The Luo people and their roots


The word ‘Luo’ synonymous to ‘Joluo’ and ‘Jaluo’ is a representation of an ethnic group in northern Tanzania, eastern Uganda and most popularly Kenya. A large part of the ethnolinguistic group draw relations between southern Sudan, northern Tanzania, northern and eastern Uganda, and western Kenya. The third largest ethnic group in Kenya is the Luo, prior to the Kikuyus and the Luhyas.

A Historical Overview of the Luo people in East Africa

Following Kenya’s independence that came in 1963, they proposed their will to the bulk inheritance of political power. In 1994, an estimate of the Luo population in Kenya projected to around 3,185,000. The population estimate in Tanzania projected to 280,000 in 2001. The main livelihood of the Luo people is fishing. In the realm of their lands, they make a living as tenant fishermen, urban workers and small-scale farmers in eastern Africa. The language they speak is Dholuo; which is a basis of Nilo-Saharan language family and a Western Nilotic branch. A prominence of the spoken family is by the Alur, Padhola, Acholi and Lango of Uganda.

Pre-Colonial Times

The origin of the Luo is a probable pointer to Wau in southern Sudan; drawing reference to the Sue and Meride rivers. Their migration into Western Kenya was a possibility made viable by the routes of today’s Eastern Uganda; the arrival of the first wave rippling through in around 1500AD. The difference in arrival times was in at least five waves;

  • The Joka-Jok (the first largest migration from Acholiland)
  • The migrants from Alur
  • The Owiny( Padhola migrants)
  • The Jok Omolo (Assumed from Pawir)
  • The Abasuba (heterogeneous inhabitants of southern Nyanza with bantu elements)

Colonial times

The early contact between the British and the Luo was indirect and sporadic. The disposition of their lands was however ignored by the British; a fate not so luckily avoided by the pastoral tribes who were inhabitants of the Kenyan White Highlands. When it came to the independence struggle in Kenya, the Luo people played major roles of significance. They however absently declined to a relative involvement in the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s. An alternative objective was their advancement in education towards the cause of a peaceful independence.


For linguistic reasons and its classification, the Luo belong to the river lake Nilotes. The reason behind their preference name is a basis of their movement along the river in the course of their migration. Their migratory patterns led to their settlement in East Africa’s great lake regions. The persistence and survival of the Luo languages often led to an adoption and acceptance by other people of different ethnicity and origin.

The tendency of the Luo to settle or live in rivers led to their reference as the “Joham”. Their original way of life was a basis of the pastoralist, hunters and fishermen living along the Nile Valley. The settlement of the Luo in East Africa led to agriculture as an additional practice. Their southward movement up the Nile into East Africa in the period of 15th and 16th centuries absorbed and incorporated other groups of people into their culture.

The Bunyoro – Kitara is also an evident example of the Luo people absorbed into the Bantu culture. The religious and spiritual belief of the Luo people is towards a higher being with a reference name of JOK whom they believed and served as their God. The present day Jaluo, Jopadhola, Acholi, and Alur serve the common ancestor.

The Luo was known settlers of Napata, or Tekidi, a known reference of a great mountain’s foot. The locality was of Upper Egypt by then and now the modern Northern Sudan. The duration of the period was between 5500 B.C. and 3500 B.C. with the control of the region leaning on the Nubians. The inhabitants were black skinned with the Luo people being a part of the set. The god Anu or Agu was a beneficiary of their collectively pledged royalty; the Agu and Anu people.

The present day Ethiopia (Abyssinia) is aboriginal to the Anu people. The foundation of the great Koch (Cush) kingdom was due to an invasion on the Nubians by the Anu people towards an expansion into Egypt, Sumeria, and Phoenicia. An invasion of the Kush land in 591 B.C. was as a result of an Egyptian expedition. The fuel of the up rise was by the Carian and Greek mercenaries and under the supervision of two generals leading to the Luo’s settlement capture (Napata).

The loss of an economic influence by Napata led to its desiccation; causing a sudden halting wave in the sector of agriculture and cattle. The ultimate loss in the economical capital loss leaned on the side of Meroe (modern Butana region) as a result of the Persian raid. Amasis is a remembrance to date with a reflection of a hate figure after collaboration with foreigners (the brown men with dirty beards). Their participation led to the complete death of the grand capital Koch (Tekidi). The succession in betrayal by Amasis led his entitlement as the pharaoh. In 525 BC, the invasion of the Persians led to the defeat and conquers of Egypt. Amasis was, therefore, the last of the indigenous Pharaoh to rule Egypt.

The defeat of the Persians came to pass in 490 B.C. by the Greeks and Alexander the Great occupied Egypt in 332 B.C. He established a settlement in at Alexandria and relocated Therato (the capital) from Memphis. The period led to the Greek’s reference to Egypt as Aegypta. The name was a reference to a land of black inhabitants, the black natives. The name Egypt was then under conception.

A conquest of Egypt was again in 30 B.C. by Octavian in the Actium battle. Incursions and border skirmishes were successful events by Meroe, and it bypassed the Roman borders. In 23 B.C., a halt stopped the Meroitic raids through Publius Petronius; a Roman governor to the Egyptians. However, a strong iron industry made Meroe unreachable (the Birmingham of Afrika) in addition to the international trade with an involvement of China, India, and Egypt.

The reign of Meroe came to an end in 350 CE through the Aksumite king Ezana. The development of the kingdom was by early Nubians before being overwritten by the Semites in 400 B.C. The kingdom of Aksum stretched its controlling hands to southern Saudi Arabia, western Yemen, Djibouti, southern Egypt, northern Sudan, Eritrea, and northern Ethiopia. Together with China, Rome, and Persia, the four recognized themselves as superior world powers.

In the 7th century, the Islamic rise precipitated the kingdom’s end with control and dominance on the most of the Nile and the Red Sea. The Islamic Empire forced the Aksum into economic isolation together with the Aksumite; the Nilo-Saharan-speaking people, the Cushitic-speaking people, and the Semitic speaking-people. The Islamic force led them further inland, southwards towards the highlands in their quest for protection. The fall empire’s fall came in the 11th century.

A light skinned community therefore emerged from amongst these people with a combined culture of Meroe, Kush, and Egypt. Their emigration was from northern Khartoum to Sudan (Bahr el Ghazal). A group of dark-skinned people; the Sudanese, drew reference to them as Jur Chol meaning light skinned aliens passing through. Population explosion, anthrax and calamities between 990 and 1125 in Sudan contributed to a severe loss in their livestock. The only resort left for their survival was fishing along the river Nile, earning the name Jo-Oluo-Aora meaning the river followers.

Hence, from the 10th century the majestic Nile has been a home to the Luo community as their means of survival and Nam Lolwe, renamed by the British as Lake Victoria during their colonial reign. South Sudan is, therefore, the place where the Luo received the name Jo Luo and a subsequent birthplace to the Luo nation; an umbilical cord ascertaining to their origin.


Due to linguistic variables, the Luo people find a classification under the River Lake Nilotes. The course of their migration created a movement pattern along the rivers to their settlement around the Great East African lake regions. Another migratory feature draws persistence and survival in the Luo languages towards its adaptation and acceptance by different ethnic origins and groups. Their livelihood based grounds in greener pastures and adequacy in the rainfall amounts as a result of their ancestors being pastoralists.

Bahr-el-Ghazel province is the believed base of origin of the Luo ancestors, in southern Sudan; along the Nile. A line of distinction in the group within the region was evident by 1000 A.D. As a consequence, some traveled upwards along the Nile to a settlement in Uganda as some settled in western Kenya. 1000 AD was the evident distinction between the group in the Bahr-el-Ghazel’s eastern parts and the regions of Eastern Equatorial. Their closeness in relation was towards the Shilluk, Dinka, and Nuer.

