Luo Tribe Description

The luo tribe is the third largest community in Kenya and makes up close to 13% of the entire population.The Luo travelled along the River Nile from Sudan and made entry into Kenya around 500 years ago and established settlements in the lands surrounding Lake Victoria – Africa’s biggest fresh water lake.

Their arrival took place in phases. The first groups to arrive were:

  1. The Joka-jok who were closely followed by Jo-k’Owiny.
  2. Jok’ Omolo came in third and the Luo Abasuba made the final arrival.

Luo Culture, Lifestyle & Religion

The luo just like other few tribes in kenya practice traditional method of circumcision to initiate boys to manhood. Instead, their initiation involves the removal of six teeth from the lower jaw.

Another unique Luo custom is wife inheritance whereby, if a man dies, one of his brothers or close relatives inherits his widow and must meet all of her marital requirements. The Luo mourning ceremony, (tero buru), is still widely practiced. This is a unique, elaborate and dramatic ceremony that symbolizes the departure of a loved one.

Despite the fact that most of the Luos are now Christians, many still uphold most of their traditional cultural customs. This is especially true for those living in the rural areas. However, some of the Luo cultural practices now regarded as retrogressive are slowly fading away, such as wife inheritance. Recently efforts have been made to promote male circumcision among the Luo, Teso and Turkana people, to help curb the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Perhaps one of the most interesting and noticeable attributes common among the elite, educated or urban Luo people is their flamboyant character and sense of style, in addition to their polished and eloquent command of the English language, otherwise known as The Queen’s English.

Luo economic activity and Food

For Luos living in rural areas, freshwater fishing in Lake Victoria is the most important economic activity. The fish are consumed locally while some, especially the Nile perch, are exported to Europe and other countries. Fish and ugali are the staple foods of the Luo tribe. Agriculture, especially sugarcane and cotton farming, is also practiced in other areas where Luos live.

Luo Tribe Photo
Luo Tribe Photo

Political History of the Luo Tribe

Unlike other kenyan tribes the luo were lucky enough to keep their original homeland because the British colonial rulers did not take it as they did others. The Luo community has been a key player in the Kenyan political scene since the pre-colonial times. Some of its favored sons in the pre-colonial and post-colonial period include;

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga

Being the first vice president of Kenya, he arguably was the biggest force in the Luo political landscape at the time. He was deemed to follow a communist approach and was an exact foil of the founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. His differences with the president later led him to pioneer the birth of opposition politics in Kenya. Interestingly, the Luo community still continues to stage opposition politics today. He died in 1994.

Tom Mboya

He was a trade unionist and active minister during the post-colonial period. His short political career saw him accomplish many feats. He not only had links with Obama [Senior], father to renowned U.S president, but also had an overwhelming support across the country. He was however assassinated in 1963.

Raila Odinga

Son to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, he is one of the current big wigs in the Kenyan political scene. Apart from being a prime minister of Kenya under the current grand coalition government, he is one of the core contenders for the presidential position in 2013

Luo Tribe Video