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Know Your Tribe, Know Your Roots; The Abaluhya

Posted by African Press International on September 25, 2008

The Luhya (also Luyia, Luhia, Abaluhya) are the second largest ethnic group in Kenya, numbering about 5.3 million people, or 14% of Kenyas total population of 38 million.

The Luhya cultivate the fertile highlands of Western Kenya, between Lake Victoria to the south, the Nandi Escarpment to the East, Uganda to the West and Mt. Elgon to the north. The area they live in is the most densely populated in Kenya and indeed, in the world. Luhyas are one of the most culturally, politically and economically active ethnic groups in Kenya.

Luhya refers both to the people and the Luhya languages, a group of closely related languages spoken by Luhya sub-groups. The Luhya are made up of about 16 sub-ethnic groups in Kenya, the most dominant groups being the: Bukhusu, Maragoli, Wanga, Ava-Nyore (who ruled the Bunyoro Kingdom in present day Uganda), Marama, Idakho, Khisa, Isukha, Tsotso, Tiriki, Khabras, Ava-Nyala, Tachoni, Khayo, Marachi and Samia. One sub-ethnic group is in northern Tanzania and four are in Uganda.

Note that the prefix Ava or Aba which when translated into English would mean the people/children of (for example Ava-Logoli would mean the children of Maragoli) is placed before all the Luhya sub-ethnic groups when referring to ones ethnicity.

Many Luhyas today are remnants of several federations (divided along the sub-ethnic lines of the Luhya), of the most powerful centralized kingdom that ever existed in Kenyas entire history before the advent of British colonialism in the early 1900s – the Wanga kingdom. The Wanga, themselves a Luhya people, incorporated most of the other sub-ethnic groups of the Luhya, as well as much of the areas inhabited by the Luo, the Kipsigis, the Nandi and the Masai territories as far east as the popular tourist town and flower capital of Kenya, Naivasha in Central Kenya.


The Luhya oral literature of origin suggests a migration into their present-day locations from the north: virtually all sub-ethnic groups claim to have migrated first south from Misri (Egypt). In one of the Luhya dialects Maragoli, the word Abaluhya or Avaluhya is pronounced as A(b/v)a-roo-shia, which means the people of the North, the people of the higher place, the people from the North, or simply Northerners. Misri, what is now known as Egypt to much of the world is directly to the North of what is now called Kenya.

Luhyas travelled south along the Nile River, as they fled Egypt, before settling in the area of what is now Northern Kenya, Southern Ethiopia, Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. Their ruler at the time was Kitanga. The Turkana later came to occupy this place and called it Lok-Kitang meaning the place of Kitang ((Lokitaung) is a modern Northern Kenyan town).

Several reasons have been posited as to why Luhyas fled Ancient Egypt (Misri): famine, droughts, and repeated attacks from foreign invaders, Egypts own civil wars, and disease and over taxation by Romans. We will get into each reason in detail later.

From here they moved on to what is now Central Uganda. They then claim to have migrated further east; first settling around the Mount Elgon area before displacing a forest people akin to the Khoisan of southern Africa before settling in their current homeland of what is now Western Kenya.

Other sources report that the Luhya, and some ethnic groups of Eastern, Central and Southern Africa like those of Sudan, Somalia, Chad, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and South Africa, like the Zulu, Baganda, Nyarwanda of Rwanda, and the Rundi of Burundi amongst other peoples of Kenya e.g. the Kikuyu,were all native inhabitants of Misri (Egypt) before migrating southwards into the interior of Africa over the course of several hundreds or even thousands of years.

The Baganda say that their ruler at the time of their exodus from Egypt was Kintu.

Many anthropologists believe that the progenitors of the Luhya were part of the great Bantu migration out of East-Central Africa around 1000 BC. However, there are some who suggest that the Bantu speakers were part of a larger migration from Egypt (commonly known as Misri in Africa that approximately occurred between the years 500 BC and 1000 AD, after the Persian, Greek, Roman, and Arab invasions into Egypt).

Such evidence is based on linguistic, historical, scientific and cultural studies by such Egyptologists as Cheikh Anta Diop, a Senegalese, Wilberforce Obenga, a Kenyan, and Moustafa Gadalla an Egyptian, but are not mainstream or widely accepted especially among American and European historians.

