba and Tana. The present highland Bantu moved westwards and eventually occupied their present home areas.

  • The Shungwaya dispersal mainly resulted from the southward expansion of the Oromo by 1600AD. The Mijikenda groups started settling in their present home areas in the course of 1700AD. By the beginning of the 19th century, they had settled in their present homeland. The Pokomo on the other hand moved from Shungwaya, following the river Tana. Here, they interacted with Cushites such as the Oromo and the Somali.

Who are the Mijikenda?

Mijikenda is a Kiswahili word that means nine clans. The Mijikenda comprise the nine communities that originally inhabited the nine settlements called Kaya in the immediate coastal hinterland.

Name the nine communities the constitute (make up) the Mijikenda.

  • The Giriama,
  • Kauma,
  • Chonyi,
  • Kambe,
  • Ribe,
  • Jibana,
  • Rabai,
  • Duruma,

Analyse/trace the migration and settlement of the Mijikenda and Pokomo into Kenya.


  • The Mijikenda trace their point of origin to Shungwaya, which in Bantu means “To be driven away”.
  • From Shungwaya, the Bantu were forced to move southwards by the Oromo, who also stopped their northward migration around the 16th century AD. The Somali also joined the Oromo in forcing the Mijikenda out of Shungwaya, from where the Mijikenda moved in small groups, which explains why they settled in different places and why today the Mijikenda exist and are identified by their small groups or clans.
  • The Mijikenda settled in fortified villages, just inland from the coast. Each of the nine groups settled in their own separate ridges, which are commonly referred to as Kaya, a word that means „towns‟. The term Mijikenda itself expresses that the community consists of nine related groups.
  • Each Kaya was fortified with tree trunks. Even after settling in their present homeland, their main enemies were the Oromo and the Somali.
  • By the 19th century, the Mijikenda had interacted and established themselves as middlemen in the Long Distance trade between the Akamba and the Waswahili at the coast.


Ancestors of the Pokomo lived with those of the Mijikenda at Shungwaya, but the Pokomo moved southwards and settled along river Tana, where they interacted with Cushitic communities. Population pressure and Oromo attacks were the main reasons for Pokomo movement from Shungwaya.


Name the three hills inhabited by the Taita.

  • Mangea hill, where they first settled.
  • Davida,
  • Sagalla,

Trace/analyse migration and settlement of the Taita into Kenya.

  • The Taita are a people of mixed origin, though most of them trace their origin to Shungwaya.
  • They first settled on Mangea hill in the 16th century, from where they migrated to their present home areas.
  • They live on three hills i.e. Davida, Sagalla and Kisigan.

Identify Taita clans and their origins.

According to their oral tradition, Taita clans are of the following origins:

  • The Wasadu, who originated from the Oromo.
  • The Wanyanya, who originated from the Maasai, Oromo and Akamba.
  • The Wanya, who originated from the Mijikenda, Agikuyu and Shambala.
  • The Shambala, who originated from Tanzania.
  • The Wasann, who originated from the Pokomo, Akamba and Shambala.
  • The Wasasadu, who originated from the pare in Tanzania.
  • The Waikumi, who originated from the Maasai and Akamba.
  • These clans emerged as a people after many years of interaction.


Describe the socio-political systems among the coastal Bantu during the pre-colonial period. 

  • They were divided into clans, each with its council of elders (Kambi), which served as the final court of appeal in all matters as the highest ruling council.
  • The council of elders comprised the highest level of Age-set systems as part of the organization of the society.
  • Under the elders were prophetesses and prophets (Wafisi), who had authority over all religious and ritual matters by administering oath and conducting all traditional ceremonies at every level e.g. circumcision, harvesting, planting, cleansing, reconciliation, etc.

In short, the social and political institutions among the coastal Bantu were closely interwoven.

Describe the economic activities of the Coastal Bantu during the pre-colonial period.

  • They mainly cultivated grains, with which they traded.
  • Keeping livestock. They kept cattle, sheep and goats, which provided them with milk, meat, hides and skins.
  • Most of the coastal Bantu who lived on the sea-shore and along river-banks caught fish to supplement their diet and to boost their trade.
  • This was more so with the Taita and Mijikenda, who hunted elephants and rhinoceros for ivory, horns, etc.
  • The Mijikenda traded with the Akamba, Chagga and Taita as far back as the 18th century AD. They traded in grains, goats, sheep, cattle, iron tools, beads, clothes, ivory, skins, rhino horns, etc.


                    THE HIGHLAND BANTU

from the dispersal at  Shungwaya, the Highland (mount Kenya) Bantu moved westwards and occupied the areas that eventually became their present homeland.


Analyse/discuss migration and settlement of the Akamba into Kenya.

(Trace the origin of the Akamba.)

