The Migration of Nilotes To Kenya


The Highland Nilotes

Before the Nilotes moved to western Kenya, they lived in southwestern area of Ethiopia. The Nilotes occupied portions of what is now Kenya while another group, the Tatoga settled in northern Tanzania. Another group of Nilotes occupied parts of northwest Kenya. Their economy focused on agriculture and cultivation of crops like sorghum and millet. They also kept livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats.

One of the Nilote groups, the Kalenjin occupied the western parts of present day Kenya. The Kalenjin divided further into smaller communities including: Elgon, Pokot, Nandian and South Kalenjin. The groups further divided into the Elgeyo, Marakwet, Tugen, Nandi and Kipsigis. The Elgon settled around Mount Elgon while the Pokot merged with the Nilotes in the plains and adopted the Karamjong-Teso languages. Eventually the Elgeyo, Marakwet and Tugen moved east while the Nandi and Kipsigis moved to the southwest.

The Plains Nilotes

In the second millennium A.D. the plains Nilotes moved into what is now known as Kenya. As pastoralists, they primarily occupied the Rift Valley area. Prior to their move to eastern Africa, the plains Nilotes were divided into two groups: the Bari speakers who moved to the Sudan and the Teso-Maasai branch that moved to Kenya. The Teso-Maasai split into three groups: the Lotuko, Karamojong-Teso and Maasai. The Maasai moved to the southeast of the country and settled in areas between Mount Kenya, Kilimanjaro and Taita Hills.


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