In the Holy Bible God (called Nyasaye by some Luhyas) condemns Egypt for not supporting Israel in Ezekiel 29:6 – 9 says

6 Then all who live in Egypt will know that I am the LORD. You have been a staff of reed for the house of Israel. 7 When they grasped you with their hands, you splintered and you tore open their shoulders; when they leaned on you, you broke and their backs were wrenched. 8 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will bring a sword against you and kill your men and their animals. 9 Egypt will become a desolate wasteland. Then they will know that I am the LORD. Because you said, The Nile is mine; I made it, 10 therefore I am against you and against your streams, and I will make the land of Egypt a ruin and a desolate waste from Migdol to Aswan, as far as the border of Cush. 11 No foot of man or animal will pass through it; no one will live there for forty years. 12 I will make the land of Egypt desolate among devastated lands, and her cities will lie desolate forty years among ruined cities. And I will disperse the Egyptians among the nations and scatter them through the countries.

A few verses later, the bible adds;

19 Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to give Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will carry off its wealth. He will loot and plunder the land as pay for his army. 20 I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Historians like to discredit the bible as a credible source of history, even though it is. In 525 BC, Persia (Babylon) conquered Ancient Egypt. It was the first time the kingdom had been subdued, and it was the beginning of the end. Civil war followed. With internal strife comes a food shortage due to a lack of people peacefully tilling the land to produce food. Widespread food scarcity results in disease because people have no resistance to opportunistic infections. As such, this led to the exodus of native ancient Egyptians (some of whom eventually evolved into the Luhya among other African ethnic groups) from Egypt.

During the height of Romes power, Egypt was the breadbasket of the Roman world. Egyptian families were required to provide a portion of their harvest to the Romans. Romans who used these foreign bases to govern the Egyptian population and to collect taxes. That led the Romans to reinforce foreign settlements, by bringing in more foreigners, mostly Jews and Syrian, writes Moustafa Gadalla in his widely-acclaimed book Exiled Egyptians.

Over-taxation led Ancient Egyptians to vacate their land for lands further south. With no people to till the land, droughts and famines hit the kingdom. These crises, along with Barbarian invasions from Northern Europe eventually led to the demise of the Roman empire.

Such were some of the main reasons that led to the flight of the people who eventually became the different sub-ethnic groups of the Luhya from their land of origin. It must be noted that the exodus did not happen overnight, but rather, it was a gradual exit. One family here, two families there, and so on and so forth. Some African Egyptians settled in what is now Sudan, others in what is now Ethiopia, while others followed the Nile further into what is now known as Uganda, among other countries within the continent of Africa. While some descendants of Ancient Egyptians settled here, population expansion caused others to move East into what is now Kenya. Some of the ones who ended up in Kenya include the Luhya.

However, some Luhya sub-ethnic groups claim that they have always inhabited the areas around Mt. Elgon. Such varieties of histories reveal how Luhyas are probably a mixture of several Eastern African peoples combining to form a single major ethnic group which is further sub-divided into smaller sub-groups. Most Luhyas exhibit marked physical differences from one another, even within nuclear families. Some Luhyas also practiced polygamy just like their forebears in Egypt.

The Nabongo (a Wanga title for king) ancestors came from Egypt. Mutesa emigrated from Egypt with his three sons, Mwanga, Mukoya, and Kaminyi and settled in Kampala, in what is now Uganda where he died. Mutesa was the ruler of his people in Egypt and after his death; he was succeeded by his son Mwanga who adopted the title of Kabaka. His other son Kaminyi migrated, due to the cruelty and inhumanity of Mwanga, to Tiriki area where he became the ruler of his people with the title of Nabongo. Kaminyi had 14 wives and six children including Mwanga. Mwanga had 8 sons: Wanga I, Murono, Khabiakala, Wanga II, Muniafu, Namakwa, Mbatsa, and Wabala.


The Luhya people call their leaders Mwami (Singular – Omwami, Plural – Bami or Abami) Luhya leadership was democratic in nature where power came from the people. The overall leader was called Nabongo with the second in hierarchy called Lukongo and followed by Likuru or Amakuru. They Luhya ruled over a large geographic area between present day Uganda, through lake Victoria Nyanza (over the present day Luo) to the present day Naivasha in the western part of Central Kenya, before being colonized by the British in 1888 after King Mumia was tricked.

For comparative purposes, this area is equivalent to almost a third of the U.S. state of Texas – (140,000 square kilometers) and is 9,000 km larger than Greece.