The Akamba trace their origin to the area around Mount Kilimanjaro, from where their ancestors migrated to the great bend of the river Tana. They then moved to Taita hills and finally reached Tsavo west. Around mid 15th century AD, the Akamba followed the eastern banks of river Athi, from where one group moved across the Athi to Ulu. Due to Oromo attacks, another group of the Akamba moved south to the Galana river and settled in the region around Chyulu hills north of Mount Kilimanjaro. Due to drought in the Chyulu area, some Akamba migrated and settled in the Mbooni hills near Machakos around mid 16th century.

Soon, due to population increase, some Akamba migrated farther to Iveti, Kilungu, Masaku and Makueni.

In the course of their migration and settlement, the Akamba met and interacted with the Agikuyu.

In what ways was Akamba migration and settlement influenced by the environment?

(Explain how and what environmental factors influenced Akamba migration and settlement into Kenya).

  • Those in Mbooni region took up agriculture due to soil fertility and ample rainfall in the area.
  • The Akamba who moved to drier areas like Chyulu hills became hunters.
  • Others moved to Kitui and adopted pastoralism and hunting. It is this group that later participated in the Long Distance trade by providing ivory and slaves to the coastal traders in thee 19th

In what ways did the Akamba interact with the Agikuyu in the course of Akamba migration and settlement into Kenya?

(Explain interaction between the Akamba and Agikuyu in the course of Akamba migration and settlement into Kenya.) Ø They exchanged trade items.

  • They intermarried.
  • They adopted cultural aspects like language and dressing.
  • They raided and fought each other.
  • They began sporting activities such as wrestling and archery.


Name the dialects that constitute/make up the Ameru.

  • The Tigania,
  • Igembe,
  • Imenti,
  • Igoji,
  • Chuka,
  • Tharaka,
  • Muthambi,

Discuss/analyse migration and settlement of the Ameru into Kenya.

  • The Ameru claim a place called Mbwa, which is somewhere at the coast (probably Manda island) as their area of origin. However, historians believe that this tradition of Mbwa fits very well with Bantu dispersal from Shungwaya.
  • By late 15th century, ancestors of the Ameru had begun arriving in Meru. Ameru migration from the coast was mainly due to Oromo pressure.
  • From Shungwaya, the Ameru moved westwards along the river Tana and pushed into Igembe and Tigania regions. Around 1400AD, the Ameru and other Mount Kenya groups were living as hunters and pastoralists.
  • They moved farther into the interior, crossing river Tana. Some, especially the Tharaka, finally settled to the east of River Tana as others such as the Chuka, Muimbi, Imenti, Tigania and Igembe settled in the area west of the River Tana.
  • The Ameru and Agikuyu are believed to have initially migrated as one group until the 15th and 16th centuries, when the Agikuyu took their separate direction. The traditions of the two groups and those of the Aembu and Mbeere seem to confirm this view.
  • Aembu and mbeere ancestors are believed to have initially migrated with those of the Ameru and Agikuyu from the Kilimanjaro area before going their separate way.
  • By 1500, the Mbeere had settled in their present homeland. However, the Aembu crossed River Thuci and moved north-westwards to the area east of mount Kenya, where they settled and interacted with the Athi and Gumba, who they later assimilated and from who they learnt the art of bee keeping, ironworking and circumcision.


The Agikuyu are the largest population of all the Eastern Bantu. They inhabit the Central province of Kenya.

Describe two legends or myths that refer to Gikuyu origin.

  • That which presents the Agikuyu as having originated from Mukurwe Wa Gathanga, where their ancestors (Gikuyu and his wife mumbi) were settled after God created them. According to this legend, Gikuyu and mumbi begat nine daughters, who married and mothered the nine clans of the present Agikuyu.
  • That which states that the Agikuyu may have descended from one of the four sons of a

Mbeere man, the other three of which may have mothered the Akamba, Athi and Maasai.

Discuss/analyse migration and settlement of the Agikuyu into Kenya.

  • By 1200AD, The Bantu had already settled in the Central province of Kenya. However, the original inhabitants of the area were hunter-gatherers, such as the Athi (Dorobo) and the Gumba. These may have been the remnants of the original inhabitants. The Athi and the Gumba interacted with the Agikuyu, who later assimilated them.
  • The Agikuyu may have moved south-west from the coast around 1400AD, probably to avoid hostile neighbours, such as the Oromo. They also may have moved in search for cultivable land. They followed the Tana River.
  • As they moved, some groups broke off and settled in different places. Those who settled in the east became the Tharaka while those who settled in the south-west became the They had arrived and settled in Mbeere and Chuka from a northern direction by the 16th century AD. One group proceeded to the confluence of the Tana and Thika rivers by the beginning of the 18th century. This was the group of Gikuyu ancestors that is associated with the Mukurwe Wa Gathanga tradition in Murang‟a.
  • The Agikuyu later moved to the Mweya plains, where they were joined by the Akamba and the Thagicu. Farther expansion of the Agikuyu led to the displacement of the Athi and Gumba, some of who were assimilated while others ran into the Nyandarua and Mount Kenya forests.
  • In the first half of the 19th century, the Agikuyu once more migrated to Othaya and Aguthi. They also moved north-eastwards to Mathira and Tetu in Nyeri. They spread and settled in different parts of Central province and reached as far as Kiambu and Nyandarua. Their settlement in Kiambu and Nyandarua was interrupted by the coming of the Europeans in the 19th However, they were still migrating by early 20th century.
  • As they migrated, the Agikuyu borrowed ideas from the Cushites, the Maasai, the Gumba and Athi. The Gumba and Athi were later together known as the Okiek.
  • The Maasai seriously opposed or resisted Agikuyu invasion. However, the Athi welcomed and were on good terms with the Agikuyu. The Agikuyu borrowed many economic and social aspects from the Athi, e.g. ironworking, circumcision, clitoridectomy (female circumcision) and some age-set features.