Their tendency for a settlement urge along the rivers is the primary reason for their reference as “Jonam”. Their original way of life and culture revolved around fishing, hunting and being pastoralists as inhabitants of the Nile valley. Their settlement in East Africa introduced them to farming and agriculture. Their southward movement to East Africa up the Nile during the 15th and 16th centuries absorbed and incorporated some other group of people into their cultural lifestyle.


The Luo ancestors left their cradle land between 1300 and 1400 AD. A minority of the group migrated Northwards while the majority went Southwards towards a temporal settlement at Pubungu; like an area of dispersal in Uganda. The settlement of the group in the area was in smaller proportions with each under a distinct leadership set that later prompted another migratory pattern in different directions.

Historical records reveal an eruption of some quarrel between Gipir and labongo; two princes, the sons of Olum, the group’s leader. Gepir led the first group westwards through the Nile and after that colonized the Madi, Okebu, and Lendu. An inter-marriage with the colonized group conceived the Alur tribe.

The second group under the leadership of Labongo patterned southwards through the Nile at Pawir as the vintage point and finally invaded the former empire of Bunyoro Kitara. The Luo advancement brought forth the empire’s final break up with a successful replacement of the same empire with the Bito dynasty. The passing tides of time then brought a further migration of the Luo via Northern Buganda, traversing through Busoga and an alternate settlement at Samia land.

Some of the migrants of Bunyoro made a later come back to Pubungu. Together with the remainder sect at Pubungu, their movement was led eastwards to Lango, Acholi where an inter-marriage between the group sects conceived the likes of the Kumam tribes.

The other sections of the Luo people were under a direct migratory pattern from Acholi and via Teso and Lango. Further inter-marriage conceived tribes like Adhola (Jopadhola) with a current locality in Tororo district in Kenya.

The final Luo group crossed to a settlement in the current Nyanza region located in Kenya and were with a common reference of the Jaluo. Another section of the group traveled further Northwards of Tanzania to a settlement along the shores of L. Victoria with speculations drawn towards the Mara and Musoma districts.


The migration of the Luo took effect between 1000 and 1500 AD. The migration from their homeland pointed to different East African parts. The complete reason for their movement from their cradle land is not of clarity towards their settlement in Uganda and parts of Kenya. A few factors, however, are a prompt for their migratory patterns.

Pastures and Water: The search and quest for greener pastures for their livestock and water might be a clear indication of the migratory force that prompted them towards the South. Since the ancestors were of a pastoralist origin, the migration quest for better grazing lands was nothing but a natural instinct. A possibility depicts the original area as being overstocked.

Internal conflicts: A belief depicts the up rise of internal conflicts within the Luo clans and family sects. If dissatisfaction was a result, the unsatisfied party might have opted to migrate towards a peaceful settlement.

External pressure: Hostile neighboring tribes might have provoked the movement and in turn causing a southward migration of the Luo from their ancestral land in search of a peaceful settlement. The Galla nomads are a frequent reference to the attacks on the Luo and the harassment of their ancestors.

Natural disasters: The discomfort of life to the Luo people might have been as a result of unpredicted famine, long drought periods and diseases and as a consequent outcome, migration became an alternative.

Population pressure: The increase in the population number of the Luo people made it unstable for their homeland to comfortably support all of them. As a result conflict over the land arose between the clans and families of the Luo and migration became an alternative to the oppressed.

Adventure: The spirit of adventure and curiosity was an explorer of the unknown lands. The geography and the inhabitants of the south might have overpowered the resilience of the Luo people over their curiosity and hence leading to their migratory instinct.

Diseases: epidemic drove diseases such as sleeping sickness, Bilharzia, and smallpox might have been a leading cause of the migration of the Luo people. Safety was the only alternative when cattle diseases like rinderpest and Nagana caused health effects in their cattle and their general health status.

Drought: Drought effects posed difficulties to not only the animals but also the inhabitants as a whole. When it came to agricultural practices, crop production was barred and, therefore, the need for new a better farming land. The scarcity of food also became a prediction and people had to move to new places with the better settlement.

It can, therefore, be concluded that no single factor had a primary cause in the migration pattern of the Luo people to different parts of East Africa. A combined force of factors is a contribution to the movement.


The migratory effects were in political, social and economical sectors.

The migration of the Luo was means to an economical, social and political outcome of the East African people and helped to shape the modern society.

First and foremost, there was an absorption of majority tribes to the leading Luo tribes groups. The Bantu tribes were an inclusion to the Banyonkole, Samia, Basoga, and Banyoro tribes.

Secondly, the population growth in the East African region elevated as a result of the Luo’s migratory pattern. As a final destination, the areas of the West Nile, the Acholi regions, the Bunyoro regions and Kenya’s Nyanza province were also influenced by the population gain.

In terms of disintegration, kingdoms and empires were victimized by the migration of the Luo people. An example of the collapsed few would be the Bunyoro Kitara Empire as a consequence of the movement.

The Chwezi Empire’s resultant disintegration led to the emergence of smaller kingdoms like the sought of Urundi, Rwanda, Busoga, Karagwe, Wanga, Toro, and Buganda.

The emergence of newer tribe groups was also a result of the West Nile invasion by the Luo. Intermarriage between the Luo group and the Okebu conceived the Alur tribe. Their intermarriage in the eastern parts of Uganda was with the Bagwere, and the resultant conception was the birth of Jopadhola. The product of their intermarriages extends further to the western parts of Kenya.

Inter-clan fights over pieces of Land was a resultant emergence towards securing a final settlement with known examples to the West Nile, Nyanza Province and Bunyoro.

Most of the people from the displaced lands lost their original homelands. An example is the push of the Langi into Kenya and the forced migration of the Banyoro into Ankole, Busoga and other regions of Buganda.

An achievement of the migration was the foundation of the Bito dynasty whose lifespan was close to four centuries in Bunyoro. The dynasty replaced the Bunyoro Kitara Empire giving rise to the likes of Kiziba, Busoga and Buganda in Tanzania. The proclaimed view is still under an opposition from the Baganda.

The Luo migration introduced new crops like Sorghum, groundnuts, and simsim as products of an economic activity. The eastern parts of Uganda were also introduced to Nomadic Pastoralism as an economic activity.

The invasion by the Luo bred new customs, language, and cultures and in some unique cases favor lied on a preferred language set leading to the negligence of the current one. An absorption into the Luo culture was also an option for the invaded tribes.

New items were also an introductory mark as a result of the migration pattern. The Bunyoro’s royal regalia was under the introduction of millet bags and royal drums.

The introduction of petty names such as Abwooli, Akiiki, and Amooti in the western parts of Uganda is an introductory belief from the Luo. Friendship ties are aligned with the names to the Acholi.

The idea of chiefdoms is a particular introductory mark by the Luo to the Western parts of Uganda and Kenya.

The invasion of the Luo was a probable cause of insecurity in the passed in regions. Great death tolls were speculated outcomes in the civil wars fought by the Luo and other tribes as the destruction of properties followed suit. A drawn example is inWest Budamawhere the Japadhola fought the Masai cattle raiders from the east. The battle of Maundo also introduced them to the Banyole.

Unity was also an outcome resulting from the movement among the locals as they were forced to unite towards the defeat of a common enemy as the Luo people were the villains.

The East African region was introduced to new political ideas and mythologies. The Luo group northward movement fromBunyoro introduced the Rwotship concept to the Acholi. The institution sought a politically scaled enlargement in the organization. The ideology of the concept, in particular, is an association of a hereditary kingship under a royal drum’s possession.

An adaptation to the Luo language was by the Okebu and Lendu tribes that alienated themselves from their original languages towards the adoption of a Sudanic language culture. The craft works of the Luo culture shared to the present date in the diverse East African regions is another consequent result of their movement into the region. The East African non-Luo tribes and community greatly benefit from their culture and religious ideas in general. The present date example of the West Nile’s Alur reflects similar religious elements as the Luo.

A conclusive remark is on the benefits brought along by the movement of the Luo people into the East African region with the up rise in both positive and negative changes.