Luhya leaders included

Kitanga, Maina wa Nalukale (believed to have died among the Kikuyu after being dejected by his son later known as Kintu), Mwanga, Muwanga, Shiundu, Nabongo Mumia, Hammtalla, Namutala, Namachanja and others.

European contact

The first European the Luhya had contact with was probably Henry Morton Stanley as he voyaged around Lake Victoria. In 1883 Joseph Thomson was the first European known to pass through Luhya territory on foot, and was influential in opening the region to Europeans after his meeting with King Mumia of the Wanga Kingdom. The Wanga kingdom was very similar to the Baganda kingdom and other monarchies in Uganda, an unusual form of government for Bantu speaking peoples. Mumia was the last king of the Wanga, and was recognized by the British as a chief.

Reaction to colonialism

The Bukusu strongly resisted British incursions into their territory in the 1890s. In 1895, they fought the British from a stronghold near Bungoma on the lower slopes of Mount Elgon called Chetambes Fort. But the British had machine guns and massacred over a hundred Bukusu warriors in the stronghold, who were armed only with spears and hide shields. In the 1940s and 1950s the Bukusu resisted the British under the leadership of Elijah Masinde, a religious leader and prophet who demanded return of their lands. During the Mau Mau rebellion (centered in the Kikuyu areas of Mount Kenya through most of the 1950s), Masinde was imprisoned, but was released to his home area at independence in 1963.

The Kabras and the Wanga collaborated peacefully with the British: the Kabras formed the main Luhya ethnic group in the colonial-era police forces within the Luhya homeland. Nabongo Mumia, the King of the Luhya, was forced to sign treaties with the British after being defeated; this allowed the colonial authorities to subject his people to British rule.

Significant numbers of the Luhya fought for the British in the Second World War, many as conscripts in the Kenya African Rifles. As with many African societies, the Luhya named their children after ancestors, the weather, or significant events. Consequently, many Luhya people born around the time of the Second World War were named Keyah, a transliteration of KAR, the acronym for the Kings African Rifles. Other famous Chiefs during the colonial time included, Ndombi wa Namusia, Sudi Namachanja, and Namutala.


The family

Luhya culture revolves around the extended family. Polygamy is allowed and, traditionally, was actually normal. Today, however, polygamy is only allowed in cases where the man marries under traditional African law or Muslim law. Civil marriages (conducted by government authorities) and Christian marriages preclude the possibility of polygamy. About 10 to 15 families traditionally made up a village, headed by a village headman (Omukasa or Oweliguru) who was elected by the male population in the village. In many cases, the village headman was also a shaman and healer.

Within a family, hierarchy was strictly enforced. Among the men, the man of the home was the ultimate authority, followed by his first-born son. In a polygamous family, the first wife held the most prestigious position among women. The first-born son of the first wife was usually the main heir to his father, even if he happened to be younger than his half-brothers from his fathers other wives. Daughters had virtually no permanent position in Luhya families: they were viewed as other mens future wives, and were brought up to fulfill this role. They did not inherit property, and were excluded from decision-making meetings within the family. Today, girls are allowed to inherit property, in accordance with Kenyan law.

Children are named after the clans ancestors, or after their grandparents, or after events or the weather. The paternal grandparents take prudence, so that the first-born son will usually be named after his paternal grandfather (kuka), while the first-born daughter will be named after her paternal grandmother (kukhu). Subsequent children may be named after maternal grandparents, after significant events, or even after the weather (for example, the name Wafula among the Bukusu is given to a boy born during the rainy season this comes from the Bukusu word for rain, efula; and Simiyu among the Banyala was the name given to the child born during the dry season).

The clan

Luhya people usually identified with a clan: this was a grouping of people with a common ancestry (usually up to about 3 or 4 generations). The clan underpinned social interaction and determined relationships such as marriage and custom subsets. Marriage within ones clan was taboo and was strictly forbidden. This custom persists even today: before young people get into serious relationships with members of the opposite sex, they will usually find out the clan of their would-be fianc / fiance. If it is established that the two, in fact, belong to the same clan, the relationship is abandoned. With the adoption of a modern, town-based lifestyle by many Luhya people, the concept of the clan is dying out among most sub-groups (with the notable exception of the Bukusu, among whom tradition is revered and is still alive).