Describe the socio-political systems among the Agikuyu during the pre-colonial period.

  • The Agikuyu at touched a lot of political and social importance to the family and age-set.
  • Being the smallest social and political unit, every family had its own head. Several families formed a clan.
  • Gikuyu country was divided into clans or territorial units, each of which was made up of several sub-clans (Mbari) with common descent, usually living on the same ridge. each territorial unit was headed by a council of elders: the “Kiama”, under a senior elder known as “Muramati” or “Muthamaki” (spokesman). Muramati was highly respected by the community because of his wisdom and leadership qualities. However, he was not a chief.
  • Each sub-clan was ruled by a council of elders subordinate to the “Kiama”. This performed religious, administrative and judicial roles within the sub clan, leaving the “Kiama” to deal with matters beyond its ability or communal mandate.
  • At puberty, young boys were initiated through elaborate rites, crowned with circumcision, during which they were taught the social values, customs and their duties to the community as warriors.
  • Boys circumcised at the same time formed an Age-set (Rika). Age-sets formed the military base for the Gikuyu community, since members of the same age-set considered one another as brothers, which created a strong political and social bond. Circumcision of girls was also done every year.
  • They believed in one God (Ngai), who was all-powerful and in complete control of all life and who has a definite dwelling place: Mount Kirinyaga (Mount Kenya). Since God was all-powerful, people prayed to him through priests. priests offered the community‟s prayers to God through ancestral spirits. Diviners interpreted God‟s messages to the people. Sacrifices were offered to God in thanksgiving or to ask for his blessings.
  • The Agikuyu strongly believed in ancestral spirits, who continued to live for many generations, even after physical death and who were all-powerful as intermediaries between God and the living.

Medicinemen and diviners were very important in the community. The Medicine man

(“Mundu Mugo”) could cure certain diseases and expel evil spirits. Medical skills were inherited from close relatives. The Diviner (“Murathi”) could foretell the future. Ø From the main council of elders, a council of senior elders was formed.

Explain the role/duties of the council of elders among the Agikuyu in the pre-colonial period.

(What were the functions of the council of elders among the Agikuyu during the pre-colonial period?)

  • They were the highest court of appeal.
  • They solved land and inheritance disputes.
  • They settled civil and criminal cases.
  • They presided over religious and other functions.

Identify the economic activities of the Agikuyu during the pre-colonial period.

  • They grew sorghum, eleusine, millet, root crops and many others for subsistence.
  • Animal husbandry. They kept cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, etc.
  • They exchanged various trade items with their Maasai, Akamba, Okiek and other neighbours. Such items included grains and livestock.
  • From iron smelting, they obtained weapons and farm implements, with which they were able to settle and farm in their present homeland.
  • They made pots, baskets and other items, which boosted their skills in trade and other economic activities.

Discuss the effects of Bantu migration and settlement into Kenya.

  • Increased population in the regions where they settled.
  • spread of ironworking to other parts of Kenya. The skill reached other communities, such as the Luo.
  • Increased intercommunal conflicts. For instance, they fought with the Oromo at the coast, the Maasai in the Rift Valley and the Luo near Lake Victoria.
  • More trading activities as the Bantu exchanged iron products with other communities. For example, Abagusi gave iron products to the Luo in return for baskets.
  • Increased cultural interaction and exchange. For instance, many Bantu groups assimilated the Southern Cushites as some Bantu were assimilated by Nilotes.
  • spread of agricultural practices in Kenya. For example, the Kwavi Maasai of Kenya adopted cultivation.
  • Population redistribution. E.g. the Dorobo moved to forested areas.
  • Displacement of some communities. For instance, Abagusi were displaced by the Luo in the Kano plains. Some Eastern Cushites were displaced by the Agikuyu from parts of central Kenya.
  • E.g. Abaluhyia intermarried with the Maasai, Kalenjin and Luo.
  • Exchange of knowledge and skills. Many Bantu adopted the Age-set system and the practice of circumcision from the southern Cushites.


