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The Luo: Migratory Story

Via Facebook,

Jokanyanam, today I bring you the history and ancestry of the Luo right from inside The Sudan.

The Luo originated more than eight centuries ago, from the area that now lies in eastern Bahr el Ghazal in present day Southern Sudan. The main origin were the Shilluk which consisted of more than 100 clans and sub tribes.
Some of these sub tribes who share the same Luo language are:

  • Shilluk (Sudan)
  • Pari (Sudan)
  • Thur (Sudan)
  • Alur (Uganda and DRC)
  • Acholi (Sudan and Uganda)
  • Lango (Uganda)
  • Kumam (Uganda)
  • Jopadhola (Uganda)
  • JoLuo (Kenya and Tanzania)
  • Jo-Luo or Jurchol (Sudan)
  • Anuak (Ethiopia, Sudan)
  • Maban (Sudan)
  • Funj (Sudan)
  • Jumjum (Sudan)
  • Blanda Boore (Sudan)
  • Jonam (Uganda)
  • Shat (Sudan)

Some of the Luo people mainly the Nyikango moved northwards along the Nile towards Kush. The rest rejected the idea and moved southwards and westwards. The present day Kenya Luos were the ones who moved sounthwards.These inludes Jo- Alur,Jo Padhola,Jo-Acholi,Jo-nam.

Migration into Kenya

The Kenya Luo migrated into western Kenya in 5 waves via today’s eastern Uganda, the first wave arriving sometime around 1500 AD. Arrivals were at different times. They found some Bantus like the Kisii and Luhya around the lake but made mince meat of them pushing them towards the highlands and western Kenya.

Joka Jok were the first to arrive. They comprise of JoKarachuonyo, JoKabondo, JoNyakach, JoKanyada, JoKadem among others. They came from the Acholi a Luo people, who are said to have come to northern Uganda and settled in the present day Rachuonyo, Nyando, Homabay, and parts of Rongo Districts.

The second to arrive were the Alur, who arrived from Nebbi District in Northern Uganda. They joined the Joka Jok.The Alur are related to Jonam who have settled along River Nile in Sudan.

Third to arrive in Kenya are the Jo Kowiny who migrated from the JoPadhola and include JoSakwa, JoUyoma, JoSeme, JoAsembo, JoKajulu, JoKisumo among others. They are settled mainly in Siaya District and parts of Kisumu. The Jopadhola or Badama are an ethnic group of Uganda. They live Tororo District in southeastern Uganda and comprise about two percent of the country’s total population.

Jo Komolo arrived later and includes JoAlego, JoUgenya, JoGem, and JoYimbo.They are mainly settled in Siaya District.

Lastly we have the Luo Abasuba who were originally Bantu people from Buganda and Busoga.They were assimilated into groups such as JoKaksingri, JoKaswanga, JoGwassi, JoKamasengre among others.They occupy Migori,Mbita and Suba District.

The present day Kenya Luo traditionally consist of 25 sub-groups, each in turn composed of various clans and sub-clans (‘Jo-‘ indicates ‘people of’.):

  1. Jo-Gem
  2. Jo-Yimbo
  3. Jo-Ugenya
  4. Jo-Seme
  5. Jo-Kajulu
  6. Jo-Karachuonyo
  7. Jo-Nyakach
  8. Jo-Kabondo
  9. Jo-Kisumo (Jo-Kisumu)
  10. Jo-Kano
  11. Jo-Asembo
  12. Jo-Alego
  13. Jo-Uyoma
  14. Jo-Sakwa
  15. Jo-Kanyamkago
  16. Jo-Kadem
  17. Jo-Kwabwai
  18. Jo-Karungu
  19. Abasuba (Jo-Suna, Jo-Gwassi, Kaksingri, etc)
  20. Jo-Kasgunga
  21. Jo-Kanyamwa
  22. Jo-Kanyada
  23. Jo-Kanyidoto
  24. Jo-Kamgundho
  25. Jo-Kamagambo
About author

Lover of life, food and travel. Fell in love with Kisumu and has never looked back.
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