Luo people

Luo peoples

Luo peoples group

The Luo are several ethnically and linguistically related Nilotic ethnic groups that inhabit an area ranging from Egypt and Sudan to South Sudan and Ethiopia, through Northern Uganda and eastern Congo (DRC), into western Kenya, and the Mara Region of Tanzania.

The Joluo and their language Dholuo are also known as the "Luo proper", even though their dialect has more Bantu loan words than the rest.

he level of historical separation between these groups is estimated at about eight centuries. Dispersion from the Nilotic homeland in South Sudan was presumably triggered by the turmoil of the Muslim conquest of Sudan.

The migration of individual groups over the last few centuries can to some extent be traced in the respective group's oral history.

Their Luo languages belong to the western branch of the Nilotic language family.


South Sudan





DR Congo

The Luo of Ethiopia

Ethiopia is located in Eastern Africa, west of Somalia, at between 8 00 N, 38 00 E coordinates. Ethiopia is about 1,127,127 sq km, with a population of 73,053,286. The Luo ethnic group in Ethiopia are about 45,646 of the total population. Its climate is classified as tropical monsoon with wide topographic-induced variation.   

The Luo in Ethiopia are known as Anuak as well, and are in fact no any different than the Anuak of the Upper Nile in Sudan.

Moreover, the Luo Anuak in Ethiopia indeed are the continuation of the Anuak of the Upper Nile Region in Southern Sudan whom are the descendants of Gilo, the younger brother of Nikango and Dimo as far as the ancestry linkages are concerned (Ogot, Bathwell (1967). 

The Anuak Luo of Ethiopia are found in the Gamella region of south western Ethiopia. They are classified as Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotics, Luo and Anuak. They are numbering 45, 646 according to (1991) census (Gilley, Leoma: 2004). 

Their main sources of economy are fishing, agriculture, mining and hunting. Their source of economy has a distinct link between with the other Luo groups in Southern Sudan and neighbouring countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, DRC, Uganda and Tanzania)


The Luo of Kenya 

The Luo ethnic group in Kenya are part of the central arguments among the Luo groups all over Africa. Some Luo’s mythical and oral history in Sudan refer to Kenya as the home of origin before the migration Luo people to Sudan and other parts of Eastern Africa.

On the contrary, Luo in Kenya assume that Sudan is the central point of migration and their home of origin, the fact that has been proven by many ethnologists and historians to be the actual point of origin of the Luo people (Atieno-Odhiambo: 1999).

Most ethnologists and scholars who tried to study Luo ethnic groups in the 21 century have cited the same assumptions in which they refer to Southern Sudan as the home of Luo ethnic groups.

Furthermore, Kenya remained the most populated country with Luo ethnic groups in Africa. Kenya also appeared to be unique in the sense that Luo group has maintained its culture, Language and sustained the unity and prevented further separation and migration (Atieno-Odhiambo: 1999).

According to Adamson (1967), the migration of Luo ethnic group to Kenya started some hundred and fifty years ago. Adamson further stated that Luo are the only Nilotic groups in Kenya as far as Kenyan ethnic classification is concerned.

They have “… cross [ed] lake Victoria after pushing Bantu ethnic population and the first inhabitants of the Lake Victoria (1967: p157).

 The Luo have chosen Nyanza province on the Banks of Lake Victoria as their home and settled there since. They (Luo) have migrated to Kenya from eastern Uganda in four waves which consisted of (1) The Joka-jok as the first group to arrive from the Acholiland, and the largest migration of the Luo recorded to Kenya (2) migration from Alur (3) The owiny whom are actually part of the Padhola and (4) the Jok’omolo who migrated from Pawir.

Currently, there are about 12 Luo clans found in Kenya, and consist of Jo-Alego, Jo-Gem (Gum), Jo-Ugenya, Jo-Seme, Jo-Karachuonyo, Jo-Nnyakach, Jo-Kabundo, Jo-Kisumo, Jo-Kano, Jo-Asembo, Jo-Uyoma, Jo-Sakwa and Jo-Kajulu. The term “Jo” in Luo language means people of” (Ogot: 1997).