                                     THE NILOTES

Who are the Nilotes?

The Nilotes are groups of people whose origin is associated with river Nile and who have similarities in the languages they speak. This is why they are referred to as Nilotic speakers. They originated from the South-western fringe of the Ethiopian highlands. In Kenya, they are the second largest language group.

List the classifications of the Nilotic speakers. 

(Identify the groups into which the Nilotic speakers are divided.)

  • The River-lake Nilotes,
  • The plain Nilotes
  • The Highland Nilotes.

Name the communities that belong to the River-Lake Nilotes group.

  • The Kenya Luo, who mainly occupy Luo Nyanza and parts of Western province. They are sometimes called Southern Luo in order to distinguish them from other River-lake Nilotes in Uganda and southern Sudan.
  • The Dinka,
  • Shiluk,
  • Bor,
  • Anwak,
  • Alur,
  • Acholi,
  • Jopaluo,
  • Padhola,
  • Nuer,
  • The Luo of Uganda.



Analyse/discuss migration and settlement of the Luo into Kenya.

  • The Luo originated from Bahr-El-Ghazal, area in Southern Sudan, from where they moved and settled at Pu Bungu in northern Uganda.
  • They then moved to Pakwach, where they had settled by 1450AD. It was from Pakwach that they later migrated into Kenya.
  • By the 15th century, the Luo had begun to move to present-day Kenya.
  • Though they all claim common ancestry in Ramogi, They migrated and settled in Kenya in four main groups. These were:
  1. Joka Owiny,
  2. Joka Jok,
  3. Joka Omolo,


Analyse/discuss migration and settlement of the four Luo groups into Kenya.


The term “Joka” means “People of”. “Joka Jok” means “people of Jok”.

  • Jok and his people were the first to move eastwards out of Uganda. They were the first Luo group to arrive in Kenya.
  • By the 15th century, they had settled at Ramogi hills of Kadimo in Yimbo in present-day Siaya district.
  • Later, two of Jok‟s sons fled to south Nyanza across the Winam gulf to form the Karachwonyo and Wanjare clans.
  • From Ramogi hills, Joka Jok also spread to Sakwa, Alego, Asembo and other parts of Nyanza province. Joka Jok migrated as a result of internal conflicts among other factors.


  • Owiny and his group may have moved from Uganda in late 16th century AD. They passed through Mbale, Toro and the Mount Elgon region and eventually settled in Samia.
  • By early 17th century, they had arrived at Sigoma in Alego, from where they spread to Uyoma, Kisumu, Nyakach and south Nyanza.
  • Because Owiny was a great fighter and leader, his people became popularly known as Joka Ruoth. His name was merged with that of Sigoma (the place where Owiny and his people first settled in Alego) to form Owiny-Sigoma.


  • Joka Omolo came from the northern Bunyoro region in present-day Uganda. They settled temporarily in Ibanda and Bukoli before moving on to Samia, Ugenya and Gem.
  • By 1600, they had reached Yimbo, from where they spread to Alego and other areas.
  • As they migrated, they encountered Abagusi and Abalogoli, whom they pushed out of Yimbo.
  • By early 18th century, some Joka family groups had moved across Winam gulf into south Nyanza.


  • Though associated with the Luo, Abasuba were originally Bantu. Most of them migrated from Buganda in late 18th
  • They intermarried with the Luo and settled in the Gwasi area and on the Lake Victoria islands of Mfangano and Rusinga. Most of them adopted Luo culture.
  • Give reasons for the migration of the Luo from Bahr-El-Ghazal in Sudan to Kenya by 1800AD.
  • Search for fresh grazing land and water for their large herd,, probably due to overstocking in 2. ii) Natural calamities such as drought, famine, pests, etc.
  • Family feuds (internal conflicts/rivalry). Ø Population pressure in their cradle land.
  • Hostilities and threats as well as attacks from neighbouring communities.
  • Outbreak of diseases and epidemics, which afflicted both people and livestock.
  • The spirit of adventure.
  • Search for better fishing areas.

Explain social organization among the Kenya Luo during the pre-colonial period.

  • The family was the basic social unit.
  • Several families formed one clan.
  • They practised polygamy (marriage of more than one wife).
  • They were exogamous i.e. they did not allow marriage within the clan.
  • They were deeply religious and believed in a creator: God, whom they called Nyasaye.
  • They had sacred shrines and trees where they offered sacrifices to the ancestral spirits.
  • They had religious leaders, including priests, rain makers and medicine people.
  • The youth underwent initiation (Ng‟angrwok) at puberty, which involved extraction of six of their lower front teeth.
  • They had several ritual ceremonies at birth, naming, marriage and death.
  • Marriage was celebrated and tokens like cows were exchanged to seal the relationship.
  • Burial was celebrated through dancing and feasting, in view of the fact that the departed had joined a new and better world: that of the living dead.