The Luo ethnic groups in the general African population extend their general predicament to the Luo of South Sudan; the main concern being migration from their point of origin in Africa. The predicament centralizes around family conflicts and breakups. A belief is common among the ethnicity of the Luo in Sudan that the general Luo population have their roots back to a larger extended Luo family in Sudan. The diversity of the claim covers the surroundings of African countries like DR. Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya (Stefano P. Sant Andrea: 1938).

The Jo-Luo group of Wau found particularly in Southern Sudan are a link to a claimed great ancestor; Dimo, a brother to Nykango who is also a proclaimed ancestor in the Upper Nile where the Luo Shilluk are settled; Southern Sudan. He is also a proclaimed founder of the kingdom of Luo Shilluk. When the matter falls under the representation of the largest ethnicity in Sudan as a subgroup, the Luo-Shilluk are nominated (Gray & Richard, 1961).

When it comes to oral history and mythology, a citation is on Geilo as the youngest sibling of Nykamo and Dimo. The myth and oral history of the Southern Sudan Luo groups draw a reference to Nykango as the eldest brother of the three with a trait of autocracy in the family. An assumption assumes the autocratic trait as the main cause of the rift in the family setting leading to a breakup of the three blood groups.

Drawing reference to St. Andrea (1938) the breakup of the group was a consequence of family disputes, disintegrating the social set up of the Luo group in Sudan. The citation of the dispute pointed specifically to Dimo and Nykango. The limitation of the reference was to the third brother Geilo; Anyuak Luo group’s great ancestor. His reputation also spreads in the Upper Nile, South of Sudan (1938) as the Anyuak kingdom’s founder.

The Luo culture proclaims a custom to the line of respect and moral expectation governing family members as per their birth order; an indicator of the unquestioned will and confrontation on the part of the elder sibling even if the fault lies on their side. The reason seems to satisfy the intent of the absent mention of Geilo in Nykango and Dimo disputes. The determination of any dispute settlement seemed only to favor Nykango in the direction of its resolution. The reason speculates the fact behind the unified westward migration of Geilo and Nykango to the current Upper Nile settlement region of Southern Sudan. The adulthood of Geilo prophesies his breakup with the Anuak group towards the formation of a separate kingdom.

The Luo Anuak group of the Upper Nile in Southern Sudan find a link to Geilo as their proclaimed great ancestor. The similarity in the formation of Gilo’s kingdom is likened to that of Nykango. The movement of Geilo is projected towards the borders of Sudan and Ethiopia as the current settlement. Strictness is in the line of lineage of the Anuak with a similar maintenance to that of the Shilluk; their cousins. The indication projects his older brother’s influence on his leadership style.

In the context of the Southern Sudan’s Luo at the equatorial drawing examples to the Parri and Acholi as additions to the same ethnic group. Their migratory pattern draws links to Kenya and Uganda although the ancestral linkages are not clearly stated. However, a possibility supports most of these ethnic groups as either Dimo’s or Geilo’s descendants with exceptions to the Anuak and Shilluk (Gilly & Leoma, 1992).

The value of ancestral linkages is priceless when it comes to the customs and cultures of the Luo in Bahr El-Ghazal. Their unquestioned understanding of the ancestry tree through oral history is bridged along generations making evident trace of their linkage lines easier to the other ethnic Luo groups. An addition is in the management of their language and also heir ethnic names such as Geilo, Ukeilo, kang, and Dimo. The present reservation of the naming system is that of their great ancestry lineage.

The foundation of the ancestry according to Mary Borer (1963) to the African Bantu religion signifies its importance in the maintenance of the family’s well-being and group setting even after the passing on of a loved one. (1963:p76). The value of the Luo ancestry extends to those in Bahr El-Ghazal with a staunch belief in the afterlife, a practice that hastened their absorption into Christianity during the colonial period.

To the concern of the Southern Sudan region, the Upper Nile region is an occupation to the Luo Anyuak and Shilluk. The equatorial region is an occupation of the Jo-Pariri and Acholi with the East and West of Bhar El-Ghazal region being occupied by the Bor, Thurri, and Jo-Luo.

The Luo Shilluk/Shoula

Their Ancestry citation is of Nykango; a proclaimed founder of the Luo kingdom. When drawing references to the Luo myths and oral history, Nykango claims the acknowledgment of being the eldest son. He is subsequently the crowned cause of disunity in the group, the disintegration of the same group and the family breakdown agent of the greater Luo ethnicity group with a unified locality in Sudan. A migration pattern into the other parts of Africa was then triggered. The dispute sequence further divided the group to an internal displacement in the southern parts of Sudan and an external migration wave throughout the surrounding African countries (Seligman, C.G., & Seligman, B.Z, 1932).

The disputes between Nykango and Dimo led to Nykango institutionalizing the first Luo kingdom in Southern Sudan’s Upper Nile region. The sustenance of the kingdom to date is by the Shilluk group; his descendants. The naming reference to the Luo Shilluk kings is “Ruth”. (1932). The selection and succession of the Ruth (kings) are in accordance to the bloodline.

Drawing reference to Gilly, Leoma (1992), the settlement and livelihood of the Luo Shilluk group is based on the Southern Sudan Region; the state of the Upper Nile with an occupation on the land separating the Nile and the verge of Kurdofan Province. The speculated latitude is 11 degrees northwards to a point 80 miles Tonga west; also Nile’s east bank along the Nile and Sobat river junction off 20 miles.

The (1982) census positioned the Shilluk as the largest ethnic group among the Luo in Sudan with an estimate of 175, 000 people. The classification of the Shilluk falls under the Nilotic, Eastern Sudanic, and Nilo-Saharan. A synonymous identity to the Shilluk name in Colo/Shulla with a literal meaning as “black”, when translated from the Luo language. Gilly, Leoma (1992) cites the practice of Christianity and religion in the Shilluk majority.

Luo Anyuak

The Upper Nile state of South Sudan is also a home to the 2nd largest Luo sub group the Anyuak. Their locality is across the border of Ethiopia and Sudan. The (1991) census in Sudan projected their total population to about 52,000 people, bringing a total of 97,646 when both Ethiopia and Sudan are under consideration (Gordon & Raymond G., Jr., 2005). There is still an absentia in recognition by the group sect over the instated borders as a result of the colonial powers that took part in the play. The legal and national loyalty instability in the subgroup is as a result of the border and boundary issues (Gordon, 2005).

The Anyuak are proclaimed descendants of Gielo, the great ancestor of the Luo, who had his migratory roots from Bhar El-Ghazal together with his eldest brother Nykango as they streamed the Upper Nile Region. The movement subsequently led to Gielo leaving Nakano with his claimed descendants towards the foundation of a separate kingdom under the sustenance of his people the Anyuak to date.

The locality of the Anyuak is in Pibor villages along the lower Akobo rivers; a latitude of 6.45 North of Akobo post. A similar naming reference to the Anyuak is Nuro, Jambo, Yambo, and Anywa. The classification of the Anyuak is under Luo, Nilotic, Eastern Sudanic, and Nilo-Saharan.

The Jo-Luo (Jur)

They are the claimed descendants of Dimo, Nykango’s 2nd brother. The myths and oral history of the Luo claim Dimo as the brother who directly confronted Nykango, his elder, over royal spears. The Luo custom describes a royal spear as an ornament to be carried only by the family’s head with an expansion to the Chief designate and the King. The Chief or the King would in turn recommend a select family member to take over the royal throne with the royal spear as the key to the kingdom in the course of his death.

The customary practice is still alive to the Luo in Bhar El-Ghazal to date. The royal spear confrontation between Nykango and Dimo subsequently separated the two brothers triggering the migration of Nykango and Gielo to the upper states of the Nile Southwards of Sudan (Stefano P. & St. Andrea, 1938).