Apparently, the Luo ethnic tribe are considered as the third largest group in Kenya (11%) after the non-Luo Bantu of Kikuyu (21%) and Luhya (14%) of the total population. (Ogot: 1997)

Nonetheless, the Luo language is adopted and spoken by majority of non-Luo tribes in Kenya as a second language. In 1994, the Luo ethnic group’s population was estimated to be 3, 185,000. The Luo in Kenya are also known as Nilotic Kavirondo, and classified as Nilo-Saharan, Eastern sudanic. The Luo however, simply refer to themselves as Jo- Luo, which literary means; (the people of Luo) (Ogot: 1997).

The Luo of Kenya are known as agriculturist, Fishers and miners. They have adopted Christianity as their traditional religion, and also believed in ancestors and life after death (Gray, Richard: 1961).


The Luo of Tanzania 

There are similarities noted between the Luo ethnic groups of Tanzania, and the Luo of Kenya. Both are being classified as Nilotic Kavirondo, Nilo-Saharan, Luo, and Eastern Sudanic.

Nonetheless, by paying a closer look at the Luo Settlement around the Lake Victoria (Re: Map figure) in Kenya, it gives a clear indication of continuation of the same Luo ethnic tribe of Kenya up to eastern bank of lake Victoria, crossing the border of Tanzania and Kenya. The Luo in Kenya are found in Mara Region (Ogot: 1997). 

The population in Tanzania was estimated at 280,000 according to the year 2001 government census. The migration of the Luo ethnic to Tanzania is cited around 1800. The Luo ethnic group in Tanzania crossed over form Kenya, as such they are not any different than the Luo in Kenya. \

The Luo group in Tanzania are also known as Luo Kavirindo; the same name that applies to Luo groups in Kenya (Wild J.V. (1954).


The Luo of Uganda

Uganda is home for Luo ethnic groups of (1) Acholi, (2) Adhola, and the assimilated Luo groups of (3) Lango and (4) Kumam.

It is also assumed to be the possible first entrance that Luos of Sudan used to further migrate to Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic republic of Congo.

The Luo population in Uganda was estimated at 994,373, in which 746,796 according to (1991 census) were Luo acholi, that are found in North central Acholi district, and 12,089 speakers of Chopi, (1972 Ladeoged et al,).

This statistics also includes 247, 577 (1986) Luo Adhola in Maple District (Ogot: 1997). 

Both Luo Acholi and Adhola are classified as Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotics, Luo or Lwo.  In addition to Acholi and Adhola in Uganda, there are also Alur, Jo-Nam, Thur, Lango and Kumam. In this context, it was noted that Lango and Kumam are not

Luo by their origin; rather, they have been assimilated through intermarriages and socio-cultural interaction. According to T.T. S. Hayley (1947) the Lango were in close contact with the Nilo-homitic such as Shilluk, Luo, Anuak, Alur and Jopaluo.

These groups seem to occupy the areas that passed round the north of Lake Rudolph and cross to the north of Lake Albert. The groups split up, and migrated northwest, and southwest to form what is known today as nilotic group of eastern Africa, as a result of inter ethnic conflict between an alliance of Bari and Madi against the Acholi. In this segment, Lango continued its migration to settle southwest towards the Nile about A.D. 1700. (1947:p37).

With this note, it is fair to say that, Lango ethnic groups are of closer linkage culturally; to the Luo Acholi group as far as Luo ethnology is concerned. 


The Luo of Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo, or The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of central African Countries that hosted large number of Luo ethnic tribe known as Alur.

The Luo Alur are about 750,000 in the democratic Republic of Congo (2001Johnston and Mandrake), and are found in Oriental Province, Mahagi Territory and Northwest to Djalasiga area.  (Hayley: 1947)

The Luo Alur in Congo are also known as Lur, Aloro, Alua, Alulu, Luri, Dho Alur and Jo-Alur.

Furthermore, They are classified as Nilo-Saharan, Eastern Sudanic, Nilotics, Luo-Acholi, Alur-Acholi or Alur.

The Luo Alur in the Congo were the pioneers of African Music’s, which is adopted later by most African countries in the modern history. (Atkinson, Raymond: 1994).

The Luo Alur according to Peter George Murdock (1959) subsists primary by agriculture, the profession that many Luo groups’ masters. The Luo Alur inhabit northern Uganda, and extended into Belgian Congo and Kenya. (1959).

The ancestor of Alur groups according to Partitioned, Francis (1985), were part of the long term movement of the Luo speaking people from Southern Sudan to what is known now as Uganda and Kenya.