Explain the economic activities of the Kenya Luo during the pre-colonial period.

  • Keeping livestock. They kept Cattle, sheep, goats, etc. Dogs were kept and used in hunting while cats were kept as pets. They also kept chicken, ducks and gees.
  • Luo men and women fished in lake Victoria as well as local rivers and streams.
  • The Luo traded with Abaluhyia, Abagusi, the Kipsigis, Nandi, Abakuria and other neighbours. They sold surplus food and animal products as well as earthenware in exchange for spears, farm implements and soapstone among others.
  • They hunted animals to supplement their diet.
  • They were good in basketry, canoe building, weaving and cloth making.
  • They practised iron smelting, which they learnt from neighbouring communities such as the Luhyia and Nandi.
  • They grew sorghum, beans, sweet potatoes, peas, finger millet, pumpkins, cassava, a variety of vegetables and a variety of grains.

Discuss Political organization among the Kenya Luo during the pre-colonial period.

  • They were a decentralized community. They were led by councils of elders.
  • The lowest level of political structure was the family head, referred to as Jadwong‟.
  • several families who traced their descent to a common ancestor formed one clan. Ø Within the clan was a council of elders (Doho), who settled disputes.
  • Under the Doho were lineage councils (Buch Dho‟OT).
  • Clans were grouped to form larger territorial units called Gweng‟ (in singular) or Gwenge (in plural).
  • Each Gweng‟ was self governing, with its authority in the hands of a council of elders that comprised all clan heads and outstanding elders from foreign lineages.
  • When grouped together, Gwenge formed Oganda, which was a kind of sub tribe governed by Buch Piny, which was a council that comprised the Heads of the different Gwenge, outstanding diviners, medicine men, healers, rainmakers and warriors. Buch Piny was chaired by the Chief (Ruoth). It dealt with issues such as boundary disputes, external invasions and interclan conflicts.
  • Within the Buch Piny was a war leader called Osumba Mrwayi, who led a group of warriors known as Thuondi (bulls), who defended the community and conducted raids.

Luo expansion continued up to the colonial period, when they were stopped by European colonialists in the 19th century.

Explain the role/functions of the council of elders among the Kenya Luo during the precolonial period.

(What were the duties of the council of elders among the Kenya Luo during the pre-colonial period?)

  • Administration of justice.
  • Serving as the final court of appeal in Gweng‟ matters.
  • presiding over religious ceremonies.
  • Declaration of war or negotiation of peace.

Admission or expulsion of strangers.

Explain the consequences/impact/results of the migration and settlement of the Luo in Kenya by 1750AD.

  • Increased population in the region.
  • Increased civil and intercommunal warfare.
  • displacement of the Western Bantu e.g. Abaluhyia and Abakuria as well as other communities such as the Maasai.
  • Assimilation of some Luhyia and other groups in the region.
  • Increased trading activities. The Luo exchanged livestock for the items they did not
  • Intermarriage due to interaction between the Luo and other groups.
  • Luo adoption of agriculture alongside pastoralism as a result of their contacts with the Bantu farming communities.
  • redistribution of populations as some communities left while others came into the region.



Identify two main classifications of the Highland Nilotes. 

(Into what two main groups are the Highland Nilotes divided?)  . The Kalenjin. i. The Jie.

Name the communities that belong to each of the two main Highland Nilotic groups.

The Kalenjin consist of:

  • Tugen,
  • Keio,
  • Marakwet,
  • Nandi,
  • Kipsigis,
  • Sabaot,
  • Pokot,

The Jie comprise:

  • The Karamojong,
  • Kumam,
  • Iteso,
  • Turkana,
  • The Jie themselves.

Analyse/discuss migration and settlement of the Highland Nilotes into Kenya.

(Explain the origin of the Highland Nilotes and how they migrated and settled into Kenya.)

  • Highland Nilotes were pastoralists. Their ancestors may first have lived in Karamoja before they split into various groups.
  • The Highland Nilotes may have been the earliest Nilotic speakers in Kenya. They must have occupied most of western Kenya, because their neighbours speak a lot about them. They are mentioned in tales told of their warlike nature, e.g. the Luo story of Lwanda Magere (a strong Luo warrior) who was eventually betrayed by a Nandi lady in order for the Nandi to gain victory over the Luo.

Kalenjin traditions indicate that their original homeland lay at a place to the north-western part of Kenya, between Sudan and Ethiopia, from where the highland Nilotes may have began migrating during the last millennium. The Dadog of Tanzania and the pioneer Kalenjin emigrants in Kenya such as the Sirikwa may have occupied the Rift Valley by 700AD.