In the social setting of the Jo-Luo (Jur) in Bhar El-Ghazal, it is an assumption that Dimo is the one who initiated the separation between the three brothers. Nykango and Gilo were left on a common migratory path to their current locality. The Bahr El-Ghazal’s Luo groups bring out a generalized consensus over the breakup cause of the three brothers under the ties of power struggle and family disputes. A support on the consensus is also by the Luo mythology and oral history (Stefano P. & Sant Andrea, 1938).

The 1983 census numbered the Jo-Luo population as a figure between 80,000 and 100,000 in the region of Bahr El-Ghazal. The locality of the Jo-Luo people is in the regions of southern Sudan, north of Wau extending to the regions of Aweil, Fongo, Barmayen, Gana, Udici, Kiango and Gaite to the south-east of Wau. An inclusion is also the suburbs surroundings of Tong, Bar urood, Mapel, Aya Kwajina, Pambili, Barwoul, Waadlyiela up to southeast Wau.

Jur Chol is a nickname to the Jo-Luo by the Dinka locals of the southern Sudan region in Bhar El-Ghazal with a drawn meaning to a black stranger. The Jo-Luo also draws a reference to themselves as Jo-Luoi, Luwo with a classification under the Nothern Jur, Western Luo, Nilotic branch, Eastern Sudanic and Nilo-Saharan. The positivity of the Luo people is famous in terms of their learning attitudes towards different language dialects. Most of the Jo-Luo speakers are familiar with English, Bongo, Dinka, and Arabic. The common occupation amongst the Jo-Luo is iron mining and forest agriculture. It was the English Rule (1855-1956) that formed the Jo-Luo from iron mining. The many that still practice iron mining were either victim of a jail term or a resultant death sentence (1938).

Ronald Atkinson (1994) cites a reference to the techniques of working with iron and its evolutionary practice by the Luo Acholi to be as early as 1000 B.C. (1994p58). Hence, the ironwork practice could be the conclusive reason behind as to why the group always saw it as a preference for its habitats being around rivers and lakes.

The Luo (Jur) economical sources would be fishing, Bee honey production, hunting, agriculture, and blacksmithing. The perfection of the trades is synonymous to them over the centuries, and it has made them generous enough to pass the knowledge even to their neighboring ethnic groups. The knowledge of geography and geology was of assistance to them in their survival throughout the migratory patterns and settlement of their people into new territories. When it comes to co-existence and assimilation of other East African ethnic groups, a co-existing bond is a resultant builds up. The main belief of the Luo is towards the African religion with stronger linkages drawn to Judaism and Christianity. A prophetic belief also exists among the Luo, linking them to the most Supreme Being. A belief also upraises concerning a joint connection between them and their ancestors and how blessings are foreseen through them (Pace & Wanda, 1991).

Luo Bori: (Belanda-Bor)

The ethnic group with a synonymous name as Pa-Bor was actually an element of the larger Luo clan set with origins from the Luo ethnic group that resides at the Bahr El-Ghazal at some time reference. Utho is their named great grandfather in accordance to st. Andrea after he isolated himself from the Dimo group as a result of some undocumented reasons. His displacement led to Belanda Byiri located at the Zandi land westwards of Bahr El-Ghazal. In accordance to the fact, the Luo Bori was synonymously known as Belanda, a subset to the Bantu ethnic group set located in southern Sudan. The group sect however managed to maintain their original Luo language and the originality in the ethnicity of their traditional Luo names. In terms of locality, the compass points to Belanda Biviri as an ethnic Bantu group located in Southern Sudan at Bhar El-Ghazal.

As an addition, an intermarriage exists between the Luo Bori and the Belanda Biviri with their spoken language being Belanda Biviri as well. The Luo Bori are similarly likened and linked to utho as their great ancestor descending from Dimo; a great-grandfather. The classification of the Luo Bori is under the bor, Luo, Nilotic, Eastern Sudanic and Nilo-Saharan (St. Andrea, 1938). In accordance and reference to the (1983 SIL) census, the group estimated to about 8000 people. Their settlement is in the western region of the Bahr El-Ghazal in the Taban, Gittten, Ayo, Bazia, Tirga, and raffil villages. An alternative locality that proves their existence is Southern Sudan’s western equatorial region in the villages of Tumbra, bangazegion, and komai (St. Andrea, 1938).

Thurri (Boodho/Shatt)

A synonymous reference to their naming is the Shilluk of Bahr El-Ghazal. St. Andrea (1938) speculates their origin as part of the Nykango/Shilluk group who were the residue of the Nykango group migration wave that led to a current settlement at the regions of the Upper Nile. The Luo thurri tribes are also a reference by the Southern Sudan locals under the names Jur-Chol, Boodho and Jur-Shatt.

The location of the Luo Thurri tribes is in between Aweil and Wau areas West and North of Bhar El-Ghazal, Southern Sudan. Another locality for the Luo Thurri is in between the lands of rivers Jur and Lol upwards from the roads Raja Nyamlell to Wau-Deim Zubeir. The (2000 WCD) census speculates their population build up to around 16,720. The classification of the Luo Thurri is under the Thurri, Luo, Nilotic, Eastern Sudanic and Nilo-Saharan groups (1938).

A subset of the Luo Thurri group with a recognition name Jur-Manangeer is under complete assimilation with the Dinka of the neighboring western region of Bahr El-Ghazal. The assimilation process may have been accelerated due to the possibility of socio-cultural interactions and interactions between the two groups. The subset of the Luo Thurri group no longer draws reference to themselves as Thurri or Luo and is as a consequence unfamiliar with the Luo Thurri language De Boodho (1938). As an economical source of livelihood, the Luo Thurri benefit from Bee Honey production, hunting, fishing and agriculture (Gilley & Leoma, 2004). When it comes to professional hunting, their prowess is shown and also long distance walking in cross country races (2004).

The Acholi

The group of the Acholi trace their roots to chief Olum as their great ancestral figure who was a patriotic reference in their movement around South Sudan’s lake regions, Rumbek, at some point of their migration. The appearance of Olum in the history of the Luo is bound after the three brothers; Nykango, Dimo, and Gielo, separated. The movement and settlement of chief Olum are southwards of river Nile to Pubungu, neighbor to Pakwach; Southern Sudan in the eastern equatorial. The citation of chief Olum tags along three children namely; Tiful, labongo (Kyebambi) and Gapiir (Nyapir) (Ogot, B.A., 1997).

The branching out of the three brothers is what led to the formation of the two currently known Luo tribes; the Acholi and Alur. The third brother Tiful was untraceable by the Ethnologists in terms of his migratory patterns. A citation still draws to Gabiir (Nyapir) as a great ancestor to the Luo Labongo (Kyebambi) and Luo Alur and a great grand ancestral reference to the Acholi group (Wild J.V., 1954).

It is historically possible to claim that the Acholi people descended from Labongo; Olum’s son, a leader to the Luo group sect through their movement that aligned along with the Nile river from the South of Sudan to Pubungo. The locality of the Acholi group is around the Acholi Hill, Opari District and Equatorial region of Southern Sudan. The (2000) census depicts their population estimate to around 45000. The (1991) census in Uganda region places figure to 746, 796. The classification of the of the Acholi is under the Lango-Acholi, Alur-Acholi, Luo-Acholi, Southern, Luo, Eastern Sudanic, and Nilo-Saharan. Synonyms to their names are Lwo, Gang, Shuli, and Acoli. The professionalism of the group lies in Fishing, hunting, and Agriculture. An addition is iron working and mining practiced by the group for centuries (Wild J.V., 1954).

The Jo-Parri (Logoro)

When reference is in the Eastern Equatorial province, the Jo-Parri is the 2nd largest ethnic tribe of the Luo sect. It is found in the Southern regions of Sudan in the Wiattuo, Angulumeere, Kor, pugari, Pucwaa and Bura villages. An estimate of the population declared by the (1987) census is around 28,000. The classification of the Jo-Parri group is under the Luo, Nilotic, Eastern Sudanic and Nilo-Saharan. The local neighboring ethnic groups refer to the Jo-Parri as Lokoro or Logoro (Gilley & Leoma, 2004).