The sub-groups

The Luhya are divided into sub-groups, each speaking a certain Luhya language or dialect. Linguistically, these subdivisions can be grouped into four main categories:

The Wanga dialect, or variations of it, is spoken by the Wanga, Marama, Kisa, Watsotso, Kabras, Isukha, Idakho, Nyore and Tachoni.

The Maragoli dialect is spoken by the Maragoli and the Tiriki.

The Bukusu dialect, or variations of it, is spoken by the Bukusu, Gisu and Masaaba.

The Nyala dialect is spoken by Abanyala of Busia and those who emigrated to Kakamenga popularly known as Abanyala ba Ndombi.

The Saamia dialect is spoken by the Saamia, Nyala (Busia), Khayo, Tura and the Marachi.

Significant overlaps exist between these sub-groups, with mini-dialects that are composed of two or more dialects. The Tachoni of Lugari area, for example, speak a dialect that is mixture of the Kabras and Tachoni dialects. The sub-groups of the Luhya are Babukusu, Abatirichi (Tiriki), Maragoli (Balogoli), Abanyole (Banyore), Abakhayo (Khayo), Abanyala (Nyala), Abasamia, Abisukha, Abidakho, Abashisa, Abamarachi, Abatsotso, Abakabarasi (Kabras), Abatachoni (Tachoni), Abawanga (Wanga), and Abamarama (Marama), Khanye, Haya.

Abanyala (descendants of Nyala)

Physically Nyala is a region somewhere between Ethiopia and Sudan.Abanyala is a Luhya sub-group which resides in two districts, Busia and Kakamega, Kenya in East Africa. It is believed that the Banyala of Kakamega originated from Busia with Mukhamba considered as their ancestral father. They are closely related with the Abanyala residing in Busia as they speak the same dialect, save for minor differences in pronunciation. The Banyala in Kakamega reside in Navakholo Division North of Kakamega forest. They are mostly known by their one time powerful colonial chief: Ndombi wa Namusia who was succeeded by his son Andrea Ndombi. Then came Paulo Udoto, Mukopi, Wanjala, Barasa Ongeti, Matayo Oyalo and Muterwa (the most recent) in that order.

Interestingly the Abanyala are a very diverse people with about thirty different clans which have intermarried forming a whole complicated network of relationships popularly called Olwikho. The Abanyala clans include: Abaafu, Ababenge, Abachimba, Abadavani, Abaengere, Abakangala, Abakhubichi, Abakoye, Abakwangwachi, Abalanda, Abalecha, Abalindo, Abamani, Abamisoho, Abamuchuu, Abamugi, Abamwaya, Abasaacha,Abasakwa, Abasaya, Abasenya, Abasia, Abasiloli, Basonge (also found among Kabras, Abasumba, Abasuu, Batecho (also found among Bukusu, Abaucha, Abauma, Abaumwo, Abayaya, Bayirifuma (also found among Tachoni, Abayisa, Abayundo, Abasiondo. One is not allowed to marry from his/her own clan.


The Kabras originally Banyala, which is a Luhya sub-group, resides principally in Malava, in what is called Kabras Division of Kakamega district of western Province. The Kabras are sandwiched by the Isukha, Banyala and the Tachoni.

The name Kabras comes from Avalasi which refers to warriors or Mighty Hunters as thats what the Kabras were. They were fierce warriors who fought with the neighbouring Nandi for cattle and were known to be fearless. This explains why generally they are few as compared to other sub-groups such as the Maragoli and Bukusu .

They claim to be descendants of Nangwiro associated with the Biblical Nimrod. The Kabras dialect sounds close to Tachoni though to the experienced ear, someone can detect some differences. Plus in all Luhya, there are different names for different things depending on the sub-dialect, so to speak.

Originally, the Kabras were few families which ended up as the head of the clans. The names of the fathers of the families also ended up as the names of the clans. The clans are Abamutama, Basonje, Abakhusia, Bamachina, Abashu, Abamutsembi, Baluu, Batobo, Bachetsi, Bamakangala and several others.

The Kabras were under Chief Nabongo Mumia of the Wanga and produced an elder in his council of elders. This was Soita Libukana Samaramarami of Lwichi village in Central Kabras, near Chegulo market.

The first church to spread to Kabras was the Friends Church (Quakers). This was through Arthur Chilson a quaker missionary, who had started the church in Kaimosi, Tiriki. He earned local name, Shikanga, and his children learned the language as they lived and interacted with the local children. Therefore Friends church still has a strong following among the Kabras though other churches have spread to the area.