  • Highland Nilotic remnants therefore spread towards the western mount Elgon highlands, next to the Kenya-Uganda border. These became the ancestors of the Kalenjin speakers we have today.
  • The Kalenjin first lived as a single community on mount Kamalinga to the north-west of the lake Turkana region. In the 17th century, they began expanding southwards to the slopes of Mount Elgon, where some of them remained as others moved on. The Bok, Bongomek and Kony are among those that remained. Indeed, it was from the Kalenjin that the Bantu got some cultural practices, such as circumcision.
  • By early 17th century, the Kalenjin had inhabited Nandi, Aldai, Kamasiya, Elgon, etc. As pastoralists, they roamed and grazed in their new homeland, which led to intermarriage between them and the Uasingishu, the Maasai, the Sirikwa, etc.

Analyse/discuss migration and settlement of the Iteso, Karamojong, Turkana, Nandi and Kipsigis into Kenya.


  • The Iteso began migrating from Karamoja, in late 17th century and early 18th Between 1652-1731, they arrived at Kumi and Soroti, from where they spread towards mount Elgon.
  • By the 19th century, the Iteso had settled In Western Kenya, where they interacted with the Babukusu and Bagisu through intermarriage, trade, agriculture, keeping livestock, intertribal wars, etc.
  • It was as a result of such interaction that the Iteso adopted agriculture in addition to pastoralism. They grew crops such as sweet potatoes, groundnuts, cassava and varieties of vegetables. This enabled the Iteso to be more settled.


These migrated southwards while the Jie took a northward direction. The Karamojong assimilated some Iteso. The Turkana on the other hand inhabited the lake Turkana area.


  • The Nandi may have moved from the mount Elgon region between 1700-1800AD.
  • In the last half of the 19th century, they emerged as one of the strongest groups in Western Kenya. For instance, apart from other warfare, they conducted raids for livestock against Abaluhyia, the Luo and even the Uasingishu Maasai.
  • The rise of the Nandi to power was facilitated by the decline of the Maasai, who were weakened by civil wars among other calamities.
  • By the end of the 19th century, the Nandi had dominated almost all the communities in the rift valley apart from the Kipsigis, who served as their allies. Nandi power only declined when colonial rule was imposed on Kenya. But even then, the Nandi resisted colonial intrusion for six years.


  • The Nandi and the Kipsigis may have separated from other Kalenjin groups such as the Bok, Bongomek and the Tugen in the mount Elgon area around 1600AD. They moved south-east to Teo near lake Baringo.

Due to Maasai hostility, they moved westwards to Tambach, where they stayed for a long period.

  • From Tambach, they went farther south to Rongai near Nakuru.
  • Drought and Maasai raids are among the factors that caused Nandi separation from the Kipsigis.
  • From Rongai, the Kipsigis moved south to Kericho while the Nandi moved westwards to Aldai. This was probably during the second half of the 18th
  • Settlement of the Kipsigis at Kipsigis Hill marked the establishment of a strong community. They assimilated the groups that they found at Kipsigis hill, such as the Sirikwa, some Maasai and some Gusi.

Explain why the Highland Nilotes migrated into Kenya.

(What were the reasons for Highland Nilote migration into Kenya? (Explain/discuss the factors that led to migration of the Highland Nilotes into Kenya).) Ø Search for cultivable land as well as pasture and water for their livestock.

  • Drought, famine and other natural calamities.
  • Rapid population increase.
  • Diseases and epidemics, which afflicted both people and livestock.
  • Internal conflicts and rivalries. For instance, the Karamojong and Turkana exerted pressure on other groups, such as the Iteso.
  • Pressure or attacks from hostile neighbouring communities.
  • Adventure and desire for loot and plunder.

Explain the socio-political and economic organization of the Highland Nilotes during the pre-colonial period.

Socio-political and economic organization of the Highland Nilotes is best illustrated by the Kalenjin as follows:


  • They were divided into semi-independent territorial units known as Bororiet (borosiek in plural).
  • Each Bororiet was controlled by a council of elders (Kok), which was chosen to their position because of their wisdom and military skill.
  • At puberty, boys and girls were initiated and taught the values and customs of the community, although most of the training at initiation, which culminated in circumcision, was centred on boys, who were seen as future defenders of the community.
  • After circumcision, boys of the same age group entered a named age-set. There were up to seven or eight Age-set names.
  • Age-sets were formed on territorial basis in order to discourage interclan disputes or conflicts between families. The aim here was to create a unified strong community.
  • The Saget Ap Eito ceremony was used as a means of maintaining the age-Set system by cycling Age-Set names. This ceremony marked the official hand-over of power from one age-set to the other. It was performed after every 10-15 years. It took 50-100 years to go through a cycle of age-set names. Names, years and number of age-sets varied from one region to another.
  • After initiation, boys also qualified to join the junior Warrior rank in the Bororiet as a permanent warrior cadre to defend the community and to conquer new lands.
  • The Kalenjin believe in the existence of one supreme God (Asis), to who they directed all warship, prayers and petitions.
  • Medicinemen, rainmakers, diviners, prophets and prophetesses were highly respected in the community.
  • By the middle of the 19th century, the office of the Orkoiyot emerged as the central political and religious authority among the Nandi.