The Luo history literature and Mythological citations highlight Jo-Parri as Dimo’s direct descendant in the ancestral tree. A strong belief lies among the Jo-Parri as they point out to Lipul Hill as the point of separation between Nykango and Dimo towards the formation of the two groups JO-Nykango and Jo-Dimo. The account places the movement of Dimo towards the village of Pugeri where a settlement for the Jo-Parri group was claimed.

Another group followed the migratory pattern southwards to Uganda leading to the formation and settlement of current Adhola group. The continued migratory pattern later paved a combined entrance with other Luo groups to Kenya. Wi-Pach is the first named division point during the course of the group’s movement and separation in the Southern parts of Sudan to the east of Bhar El-Ghazal (Tosh & John, 1978).

The knowledge on the Jo-Parri group is applied to professional fishing, hunting, and agriculture and has boosted their number of Goats and cattle. They cultivate Tobacco, Okra, Pumpkin, Cowpeas, and Sorghum. Their originality of the Luo language in the ethnic group is still maintained. Their understanding of the language is simplified and broadened for the easiness and grasp by the rest of the African Luo groups with a closer reference to the Jo-Luo and Luo Anuak of Eastern and Western Bhar El-Ghazal (Murrdock & Peter George, 1959).  


Uganda is an East African locality on the west of the Kenyan border in between the coordinate surroundings of 1 00 N, 32 00 E. The geographical occupation of the country is 236,040 sq km is area with a population totaling 27,269,482 with an estimated proportion of 994,373 out of the figure accommodating the ethnic Luo tribes. The climatic classification of the country is tropical rainy with the dry seasons being in between (December to February) and (June to August).

As a home, Uganda houses the Luo ethnic groups like the Adhola and Acholi. The Luo groups assimilated into the sect include the Lango and the Kumam. An assumption is on their entrance as the first to be used by the Luo of Sudan as means to a further migration to DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Tanzania and Kenya. The Ugandan Luo population estimates to 994,373 in regard to the (1991) census. The Luo Acholi with a locality in the Northern central part of the Acholi district grasps an estimate of 746,796. The Chopi speakers grasp the figure 12,089 (Ladeoged et al., 1972). The statistical finding also inferences the Luo Adhola located in Maple District to an estimated figure of 247,577 (1986) (Ogot, 1987).

The classification of both Luo Adhola and Luo Acholi is under the Lwo, Luo, Nilotic, Eastern Sudanic and Nilo-Saharan. An addition from the Adhola and Acholi of Uganda is an inclusion of the Kumam, lango, Thur, Jo-Nam and Alur. The contexts, however, denote the Kumama and Lango as origins of the Luo and are rather victims of assimilation through socio-cultural interactions and intermarriages. Hayley (1947) points out the closeness of the lango people with the Nilo-homitic group such as the Jopaluo, Alur, Anuak, Luo, and Shilluk.

The areas in occupation by the groups are a bypass through the northern side of Lake Rudolph traversing to the northern side of Lake Albert. The split up of the groups and their northwest migratory pattern through the southwest led to the formation of the East African Nilotic group. The formation was as a consequent initiation of an inter-ethnic conflict triggered by the alliance between the Madi and the Bari with the Acholi being on out of the loop. The segment tracks the continued migratory pattern of the Lango to a southwest settlement near the Nile at around A.D. 1700 (1947:p37). The note thus fairly states the closeness in terms cultural linkage among the Lango ethnic groups when the comparison is drawn to the Luo Acholi group with concerned references from the Luo ethnology.


The location of Kenya is in Eastern Africa with a border to the Indian Ocean positioning it between Tanzania and Somalia with the coordinate surroundings of 1 00 N, 38 00 E. in square kilometers, the country covers an estimated area of 582, 650 sq km. The population estimate for the country is 33, 829,590 with Luo taking a proportion of 3,185,000. The climatic variable is from the tropical coast to the arid interiors.

When it comes to grouping, the ethnicity of the Kenyan group arguments them centrally to the globalized Luo groups in Africa. Some reference to the oral and mythical Luo history in Sudan speculate Kenya as a possible point of origin for the Luo people’s migration to Sudan and other East African parts. The Luo’s of Kenya contradict the statement with an assumption of Sudan as not only their central point of migration but also their original home. Many Ethnologists and Historians are quick to prove the pointed fact towards the Luo people’s origin (Atieno-Odhiambo, 1999).

As a study by most scholars and ethnologists on the subject of the Luo ethnic group, the 21st century citations are on the same accord with reference to Southern Sudan as the Luo ethnic group’s home and point of origin. Furthermore, the population of Kenya wins in the numbers game when the population of the Luo ethnicities in Africa is drawn out for comparison. The uniqueness found in Kenya is based on the sustained unity, language and culture that the Luo people lived on and therefore acted as a preventive measure on further migration and separation (Atieno-Odhiambo, 1999).

Adamson (1967) depicts the start of the Luo’s migratory pattern towards Kenya as an initiation that is 150 years old. He further states the Luo as the only Nilotic group found in Kenya when under the concern of the classification chart. Their cross over to Lake Victoria was after the repulsion of the Bantu ethnic population to become the first proclaimed settlers of Lake Victoria (1967:p157).

To date, the choice of the Luo to settle in the Nyanza province on Lake Victoria’s Banks is still valid. Their migration into Kenya was in four waves emerging from eastern Uganda in consistency. The Joka-Jok was the first group on the arrival calendar with Acholiland as their point of origin. Their migratory pattern is said to be the largest one to be recorded in terms of the Luo ethnicity. The Alur’s migration followed with the subsequent migrants. The Owiny of padhola followed the prompt and the successive migration of the Jok’omolo from Pawir.

The total count of the Luo clans with localities in Kenya estimates to 12 with references to Jo-Kajulu, Jo-Sakwa, Jo-Uyoma, Jo-Asembo, Jo-Kano, Jo-Kisumo, Jo-Kabundo, Jo-Nnyakach, Jo-Karachuonyo, Jo-Seme, Jo-Ugenya, Jo-Gem (Gum), and Jo-Alego. The term Jo is a reference to people of (Ogot, 1997). An apparent figure places the Luo ethnic tribe of Kenya as the 3rd largest group (11%) after the Kikuyu Bantus (21%) and Luhya Bantus (14%) of the total Kenyan population (Ogot, 1997).

As a second language, the adaptation of the Luo language is of spoken majority tribes in Kenya that are non-Luo. The (1994) census proclaimed the population estimate of the Luo ethnic group in Kenya to be 3,185,000. The Nilotic kavirondo is a synonymous pointer in reference to the Kenyan Luo with their classification falling under the Eastern Sudanic and the Nilo-Saharan. A self-proclaimed reference to themselves is Jo-Luo with a literal meaning to the Luo people (Ogot, 1997). As a means of a livelihood, they are known as miners, Fishers and agriculturists (Gray & Richard, 1961).


The locality of Tanzania is also in the east African region, a border to the Indian Ocean and in between Mozambique and Kenya towards the pointing coordinates of 6 00 S, 35 00 E. When it comes to area estimation, Tanzania covers an estimate of about 945,087 sq km. The population of the country sums to around 36, 766,356 with a truncated figure of 280,000 covering the Luo ethnic population. Its climatic conditions depict tropical along the coast and temperature in the highlands.

There are some similarities in the ethnicities of the Tanzanian Luo and the Kenyan Luo. The classification of the groups is both under Eastern Sudanic, Luo, Nilo-Saharan and Nilotic Kavirondo. A closer look at the group’s settlement around the regions of Lake Victoria depicts a clear pattern on the continuation of the same ethnicity on the east of Lake Victoria’s bank that traverses the Kenya-Tanzania border. The locality of the Kenyan Luo is in the Mara Region (Ogot, 1997).

