East Africa is referred to as the cradle of human kind; it was due to the following reasons.

The area has a rich variety of environmental factors conducive to human settlement with plenty of opportunists for hunters and gathers and even agriculturalists.

Tools found in koobi for a near lake turkana are attributed to homo habilies. All these pieces of evidence point to the fact that Kenya has inhabited by mankind million of years ago.

Animals such as cattle, sheep and goats were domesticated in Kenya during the late Stone Age inkenya.

Oral traditions points to the possibility that the earliest group of people to occupy present day Kenya were of the khoisan-stock.

The inhabitants appeared to have similar features with the khoihoi and the san of South Africa and the sandawe and thadza of Tanzania.

They are described as having spoken a language which had “clicking’’ sounds like of the khoihoi of south Africa.

In western Kenya the earliest inhabitants were the okuru and ongaye who h been totally assimilated by the Bantu and luo groups.

Another group of early inhabitants in Kenya were of the Cushitic stock.  Although their origin is not clear they seem to have been living in the Ethiopian highlands before spreading and settling in Kenya.

Kenya today is divided into three main linguistic groups namely;

  • Bantus.
  • Nilotes.
  • Cushite.

The largest group comprises the Bantu speakers who are believed to have migrated from the area around camerron and the congo water shed.

The nilotes who claim southern Sudan as their cradle land are 2nd largest group of people in Kenya. The plain nilotes and the highland nilotes point to the north of Lake Turkana as their original homeland.

The 3rd linguistic group comprises the cushite who entered Kenya from the red sea.

Cushitic speakers.

There were two cushites speakers group who migrated into Kenya this were;

  • Southern cushites.
  • Eastern cushites.
  • Southern cushites.

They arrived in Kenya earlier than the eastern cushites.

They migrated into Kenya form the Ethiopian highlands and settled in Kenya and northern tanzaina.

This included the boni, Iraqi and burungi of Tanzania and dahallo and sanye of the lower tana who are the only remain southern cushites group in Kenya.

  • Eastern cushites.

They include .







These people migrated into Kenya much later than southern cushites.they settled 1st in horn of Africa after migrating from Arabia around 1000bc then southwards into modern Somali and reached the northern borders of Kenya.

Reasons for their migration.

  • Escaping from clan/ family feuds/conflicts.
  • Population pressure in the area of origin.
  • Search of better grazing lands.
  • Fleeing outbreak of disease affecting both people and animals.
  • Escaping famine and drought.
  • Fled constant attacks from neighbours such as Somali.
  • Migrated to satisfy their spirit of adventure.

Results of cushites migration into Kenya.

  • During the migrations some people fought killing many people in the process like Somali amd oromo.
  • There was displacement of other communities in Kenya.
  • Some communities interacted and formed alliances e.g rendile and Samburu formed an alliance against turkana.
  • Migration led to increase in population.
  • The cushites introduced some cultural practises in kenya like, age set and taboo of eating fish.
  • Led to intermarriages between them and other group’s e.g pokomo and borana.
  • The cushites intensified trading activities in Kenya.
  • Their migration led to redistribution of population in Kenya.

Bantu speakers.

The term Bantu refers to a group of people who speak related languages. They constitute the largest group in Africa.

They occupy about 2/3 of Africa south of the sahara.

Historian agrees that the original homeland of the Bantu was somewhere between eastern Nigeria and the Cameroon generally referred to as the Congo basin.

From here they moved southwards towards the present day of democratic republic of Congo (DRC) the east wards to eastern Africa.

Reasons for the migration.

  • There was an internal attack that is clan and family conflicts.
  • Escape from external attacks from neighbours.
  • Disease and epidemics forced people to migrate.
  • Some migrated to satisfy their desire for adventure.
  • Escape drought and famine.
  • With better iron tools production was good, people were better feed and the population increased rapidly forcing people to migrate to other areas.
  • The Bantu migrated in such of agricultural land for farming and settlement.

The Bantu entered Kenya into two distinct groups.

  • Western Bantu.
  • Eastern Bantu.

Western Bantu included.

  • Abakuria.
  • Abagusii.
  • Abalulya.
  • Abasuba.

They are referred to as the western Bantu because they settled in Kenya from AD 1000 to the middle of the 15th century.

  1. Abaluyia.

The abalulya oral traditions indicate that they migrated from an area called “misri’’.

Historical evidence shows that the abaluyia had intermarriage with several ethnic groups in the course of their migration.

Believed to originate from mt. elgon as a major point of dispersal.

  • Abagusii.

Oral tradition point to “misri’’ as home of origin just like some of the abaluyia group.

Lived around mt. elgon for several generations.

  • Abakuria.

Live in south nyanza.

Oral traditions indicate that they are related to the abalogoli of the abalulya and the abagusii.

Traced their dispersal point to mt. elgon and maintained that their home of origin is `misri’’.

  • Abasuba.

Occupy rusinga and mfungano island on lake Victoria.

Arrived in Kenya at around AD 1750 from Buganda and busoga.

Most of the abasuba spoke either luganda or lusoga as they migrated from Buganda and busoga.

The abasuba adopted the social custom of the luo including their language dholuo.

Today the abasuba adopted most of the luo culture.

Eastern Bantu.

Divided into two namely.

  • The highland/ mt. Kenya Bantu.
  • Coastal Bantu.

The coastal Bantu.

They include the;

  • Mijikenda
  • Pokomo.
  • Taita.