  • Mixed farming. The Kalenjin were basically pastoralists. They kept cattle, sheep and goats. later, they adopted agriculture and grew Eleusine, millet, sorghum, etc.
  • In this, both men and women participated in order to produce weapons, farm implements and other equipment.
  • The Kalenjin traded with Abaluhyia, the Maasai, Luo and other neighbours, to whom they sold food, animal and iron products.
  • They made pots, baskets, hunting traps, etc. They also were good in leatherwork.
  • Hunting and gathering. Since land inhabited by the Kalenjin was mostly fertile, they undertook hunting and gathering as an extra leisure time and adventurous economic activity to intensify their vigilance and to keep them alert and firmly in control of their territory through impromptu patrols apart from supplementing their diet. Dogs, bows, arrows, traps and spears were used in hunting and catching animals.

Outline Nandi Age-Set names.

  • Maina,
  • Chuma,
  • Sawe,
  • Korongoro,
  • Kipkoimet,
  • Kaplelach, Ø Kimnyige, Ø

Explain the role/functions of the council of elders among the Highland Nilotes during the pre-colonial period.

(What were the responsibilities/duties of the council of elders among the Highland Nilotes during the pre-colonial period?)

  • They maintained law and order.
  • They settled major disputes in the community.
  • They made important observations and decisions on communal matters. For instance, they advised warriors on how or when to launch raids or attacks on their neighbouring or other communities.
  • They defined grazing and habitable land for various clans and groups to avoid internal rivalry or hostility.
  • They organized and presided over cultural practices, such as initiation.
  • They served as the final court of appeal in the community.

Explain the role/functions of the Orkoiyot among the Nandi during the pre-colonial period.

  • He was both the political and religious leader of the community.
  • He presided over religious functions, such as sacrifices.
  • He advised elders on community affairs.
  • He advised and blessed warriors before they went to war.
  • He arbitrated (settled) disputes.

He was a Seer, rain maker and chief medicine man in the community.

What were the effects of migration and settlement of the Highland Nilotes into Kenya? 

(Explain the consequences/impact/results of migration and settlement of the Highland Nilotes into Kenya.)

  • Increased intercommunal conflicts in the region.
  • Cultural exchange i.e. adoption of Bantu culture by some Kalenjin groups and vice versa. For instance, the Terik borrowed many Bantu customs and a lot of vocabulary. The Bantu on the other hand borrowed the idea of circumcision from the Kalenjin and other highland Nilotic groups.
  • Intermarriage with other groups in the region, e.g. Abagusi and the Luo.
  • Increased trading activities.
  • Displacement of people, especially those they encountered and subdued, such as Abagusi and the Kwavi Maasai.



Name the communities that belong to the Plain Nilotes.

  • The Maasai,
  • Samburu,
  • Iteso,
  • Turkana,

While some historical accounts categorise the Teso and the Turkana with the Plain Nilotes, others include them among the Highland Nilotes.

Identify the factors that led to migration and settlement of the plain Nilotes into Kenya.

(What were the reasons for migration and settlement of the Plain Nilotes into Kenya?)

  • Diseases and epidemics, which afflicted both people and livestock.
  • Internal feuds i.e. raids and counter raids against each other.
  • Pressure or hostility from neighbouring and other communities.
  • The spirit of adventure i.e. desire to experience life in a new land.
  • population pressure.
  • natural calamities such as drought, famine, etc.
  • Search for cultivable land (particularly the Kwavi Maasai).
  • Their nomadic lifestyle, due to which they kept moving from place to place (in search of pasture and water) without a definite settlement or home.

Analyse/discuss the migration and settlement of the Maasai into Kenya.

(Trace/explain the origin of the Maasai.)

  • The Maasai and the original Kalenjin speakers first lived in the northern Lake Turkana area. They may have entered east Africa around 1000AD. Being nomadic pastoralists, they probably migrated mainly due to the need for fresh grazing land and water for their large herd.
  • In spite of their close association with the original Kalenjin speakers in the Northern Lake Turkana region and elsewhere, the Maasai may have developed separately, as shown by the different languages and cultures among and between them and their previous associates.
  • Around 1500AD, the Maasai began to move within the area between mount Elgon and mount Kamalinga and reached the Uasingishu plateau.
  • Around 1700AD, they went southwards and established themselves in the area previously occupied by the Kalenjin, who had migrated ahead of them. They assimilated some of the people they conquered, such as the Sirikwa.
  • By 1800, the Maasai had occupied much of the Central Kenya plains and north-central Tanzania. By that time, they were grazing their livestock throughout east Africa, especially in the Rift valley. They met and waged war against communities such as the Kalenjin, Akamba and Abagusi. They were very fierce warriors and could not allow a stranger into their land.
  • Because of their nomadic lifestyle, they were not able to form a kingdom.
    Towards 1750, the Maasai community were weakened by internal rivalry, among other problems.
  • British colonization of Kenya at the end of the 19th century brought Maasai power to an end

Describe two main groups into which the Maasai are divided.