The (2001) government census estimates Tanzania’s population to roughly 280,000. The citation on the Luo ethnic migration to Tanzania goes back to around 1800. The Tanzanian Luo migrated from Kenya and as such they are still similar in trait to the Kenyan Luo. Luo Keverindo is also a synonymous reference on their part as it is applicable to the Kenyan Luo (Wild J.V., 1954).


The locality of Ethiopia is also under the realm of Eastern Africa moving to the west side of Somalia and in between the coordinates 8 00 N, 38 00 E. The estimated area coverage of Ethiopia projects to 1,127,127 sq km with a sampled population figure of about 73,053,286. Out of the total population, 45,646 secure the Luo ethnic group. The classification of the regions climate falls under the tropical monsoon with a widely induced topographical variation.

A synonymous reference to the Ethiopian Luo group sect is Anuak. A difference does not exist between the group and Sudan’s Upper Nile’s Anuak. Moreover, the Ethiopia’s Luo Anuakare a continuation of the Southern Sudan’s Anuak located in the Upper Nile Region; Gielo’s descendants, the youngest of Nykango and Dimo. The speculations are as far as the ancestral linkages are a main concern (Ogot & Bathwell, 1967).

The locality of the Ethiopian Luo Anuak is in the south western Gamella region of Ethiopia. The classification of the group falls under the Anuak, Luo, Nilotic, Eastern Sudanic and Nilo-Saharan. The (1991) census numbers them to 45, 646 (Gilley & Leoma, 2004).

The economical sources to the group are hunting, mining, agriculture, and fishing. A distinct link is on their economical sources when a comparison is also between the Southern Sudan’s Luo groups and the countries that neighbor it (Tanzania, Uganda, DRC, Kenya, and Ethiopia).


Life celebration of a newborn baby in the Luo Culture

A baby’s birth in the old Luo culture is still a preserved family ceremony with an invitation to only the concerned members of the family. The olden day celebrations were an inclusion for some ritual performance that included the naming of the child, shaving the child, the first appearance of the child to the outside world and the visitation of the mother together with her newborn.

Escorting the newborn baby to the outside world (Golo Nyathi oko)

The sex of the newborn baby was a major determination in the process. The duration for taking a baby boy to the outside world for the first time was after four days while the duration for a newborn baby girl under the same ritual was after three days. The ritual succumbed to a duration that lasted between 9:00 am – 10:00 am of the morning hours in order to defect from the sun burns.

Shaving the baby (Lielo Nyathi)

The shaving process of a newborn baby in the olden days was indeed a ritual with its uniqueness. The barber was either the newborn’s grandmother or an elderly lady who was from the same clan; a case only possible if the grandmother was absent in attendance or deceased. The initiator of the ritual required a calabash (Agwata) brimmed with water, some traditional herbs and a traditional razor for the shaving process. Obese prevention to the baby was only functional with the calabash filled with water as the traditional herb functioned as a soap detergent.

Naming of the child (Miyo Nyathi Nying)

The ceremony often postponed itself until after some passing days from the child’s birth date and was the sole responsibility of the child’s parent. The Luo naming process was applicable to dead relatives’ names, the seasoned time interval of the child’s birth and the relation between the conception time and the mother’s monthly period. Childbirth at a specified period had a naming that related directly to the period.

Names such as Atieno/Otieno are of children born in the night period, Akoth/Okoth are of births that took place during the rainy season and Akumu/Okumu are of the children that made their mothers not to foresee their periods. The naming of the children after successful dead relatives is a fading practice, but the names following the living relatives, time of birth and climatic seasons are still evident to date.

Visitation (Neno Nyathi)

The Luo culture specifies the significance of a newborn’s presence in the family. A demand is on the part of the friends and relatives to come up with a special visit. The visitation drags itself along with a number of traditional rituals. The prior visit is usually a representation of the newborn’s grandmother by the newborn’s aunts. Cooked and uncooked food is usually the main escort of the lady aunts.

An inclusion in the cooked food recipe were Crotalaria (Mitoo), Spider plant (Dek), Indigenous vegetables like the African Nightshades (Osuga), Millet flour Ugali, Meat (Sun dried). The consumption of the cooked recipes is served cold in Adita (small basket). After the visitation, a single aunt is usually selected to delay her come back and nurse her sister back to her strength.

 Visitation by village friends and other ladies (Ting’o Nyathi)

The visitation required a prior arrangement by the village friends and ladies before its initiation. The visitation date usually followed with some preparatory advancement where each lady carried Beads, firewood, indigenous vegetables, dry Fish, dry meat, sorghum flour and millet flour for the mother and her newborn. The functional characteristic of the beads (Tigo) was evident on the mother’s neck as a farewell blessing sign and around the wrist of the child as a witch protection charm. The role played by the visitation had an objective aim of bringing the family groups together, a concept familiarized to the modernized people as CHAMA.


Medicine men: The use of the word was a compound coverage to every soul in the community that was interested in facilitating religious services to the community. The duties assigned to the select were an inclusion to advices that came in hand and sacrifices made on religious matters. Different ailment types were curable to them through herbs. The continuation of the practice in the family lineage was possible through inheritance as a father would seek to enrich his son with the medical expertise.

Diviners: The Luo name the divination process as goyogagi synonymous with the phrase casting pebbles or the board (mbofua). The Luo reference a diviner as ajuoga, a descriptive noun to the task one does. A diviner specializes in magic and medicine dispensing. His works extend to a diagnostics on indeterminate illnesses that pose difficulties for their understanding as a consequent of a linear involvement in the spirit world of superhuman strength.

His prescriptive way of finding a cure involves cleansing rituals and sacrifices as a means of offering some levels of appeasement to the spirits. A visitation to a diviner is only approved to be good willed when the seeker brings along a present (chiwo). A primary concern to the diviners based on the visits they receive based on the spirits relation to the recently passed on. The methodology under the mastery of the diviners is the use of two wooden blocks that are rubbed against each other under the ounce of the spirit names.
At an instance, that the two wooden blocks are stuck together, the evident predicament is that the spirit sought after is located, and an actionable cause will be able to take place based on the posted speculation. The use of cowry shells or wild beam seeds is also evident in the ritual practice. The elements are cast on the ground and through their interpretation the wayward spirit is soon spotted and cast out appropriately according to some speculated demands. The arrangement of the mat reveals the mode of interpretation to them.
Most of the knowledge at the disposal of the diviners is as a result of relying on the dead under the supervision of a dark environment for a needed consultation. It is only the diviner who has the right and means of summoning the spirit of the dead for a consultation. A patient in attendance would mostly capture the spirit’s voice conversing through or with the diviner.


Traditional Religious Believes: The traditional belief of the Luo people project towards the afterlife and a supreme creator called Nyasaye with a link to a strong ancestral cult. The naming ceremony; juogi, is the first and the major ritual in the life of a Luo. It is a belief that an ancestor appears to an adult member of the family at the time interval between birth and the age of two; applicable to newborns of the family. Reincarnation is also a belief and thus only possible to those who lived a life of good deeds.

Luo Marriage Customs: Polygamy was a traditional practice among the Luo with a capacity of up to 5 wives per individual. A common practice was the use of match makers to introduce couples to one another; a tradition losing its links to date. Although not a recommendation by the council of elders, the Luo often seek marriage from other tribes. The marriage ceremony traditionally takes place in two sessions or parts that are an involvement of the bride price payment by the groom.

Ayie is the first ceremony in which the bride’s mother receives some sought of payment in the form of money and the second ceremony involves giving the bride’s father some cattle. The two procedural ceremonies often take place at the same time and due to the fact of Christianity being a common dialog among the majority modernized Luo, a church ceremony often succeeds the two ceremonies.

Luo music: An art wide in practice among the Luo was traditional music. The Music was the offset and onset of the day. The production of music was not a standalone activity; incidental, political, religious, and purposes needed some musical initiation. The performance of music at funerals (Tero buru) praised the departed and consoled the bereaved. It also functioned to keep mourners awake at night, in the circumstances of expressing pain and agony and in spirit cleansing and chasing rituals. Beer parties (Dudu, ohangla dance) also populated the crowds through music.

