Social organization among the Kenya Luo during the pre-colonial period

The Luo originated from Bahr-El-Ghazal, area in Southern Sudan, from where they moved and settled at Pu Bungu in northern Uganda.




They then moved to Pakwach, where they had settled by 1450AD. It was from Pakwach that they later migrated into Kenya.

By the 15th century, the Luo had begun to move to present-day Kenya.

Though they all claim common ancestry in Ramogi, They migrated and settled in Kenya in four main groups. These were:

  • Joka Owiny,
  • Joka Jok,
  • Joka Omolo,
  • Abasuba.




social organization among the Kenya Luo during the pre-colonial period.

  • The family was the basic social unit.
  • Several families formed one clan.
  • They practised polygamy (marriage of more than one wife).
  • They were exogamous i.e. they did not allow marriage within the clan.
  • They were deeply religious and believed in a creator: God, whom they called Nyasaye.
  • They had sacred shrines and trees where they offered sacrifices to the ancestral spirits.
  • They had religious leaders, including priests, rain makers and medicine people.




  • The youth underwent initiation (Ng‚Äüangrwok) at puberty, which involved extraction of six of their lower front teeth.
  • They had several ritual ceremonies at birth, naming, marriage and death.
  • Marriage was celebrated and tokens like cows were exchanged to seal the relationship.
  • Burial was celebrated through dancing and feasting, in view of the fact that the departed had joined a new and better world: that of the living dead.
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