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Teso Tribe, People, Language, Culture and Traditions


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The Teso Tribe

Teso Tribe: The Teso people of Kenya are an extension of their Ugandan counterparts in that they were merely separated by the partition of East Africa during the historic scramble and partition of Africa just like the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania and the Oromo of Kenya and Ethiopia. They are among the Plain Nilotic groups closely related to the Turkana, Karamojong, Toposa and the Maa groups of the Maasai and Samburu.

The Teso tribe is found in Western Kenya currently in Busia County, which is in South of Mt. Elgon. A large number of the Teso people inhabit parts of Bungoma and Trans Nzoia Counties which are dominated by the Bukusu of the Luhya tribe.

Teso people are the only Plains Nilotic people whose lifestyles underwent drastic changes. Having been pastoralists since time immemorial, these people are now the most successful farmers in both Western Kenya and Eastern Uganda. In recent years the people have changed much of their lifestyle. They used to exhume the dead after some time because of population pressure on their land and they no longer have bushes to dump the bones of people who died long time ago. Now they use cement graves — a sign that they have embraced new ways of dealing with the dead. They believe in one God (Akuju/amsabwa) and also in life after death.

The Teso Tribe – Origin

Teso traditions relate that they originated somewhere in what is now Egypt in the area of Alexandra. They are believed to have descended from the Hebrew Joseph who had married a black Egyptian. Later when the Israeli slaves left Egypt for the promised land, the group followed the blue Nile river into Ethiopia. It is from here that they obtained the name Iteso, meaning we have seen. They saw a land, part of the promise to Jacob, the grand son of Abraham, it is a land divided by small rivers originating from the White Nile, theirs was the Upper Nile area. From the Ethiopian mountains is where they saw the land. They later migrated south West over a period of centuries. They were part of a larger group of Nilo-Hamitic peoples who include; the Masai and Turkana of Kenya, the Nyangatom of present day Ethiopia, Karamojong, the Topotha of South Sudan, all are they Ateker. The Ateker further split into several groups, including Jie, Turkana, Karamojong and Teso.

The Teso Tribe

The Teso Tribe

The Teso established themselves in present-day north-eastern Uganda, and in the mid-18th century some began to move farther south. During the course of this latter migration, conflicts ensued with other ethnic groups in the region, leading to the split of Teso territory into a northern and southern part. In 1902, part of eastern Uganda was transferred to western Kenya – leading to further separation of Teso.

Northern Teso occupy the area previously known as Teso District in Uganda (now the districts of Amuria, Soroti, Kumi, Katakwi, Pallisa, Bukedea and Kaberamaido). Southern Teso live mainly in the districts of Tororo and Busia in Uganda, and Busia county in Kenya’s Western region.



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