Warriors from war and wrestling matches (Ramogi) were also an initiation into music with additional reference to courtship. An existence of work songs provided an excitation in performance during the communal work (building, weeding, etc.) and individualized workloads like winnowing and pounding of cereals. Healings, divinations, rain making seasons and getting rid of evil spirits (nyawawa) required the intercession of music in order to serve a successful purpose.

The shaping of the Luo music drew a basis for the individuals of the community in terms of their patterns, lifestyle, and the total way of life. The result was a characteristic distinction of the music when it came to comparison with that of the other communities. The clarity is felt, heard and seen in the dancing formations, movements, and styles. The music’s mode of presentation, rhythms and melodies are often additional factors in the process. The Luo’s lyrical melodies in their music were an accompaniment with a lot of vocal ornamentation.


A reference to a social structure in the society is a direct interpretation of the social relationships the same society faces. The structure is a means of the regulation of the societal member interactions in which some cultural norms guidelines for the defined goal achievements is through the definition of the same cultural values. It is, therefore, general that the maintenance of societal stability is through the social structure. However, the instability caused by the social values and social structure forces a social change embrace for the survival and continuity in health and development.

The variables in sociological approaches sought a description in the development and maintenance of the social structure with an assumption that the relationship binding structure and change is a necessity if a peaceful world society is to develop.

The conducted earlier studies on social structures are an informant to institutional studies on history, social interactions, culture, and agency. The term social structure is apparently claimed to be first used by Alexis de Tocqueville. It is in the late periods of time that Emile Durkheim, Ferdinand Tonnies, Max Weber, Herbert Spencer and Karl Max were ordained to be a part of the contributions in the sociological structural concept.


The rules of age, gender and kinship are a governing basis for the Luo’s social relations. The patrilineal descent through the male line is a trace leading to the determination of a kinship. The alignment between the kins is mainly for the purpose of some political alliance, marriage or exchange of goods. The male line of the family is responsible for the receivership of names, and marriage is the only pass that allows a woman to reside in her suitor’s homestead.

A married woman in her husband’s place through the maintenance of strong relations with her siblings at her birthplace majorly boosts the family alliance. The lineage of a Luo man is often expected to be continued after marriage when his wife bears children for him. The bridewealth from the husband’s side of the family assists in the creation of maintainable relations and ties on the wife’s side of the family with the brothers and sisters in her birthplace as the primary target.

The bore of children by a woman in a marriage tie is an enhancement in terms of power and influence on the husband’s lineage. The growth of the children in turn is a security on the side of the mother’s special interest. An estimable probability census speculates the percentage of Luo homesteads under the influence of polygamy to be as many as 30 percents. The practice is a contribution to solidarity between the children and the mother or the mother and her children. The acceptance of polygamy in the sect is negotiable under the provision and maintenance of regulations and traditional ideas.

A customary example would be the relocation of the first wife’s house and granary at a prominent position that is often on the back side of the homestead facing the main gate as a means to her special recognition. The homes of the subsequent wives would then be alternate to her right and left side depending on their marriage order and arrival in the homestead. The provision of homes to the sons of the homestead is at adjacent positions to the compound’s main gate under a strict birth order criterion.

The husband’s position of maintenance in the homestead is usually centered or near its center. A common practice for a wealthy Luo or soon to be wealthy Luo in their land or the outside environment is to come up with a large construction house plan for their mother. The necessity is especially considerable in a scenario that portray her as the great wife. It is quite inappropriate both traditionally and communally for the home of a younger wife to be more uplifted than those of her seniors.

As a source of pleasure, being visited or visiting someone tops the list of the Luo people. The social principals in regard to gender, kinship and age are an imposition of obligatory rituals under a heavy schedule on the Luo, regardless of their residential localities. Another element of obligation and significance to the Luo people would be funeral attendance. The funeral ground is usually a platform for the consumption of large quantities of meat, soft drinks, beer and a social base for relatives and friends. The duration of the funeral ceremonies is three days for a female and four days for a male. The period of burial opens a window for the expression of speech by viewing the body and through speeches. The event that follows sooth is a celebration through feasting.

In the case of a man’s funeral, a rooster is prepared from his house and feasted upon by his relatives. The rooster portrays a symbol of masculinity, and the feasting is a symbol representation that justifies the end of his homestead. The foundation of a new homestead by a Luo man is usually encountered by the receivership of a rooster from his father’s homestead. The visitors in attendance of the funeral are usually predicted to be from a far point of travel and are housed in the homestead of the deceased; his final burial/resting place. The ritual’s location and duration provides an excelling opportunity for the young to observe and meet the opposite sex genre. It is thus an elderly opportunity for possible marriage alliances, and wishful promotions are thus under discussion. The grounds for dating may follow the initial meeting, or the marriage deliberations may be continued at the funeral ground.


The Luo society’s social organization is the maker of the factor. It offers the definition that obligates each and every member of the Luo society with extra definitive terms drawn to the member privileges. The choice of a kinship’s level of governance falls under the nuclear and extended family. The nuclear family is under the unchallenged power of the male head, the wife/wives, and the male head’s children and unmarried daughters.

The functions the nuclear served were of grave significance in the Luo society. As a center for their education, the children were taught common values of customs and practices by their parents. The survival of the Luo society relied mostly on the nuclear as it was a means for the children’s protection.

The making of the extended family formed a clan as it involved the uncles and aunts, relatives, children, and parents. The identification of the clan was through totems. A role of importance is in the play in the Luo society through kinship up to date despite the erosion of some values and beliefs through the modern world. An example would be the still unchallenged male head power in the family. Education, economy, and politics are still in play down from the male to the siblings of the family.

The tree of power resides in the male as the head of the running family businesses in the nuclear settings as the leadership descends downwards through the wives to the eldest male sons to the youngest depending on the time of birth. The education system is gender based as the aunties and mothers educated the female while the uncles and fathers educated the male.


The Luo society traditionally recognizes sex as a factor that is advantageous to the social structure. When under the classification, the female is the second sex while the male is the superior sex. A vintage point of the supreme male over the female is dominance in the food sector due to the belief that it is the sole responsibility of the man to secure the kinship and guard the clan as a whole. Therefore, the only way for the male to maintain good form and strength is by eating well. Another vintage point that lies in favor of the male sex is the division of wealth.

Labor division case is also an advantage to the male sex since the female in the Luo society are mostly tagged as laborers. Therefore, if a male Luo decides to marry more than one wife, he will be at an advantage since more labor will be in provision by the wives in areas like food production and housework. The leadership and religion of the Luo society are also fixated on sex. Hierarchical and patriarchal leaderships take the front seat.

The sex element might not be of such grave importance on the issue because of the status challenge of the Luo women in the society. However, the issue is leveled in the modern world as a result of upraised civil societies and the human rights issues. When it comes to farming, the primary role and key is in play by the women. Prior to the introduction of the modernized money economy, the woman’s center pieced world of work was at the garden. A considerable wealth earning was on their side through the exchange of their garden produce for baskets, pots, handicrafts, and animals.

The expectation of a young girl was to offer some level of assistance to both her mother and the co-wife of her mother in working on the land owned by her paternal uncles, brothers, and father. Despite an up rise in school work and dominance in education, a stronger hold of association still lies under farming and digging.

The preoccupation of men was majorly on livestock as a great deal of the of their spent time was in social labor as a requirement for their cattle to be in a better context, commercial sales, trading partnerships and bridewealth exchanges. The modernized economy adds some monetary value to the goats and cattle. The control territory of the men is on cash crops and animals.

Illustration: The construction of a house for a woman is not possible without the presence of a man figure. A husband’s death in a community usually leads to the wife’s inheritance by a male member of the same community. Customs would revoke the communal decisions made by the household due to the absence of the unchallenged head.