The Purko (Ilmaasai), who are strictly pastoralists.

  1. The Iloikop (Kwavi) Maasai, who practise mixed farming.

Explain the problems experienced by the Maasai towards 1750AD. 

(Explain the factors that weakened the Maasai towards mid 18th century.)

  • Natural disasters, especially drought and famine.
  • Diseases such as Small-pox, cholera, Pleura-Pneumonia and Rinderpest, which killed large numbers of people and livestock.
  • A series of civil wars between the Iloikop and Ilmaasai, especially after the death of Laibon Mbatian, when his two sons Lenana and Sendeyo were involved in a succession dispute.
  • Frequent wars between the Maasai and the neighbouring communities such as the Agikuyu and the Nandi.
  • Rise of the Nandi, who expanded their power over the already weak Maasai.
  • British rule. British colonization of Kenya at the end of the 19th century brought Maasai power to an end.

Explain the Socio-political and economic organization of the Maasai during the pre-colonial period.


  • They were divided into two groups, i.e. the Pastoral Purko Maasai and the agricultural Kwavi Maasai.
  • They were divided into five clans.
  • They circumcised both boys and girls at puberty, upon which the initiates entered an ageset.
  • he initiated young men joined the warrior class: the Moran. The Moran lived in special Manyattas and were not allowed to marry until they became junior elders.
  • They had diviners and medicine people.
  • By the 19th century, the Purko Maasai had created the office of the Oloibon (ritual leader), who officiated at religious ceremonies.
  • They believed in the existence of and worshipped one God (Enkai).
  • Among the most important ceremonies was the Eunto, which marked the graduation of the Morans into junior elders.


  • The largest political unit was the tribal section, regarded as the geographical nation.
  • The Age-set spokesmen handled affairs involving interclan cooperation.
  • Each clan was administered by a council of elders chosen because of their outstanding military performance and because of their senior position in the community.
  • The Morans defended the community and conducted raids.
  • A military leader led the warriors during war.
  • Junior elders dealt with day to day issues and maintained peace.
  • Senior elders handled the difficult judicial and political decisions.
  • By the end of the 19th century, the Oloibon (religious leader) had acquired political power.


  • Gathering of vegetables, roots and wild fruits.
  • Nomadic pastoralism, keeping cattle, sheep and goats.
  • Trade with neighbouring communities e.g. the Akamba, Agikuyu and Luo.
  • Crafts, e.g. making Baskets and ornaments, etc.
  • Iron smelting, which enabled them to make spears, mainly for defence purposes.

Explain the role/functions of the council of elders among the Maasai during the precolonial period.

  • They administered justice by listening to and solving serious cases.
  • They were the final court of appeal.
  • They advised warriors on raiding techniques. Indeed, they organized some raids.
  • They headed and presided over religious and other ceremonies.
  • They were in charge of sharing out or dividing war booty (loot), which largely comprised livestock.

What were the effects/results of migration and settlement of the Plain Nilotes into Kenya? 

 (Discuss the impact of migration and settlement of the Plain Nilotes into Kenya.)

  • Displacement of the communities they came into contact with. For instance, as they expanded during the 18th century, they subdued the Nandi in the north-west.
  • Assimilation of some Southern Cushites.
  • Adoption of some cultural practices from the Southern Cushites. For instance, they adopted the custom of the Age-set System and circumcision, in addition to adopting some Kalenjin vocabulary.
  • Communities like the Nandi were influenced by the Maasai to adopt the institution of Prophet or Diviner from the institution of Laibon among the Maasai.
  • Acquisition of the practice of farming by a section of the Maasai from their agricultural neighbours in the Rift Valley. For instance, the Iloikop (Kwavi) Maasai became mixed farmers.
  • Trade, which increased and grew, particularly with their neighbours, such as the Akamba and Agikuyu.
  • Intermarriage with neighbouring communities, such as the Akamba, Agikuyu and even the Kalenjin, with who they interacted, even through fighting.
  • Change of fighting tactics. Other groups in Kenya were influenced by Maasai bravery and fierce nature.
  • Increased warfare, and conflicts as communities fought to control resources.
  • Increase of populations.

Explain how Kenyan communities interacted during the pre-colonial period.

(Analyse/discuss intercommunal interaction in Kenya during the pre-colonial period.) In pre-colonial Kenya, communities  mainly interacted in the following ways.

  • Intermarriage.
  • Linguistic Assimilation.
  • Cultural Assimilation.
  • Sporting activities, e.g. wrestling and bull fighting
(Visited 500 times, 1 visits today)
Share this:

Written by