Tachoni clans

[AbaChambai, Abamarakalu, Abasang’alo, Abangachi, Abasioya, Abaviya, Abatecho, Abaengele etc]. There are theories that the following clans originally belonged with the Tachoni; ] Saniak (also found among maragolis in Kenya and in Tanzania along Lake Victoria these include Former President Julius Nyereres Clan), Bangachi (also found among Bagishu of Uganda), Balugulu (also found in Uganda), Bailifuma (also found among the Abanyala)

Bukusu clans

Bakhone, Balisa, Baemba, Balunda (also found in Congo), Baengele (originally Banyala), Bakimwei, Basombi, Baechale, Babutu (descendants of Mubutu also found in Congo), Bameme, Batecho, Batilu, Babuya, Bayemba, bakhurarwa, babichachi, bakhwami


The Luhya, with the exception of the Marama and Saamia, practiced male circumcision. A few sub-tribes practiced female clitoridectomy, but even in those, it was only limited to a few instances and was not a widespread practice as it was among the Agikuyu. Outlawing of the practice by teh government led to the end of the practice, even though a few instances still occur among teh Tachoni sub-tribe. Traditionally, circumcision was a period of training for adult responsibilities for the youth. Among the Kakamega Luhya, circumcision was carried out every four or five years, depending on the clan. This resulted into various age sets notably, Kolongolo, Kananachi, Kikwameti, Kinyikeu, Nyange, Maina, and Sawa in that order. Like the Abanyala living in Navakholo do the initiation of their young boys every other year and notably an even year. The initiates were about 8 to 13 years old, and the ceremony was followed by a period of seclusion for the initiates. On their coming out of seclusion, there would be a feast in the village, followed by a period of counselling by a group of elders. The newly-initiated youths would then build bachelor-huts for each other, where they would stay until they were old enough to become warriors. This kind of initiation is no longer practiced among the Kakamega Luhya, with the exception of the Tiriki. Nowadays, the initiates are usually circumcised in hospital, and there is no seclusion period. On healing, a party is held for the initiate who then usually goes back to school to continue with his studies. Among the Bukusu, the Tachoni and (to a much lesser extent) the Nyala and the Kabras, the traditional methods of initiation persist. Circumcision is held every even year in August and December (the latter only among the Tachoni and the Kabras), and the initiates are typically 11 to 15 years old.


Traditionally, the Luhya practiced arranged marriage. The parents of a boy who was of marrying age (usually about 20 years old) would approach the parents of a girl who had the desired qualities (usually, about 16 years old, a reputation for being hard-working and a fine physique facial beauty was not very important) to ask for her hand. If the girl agreed, negotiations for dowry would begin. Typically, this would be 12 cattle and similar numbers of sheep or goats, to be paid by the grooms parents to the brides family. Once the dowry was delivered, the girl was fetched by the grooms sisters to begin her new life as a wife.

Among the Bukusu, the custom was slightly different. Young men were allowed to elope with willing (or, sometimes, unwilling) girls, with negotiations for dowry to be conducted later. In such cases, the young man would also pay a fine to the parents of the girl.

As polygamy was allowed, a middle-aged man would typically have 2 to 3 wives. When a man got very old and handed over the running of his homestead to his sons, the sons would sometimes find a young girl for the old man to marry. Such girls were normally those who could not find men to marry them, usually because they had children out of wedlock.

Wife inheritance was common: a widow would normally be inherited by her husbands brother or cousin. In some cases, the eldest son would also inherit his fathers widows (though not his own mother).


The Luhya had extensive customs surrounding death. There would be a great celebration at the home of the deceased, with mourners staying at the funeral for up to forty days. If the deceased was a wealthy or influential man, a big tree would be uprooted and the deceased would be buried there, after the burial another tree Mutoto, Mukhuyu or Mukumu would be planted (This was a sacred tree and is found along most luhya migration paths it could only be planted By a rightious Lady mostly Virgin or a Very Old Lady). Nowadays, the mourners stay for shorter periods of time (about one week) and the celebrations are held at the time of burial, with a single closing ceremony again to end the forty days. The Luhya practised African Traditional Religion and considered funerals with high regard as a custom to please the ancestors. Sacrifices were made to please the spirits. There was great fear of the Balosi (witches) and Babini (wizards). These are often referred to as the night-runners who prowl in the nude running from one house to another casting spells. Today, most of the Luhya practice Christianity and they refer to God as Nyasaye, a word borrowed from the neighbouring Luo people. The Bukusu believe in Were the God of Mount Elgon whom they worship. They are also said to practice African Traditional Religion and are extremely tied to their traditions.