Their ancestors are believed to have moved west of Lake Victoria through northern Tanzania to the taita hills.

The mijikenda and other groups moved along the coast up to a place called shungwaya, from shungwaya they moved to present day.

The main reason for disposal at shungwaya was the attack from the oromo who were expanding southwards by AD 1600.

The mijikenda.

Mijikenda is a Kiswahili word meaning 9 clans.

  • Kauma.
  • Giriama.
  • Duruma.
  • Chonyi.
  • Jibana.
  • Kambe.
  • Ribe.
  • Rabai.
  • Digo.

The mijikenda traced their origin to shungwaya which in Bantu means “ to be driven away’’.

The mijikenda settled in their own ridges which they refered to as “kayas’’ meaning villages.

Main enemy oromo and Somali.


they live in three hills known as daivida, sagalla and kisigan. They originated from shungwaya and 1st settled at mangea hill then migrated to present day home.

The pokomo.

They lived in shungwaya and later moved southwards and settled along the river tana.

The highland/ mt. Kenya Bantu.

  • Ameru.
  • Agikuyu.
  • Aembu.
  • Mbeere.
  • Akamba.

The akamba.

They migrated from mt. Kilimanjaro are to the great bend of river tana. They moved northwards and were attacked by oromo and later moved to chyulu and mbooni.

The ameru.

They comprises of tigania, igembe, imenti, igoji,chukka, tharaka, muthambi and muimbi. They originated from mbwa.

The agikuyu.

They moved to othaya and aguthi and north eastwards to tetu and mathira in nyeri, then southwards to kiambu and  westwards to nyandarua.

The effects of Bantu migration.

  • They spread iron working to other parts of Kenya, other communities borrowed skills from them.
  • Led to increased population in where they settled.
  • Inter-communities conflicts with other groups e.g. fought oromo in the coast, maasai in rift valley and luo near lake Victoria.
  • Improved trade. Trading activities intensified as the Bantu exchanged iron products with other products.
  • Increased cultural interaction with other communities.
  • Inter-marriages between Bantu and other groups e.g. abalulya with the kalenjin.
  • Exchange of knowledge and skills also took place between groups.
  • Their settlement led to population redistribution e.g dorobo moved to forested areas.
  • Since the Bantu were cultivators their settlement leads to the spread of agricultural practises in Kenya.


The tern nilotes is derived from the word Nile.

The group of people whose origin is associated with river Nile have similarities in the languages they speak and are referred to nilotic speakers.

In Kenya they are 2nd largest.

Nilotic speakers have myths which point to the Nile valley in southern Sudan as place of origin.

Divided into 3 major groups based on where they settled.

  • Plain nilotes-maasai, turkana and samburu.
  • River-lake nilotes-luo.
  • Highland –nilotes-kalenjins

Reasons for migration of the luo.

  • Population pressure at the cradle land.
  • Disease and other epidemics affecting people and animals.
  • Search for better fishing areas.
  • Moved due to external attack/threat from neighbours.
  • Spirit of adventure.
  • Drought and famine.
  • Internal conflicts.
  • Search for free grazing lands and water for their livestock since they are nomadic pastoralists.

By the 10th century the luo began to move into present day Kenya.

They moved in four distinct groups though they all claim a common ancestry called ramogi.

  • Joka-jok

They were the 1st group to arrive in Kenya and settled at ramogi hills in imbo and later spread to sakwa, alego, asembo, southern nyanza.

  • Joka-owiny.

Are the 2nd major group and passed through mt. Elgon, mbale, tororo and settled in samia, alego and uyoma.

  • Joka-omollo.

They settled in samia and imbo region.

  • Abasuba.

Effects of luo migration into Kenya.

  • Population increased in the area.
  • Increased warfare among them thus displacing western Bantus.
  • Assimilation of culture.
  • Development of trade.
  • Intermarriages.
  • Adoption of agriculture from the Bantu.

Plain nilotes.

Reasons for migration.

  • Diseases and epidemics.
  • Internal conflicts.
  • External attacks.
  • Spirit of adventure.
  • Population increased.
  • Drought and famine.

The maasai.

They moved to uasin gishu plateau then moved to kalenjin land and later to plains of central Kenya and northen-central Tanzania.

The turkana.

They originated from mt. Moroto among the karamoja of Buganda. Then moved to north east and settled in south region of Lake Turkana.


They had established themself in kumi and soroti then movoved to mt. Elgon then to western Kenya.

Results of their migration.

  • Displacement of people.
  • Adopted cultural practises e.g. age-set system, circumcision and clitoridectomy.
  • Influenced nandi who adopted the institution of a prophet or deviner from the institution of loibon among the maasai.
  • Some of the maasai adopted farming.
  • Maasai traded with their neighbouring communities like akamba and agikuyu.
  • They intermarried with neighbours like akamba, agikuyu and kalenjin
  • Maasai influenced the fighting tactics of other groups in Kenya.

Highland nilotes.

Reasons for their migration

  • Search for better water and pasture for their livestock.
  • Internal conflicts.
  • External attacks from their neighbours.
  • Disease and epidemics.
  • Drought and famine.
  • Population increased.

The kalenjin.

The result of their migration.

  • Intermarried with other communities such as luo and abagusii.
  • Increased trading activities in the region.
  • Displaced people they came across e.g kwavi maasai and abagusii.
  • Some of the kalenjin assimilated Bantu culture.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
people found this article helpful. What about you?

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x