To the society of the Luo, age is an important factor in existence. The division of age is in two sects namely age set and age grading. Infancy is the beginning process, followed by adolescence, adulthood and finally death. An age-set comprises a group of individuals sharing a common sex and going through the same life cycle changes at a common interval of time and space. The culture of the Luo grades the behavior of an individual according to his or her age grade. It is a requirement for an individual to proclaim his or her behavior in accordance with the awarded age grade and that even the ancestral spirits are believed still to have an involvement in the final say of the grading process.

Children and young adults are forbidden to lead an adult meeting or even a trial participation in it as such politics was in play on the factors of age maturity and the level of preparedness.

The Luo leadership casing extends to the whole community and professional grounds to cover. The extension is towards the like of medicine men, Traditional chiefdoms, and even Craftsmen as long as they are prioritized under the category of an adult male or a senior male adult. The functional role of an age set is also of a definitive role to the Luo people’s societal age variation that is slightly off peak if not under the same settings. An unionized growth and maturity by the age set despite some slight age difference is given some benefit of the doubt under the obligation of unionized undertakings and expectations in the ways one is to behave.

Under the classification of a certain age set, the parties involved are under an expectation of similar growth and mannerism. The elders in the society question a delay caused by a group member and advice on the victimized party follows suite. It is, therefore, the mandates of the advised person to catch up with his or her age set. However, the practices of the modern world have diluted the age set’s role due to continuous rural to urban migration. It is thus possible for the upper-grade age roles to be substituted for the lower age grades, and thus the reflection of age maturity has no stronger ties like in the past.

Illustration: It is not only an expectation but a mandate on the part of the children to play their respectful role towards the elderly and their parents in general. There are no absolute grounds for questioning or socializing with the adult sect. If the boys from the same age set are married and a delay seems to be caused by a single member, it is usually up to the community to initiate the wife quest on behalf of the loner in order to create a balance in the age set in terms of maturity and progress.


The (1989) national population census in accordance with the Luo population figure projected to over 3 million people, a stable figure of about 13 percent of the total population in Kenya. An alliance between the Luo and the Luhya groups in Kenya bonds them to be the ethnicity with a commanding second largest number in terms of rank and fall behind the Gikuyu group. The locality of most Luo and their livelihood is in Kenya’s Western province in the western region and the Nyanza province that is adjacent to the same region. The two provinces are their major occupation out of the found eight in Kenya.

The livelihood of some Luo is also to the south of Kenya on an entrance to Tanzania as many chose to reside currently in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. However, the maintenance in terms of strong social, cultural and economical links still leans on the side of Western Kenya as it is a proclaimed second home. The past 500 years has been their incubation growth in terms of movement and growth from the Southern regions of Sudan to their present localities on the eastern shores of the Lake Victoria. The climatic changes in the region are from the landscapes that are dry and low on the shores of the Lake to the lushes and hill defined areas towards the east. As a capital provision, Kisumu city is ranked as the third-largest in Kenya and functions as a major cultural base for the Luo ethnic group.

Illustration: The importance of a home ground in the Luo community is unopposed. Despite the death of a Luo community member and be it the origin of death lies in a different place outside the outcast of other provinces other that the renown Nyanza and Western Province, importance is in both culture and setting for his funeral ceremony to take place in his home area. The undertaking of the home and traditional customs is in accordance with their beliefs like the Tero boru that is in accordance to the alienation of the evil ancestral spirit ranked with death and their demolition.


The effects of the factor to the social structure are subjective in a manner. An adverse effect is on the conscious of the community’s member as a willful reference when it comes to sharing the status. The willful reference reflects on the desired group sect, the imaginative thought of belonging to the group and the actualization of the longing. A stereotype is in the making among the Luo group members over and is a reflection on their behavior in terms of rank and occupation.

There is much of undeserved ranking in terms of respect to the highly ranked in the society and dismal quantities of recognition and respect in the low class with no considerable ranks and occupation grounds. A place of comfort is usually an instillation if the group in which one resides is of equal occupation or ranking to each and every member of the social tie. The Luo society and tradition value the ranks of the midwives, medicine men, elders, and traditional chiefs. The extent of the speculated ranks would sometimes tie along with the age of the ranked individual.

Illustration: The Luo traditions allocated a much higher sit into the traditional Luo chiefs in the places of gathering as special treatments followed suit. Their leadership role commanded the much-deserved respect. An allowance was on their part in terms of who ate first or shared the final opinion to be passed on any subjective matter.


As an impact on the practices and beliefs of religion amongst the Luo people, Christianity tops the list. The current religious communities seem to draw their benefits in terms of belief from both Christianity and indigenous practices. Among the Luo, the Roman Catholic Church and the ACK Church are of unquestioned significance among the Luo community. A majority of the population is however not inclined to a sharp distinction on the basis of the religious practices of the African origins and the European origins. The rich Luo traditions in terms of music and dance are a mainstream in their current church settings.

As a reference to Christianity, continuity is in the role play of significance when addressing their ancestral lives. Their traditional beliefs have a strong tie on the residence of their ancestors in either the sky or the underground. The only possible destination of their spirits is reincarnation into a probable animal or human form. The performance of traditional ceremonies is often compulsory during the naming of a newborn baby and is often a determination of a reincarnated spirit. A baby’s acceptance of a certain name by not crying is a quite possibly evident ancestral spirit in reincarnation.

The basis of communication between the living and the proposed ancestral spirits is evidently through dreams and their interpretation. The Luo religion draws caution in terms of misfortunes as a cause by troublesome spirits if not rightful respected or in the case of ignorance drawn to their part. The name juok synonymous to the word shadow is the Luo’s way of referencing the spirits. Their reference to God is through a cluster of names as an indication of His majestic power.

An evident example would be the name Were which references to granting requests. Nyasaye references to He Who is begged. Ruoth references a king. Jachwech references a molder. Wuon Koth references the rain maker, and Nyakalaga references the One, who is omnipresent. The prayer requests and their address to God are by those in dire need of His supreme assistance. A fusion exists between the Luo traditional religious customary beliefs and Christianity. The movement is quite evident in the independent Christian churches with an attraction of unmentionable followings.

Illustration: The commencement of a church, the Nomiya Luo Church, on the onset of 1912, was the first church in Kenya to gain independence under the Luo dynasty. Johanwa Owalo is the believed founder of the church with prophetic traits similar to that of Jesus Christ and the great Muhammad. It is the claimed team up between Owalo and the Catholic priests that commenced the new theological teachings that led to the rejection of both the doctrine and the Pope.


The ownership of property by the Luo people at various levels of succession led to their promotion in the sense of belonging with projected influence to their political, economical, and social network gathering. As an indicator of status, the one who ranked with no property was under the classification of the least influential and with unrecognizable status. The property owners had major shareholdings in play and were even under consultation for the rank of advisers whose opinions assisted in the development of the communities. Also, the climb on the political ladder was paced up by one’s wealth as the value of social capitalism proved its importance beyond the concerns of property acquisition in the Luo society.

The award of prestige to an individual led only to a broader network that facilitated the access of material wealth that was only possible through the concepts of social networking. There was no individual ownership of land in the realm of the ancient Luo communities as the land property was communal. The erosion of the system is a cause of the Swynnerton land plan that was an introduction from the British during their colonial era. The ownership of the land property was by the superior authority, and its importance was on a stretch.

An allowance was on the Luo people over the communal land rights with a division that extended from the clan setting down to the nuclear setting. The rightful ownership of the land was entitled to the male head of the family. The male head would then use his social tools and authority to subdivide the land further amongst his married sons. The material property had a role of significance also to play in the traditional society of the Luo people as the cattle were great initiators of social and economical functions.

Illustration: The practice of polygamy amongst the Luo communalists is of direct association with one’s property. A man under the ownership of an extensive piece of land and property is subdued to a number of marriages so that he can leave his piece of land and property in the capable hands of his wives for the purposes of cultivation and food production.


(2008, September 25). African Press International Retrieved from

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