Maina wa Nalukale, Mutonyi wa Nabukelembe (Died among the kabras in the Machina clan) Wachiye wa Namumo Elija Masinde wa Nameme

Modern culture

Luhya people that have moved to town to work are, as with most other Kenyans, unable to fully practice their culture. Many of them have turned to sports and clubs to maintain ties with their kinsmen. Most of them follow football, with the majority supporting the AFC club. The AFC Leopards football club is one of the most renowned football clubs in East and Central Africa. It was formed in 1964 under the name of Abaluhya Football club, to represent members of the Luhya community and to rival Luo Union Football club. Today, the club has a fan base spanning the entire nation, and is one of the best supported teams in the country. It has produced several stars, many of whom went on to gain national, regional and continental fame. Some of the sportsmen it produced include Wilberforce Mulamba, Joe Masiga (also a rugby player), Livingstone Madegwa, Joe Kadenge and John Shoto Lukoye. Staunch AFC Leopards fans are known to be very passionate. Matters pertaining to the club evoke high emotions among them especially against their arch rivals Gor Mahia.

Economic activities

The Luhya are, traditionally, agriculturalists, and they grow different crops depending on the region where they live. Close to Lake Victoria, the Saamia are mainly fishermen and traders, with their main agricultural activity being the raising of cassava. The Bukhusu and the Wanga are mainly cash crop farmers, raising sugar cane in Bungoma and Mumias areas respectively. The Bukhusu also farm wheat in the region around Kitale. The Isukha of Kakamega area and the Maragoli of Vihiga raise tea, while the rocky land of the Nyore is used to harvest stones and gravel for construction. In Bukura area, the Khisa are small scale and only subsisitance maize farmers. They also rear cattle, sheep, goats and chicken on a small scale. The Khabras of Malava area raise mainly maize at subsistence levels, with a few also farming sugar cane.

With the rapid modernisation of Kenya, many young Luhya people have emigrated to Nairobi and other towns in search of work, and many of them are to be found residing in the south-western Nairobi areas of Kangemi and Kawangware.

Musical Culture

The Luhya play a traditional seven-stringed lyre called litungu. The Abuluhya are famous for their intense, feastive exotic dance the Isikuti.

Cheers! Njoro


API/Source.njoros blog

10 Responses to “Know Your Tribe, Know Your Roots; The Abaluhya”

  1. Augustus Barasa said

    In this article Muntoyi is reported as Wà Nabukelembe. This is corruption of the naming system of the Bukusu. Wa like Khwa means so of , with differing connotation. A son’s fame was celebrated both by members of his own clan and by his mother’s. When the maternal identity took precedence , Na would be prefixed to the of the mother’s. Eg Wachiye wa Naumbwa, Naumbwa is not father’s name. Instead it derived from mother’s clan. Since Motonyi’s father was Bukelembe he can’t be referred to as Wà Nabukelembe instead he should be ‘KHWA BUKELEMBE. or MUTONYI WA BUKELEMBE. Of the Bayitu clan.
    There is no clan named Bukelembe to warrant use of the Prefix Na.
    As a member of Bayitu I take this opportunity to correct this. It pains us to hear and read this error. By the way, the last grandson of Mutonyi wa Bukelembe is still alive( 92 yrs old). If need be further reference can be made.


  2. wycliffe wandawa said

    have searched for Abanyala Ba Ndombi ruling hierarchy BT nothing matches my search!!!plz help


  3. Simon Mulongo said

    Thank you very much for the research and the outline of the origins, culture and the general anthropology of the Abaluhya and specifically the Babukusu. There several pieces of such writings by various enthusiasts and this need to be encouraged if we are to have a properly written account of our past that has been passed onto our generation orally.

    Permit me, however, to decry the lack of necessary seriousness in most of the works that I come across, especially concerning the Bukusu/Masaaba bit – which am most interested. There is evidently laxity depicted by gross assumptions that border on guesswork and imagination without stating as such.

    History is a living subject and as such, by necessity, be written as correctly and accurately as possible. It is a serious sin to make assumptions unless one justifies as such. Even the geo-history must be correctly placed, now that we have the entire earth properly surveyed, including the waters and the atmosphere. Therefore, there is little excuse for us to give erroneous pieces. It is purely academic dishonesty. In this post, the African Press international make direct guesswork without any attribution.

    To start with, the Abaluya’s location cannot be “….Lake Victoria to the South, Uganda to the west …..Mt Elgon to the North…” Yet you want to include Uganda’s Samya and BaMasaaba (BaGishu) as part of the larger Luhya community. This is because BaBukusu live beynd Mt. Elgon, in areas of Bulambuli, Bukwo and Trans-Nzia – which are effectively beyond Elgon.

    The narration of sub-ethnic groups of BaBukusu to include Bamasaabaa and BaGisu is erroneous. The fact is that BaMasaaba are the collective superior cluster that include the BaBukusu as part of their descendants.

    Note that the name GISU or GISHU is a nickname by the Maasai to the BaMasaaba. The legend has it that when the Maasai made a famous major raid on the cattle of the BaMasaaba, the elders of the latter dispatched a highly skilled task force to rescue the rustled cattle, that included a noble bull named KHOLE. The team successfully returned with the cattle and the Maasai Laibon, conceding, said ” for the love of your cattle, I now call you, Ing’-ki-shu” literally “the cattle people”. The Maasai call a bull GISHU and cattle ING’KISHU. This literally renamed us, the BaMasaaba – Gishu. This, however, must be corrected and it’s lately anonymously agreed to that effect.

    The hero, Masaaba had three sons: Mwambu, Mubuya and Wanale. The eldest, Mwambu settled northwards (Budadiri); the last born – Wanale around Mbale (Bungokho). Mubuya occupied mid central and southern parts (Bududa and Bubulo). It’s Mubuya who gave rise to the Bukusu.

    BaBukusu are grand descendants of BaMasaaba. This could have been around 1750 AD when further migrations from Bubulo (South Mbale) area continued drifting South-Easterly to the current Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia Counties of Kenya. The original location of Bukusu is at at a defunct volcanic hill, Bukusu in the current Bukusu Sub-County, Bubulo County, Manafwa District, Uganda. Over 85% of the clans among the BaBukusu have origins in this area. The migrations continued to take place until 1950s after the boundaries were finally drawn in 1926 that defined Kenya and Uganda. This colonial demarcation separated families and clans – making the hitherto BaBukusu separate from other BaMasaaba, referred to as BaGishu.

    From 2000, the BaMasaaba have acknowledged this fact are have established a union framework of Intsu Ya’ Masaaba (The Homestead of Masaaba) headed by Omukuuka (pamaount chief). Every two years during the circumcision period, the inauguration is done by both the Kenyan and Ugandan BaMasaaba at Bumutoto, near Mbale. This year, Presidents Museveni and Uhuru Kenyatta are expected to grace over this deeply rooted and coveted cultural ceremony.

    There are other aspects related to the Buganda and Wanga kingdoms origins and events in the post I regard inaccurate and requires correction. Some of the BaBukusu cultural customs in the post refer to the current (modern) practices that have been hugely reformed (adulterated) with foreign cultures, including Swahili, Kalenjin, Ganda and European. Culture is dynamic and grows infinitely but we need to preserve the basic norms that characterize it as such for its identity.

    Simon Mulongo, MP Bubulo County East, Manafwa District, Uganda.


  4. Nice post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!
    Very helpful info specially the last part :) I care for such
    information much. I was looking for this certain info for a
    long time. Thank you and best of luck.


  5. there comes another brief literature on luhya. good efforts anyway. anyone wiling on digging deeper into our origin please or


  6. Joseph O Owanga said

    The article is not accurate on the subclans of Abanyala.Eg. Where do the Abamurembo, Abanyifwa, Abakhone, Abasinyama fall? Again history should not be distorted on the web.The Luhya are linked to the Bantus in the South(Zulus,Swazis etc).If they migrated from the North, there should be traces of remnants in terms of dialect!Can my historian friend Prof. William Ochieng, Maseno University comment on this!We should all be weary of untested theories on migrations.


  7. wyckie said

    this is great.I sincerely love it.A taking history and I promise 2 study more on Luhya.


  8. Anonymous said

    This is a great article,i hav learnt much about the bukusu-thats where i belong and im actually proud to be one.


  9. we need to find a system on to how we can unite our fellow youths for a vision that western kenya be a developed county.


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