The Luo


Located at the shores of the world’s second largest freshwater lake, Lake Victoria and at 1,131 m (3,711 ft), the vibrant third largest city in Kenya, Kisumu City, boasts of a rich history of international trade, tropical climate, good transport network and a vibrant population majorly the Luo ethnic tribe of Kenya.


Kisumu literally means a place of barter trade “sumo” in the Luo language, and is locally called ‘Kisumo’. It was the major port of Lake Victoria during the commonwealth of East Africa, then known as Port Florence. The town was founded in the early 19th Century mainly as the main inland terminal of the Asian built Uganda railway. Asians once formed a quarter of the population of the town, with cultural and infrastructural evidence of this visible to date.

Kisumu is the principal city of western Kenya and forms the commercial, industrial and transportation center majorly due to its water and rail connections. Formally the headquarters of the greater Nyanza Province, the town has grown to be the third largest city in Kenya after Nairobi and Mombasa and is now the headquarters of Kisumu County.

The main industries in Kisumu are centered around processing of agricultural products, fishing, brewing and textile manufacturing industries.

Lake Victoria

Discovered in the 19th Century, 1858, by British Explorer John Spanning Speke, who named it Lake Victoria, after Queen Victoria of England, as he was looking for the source of the Nile. It is the second largest fresh water lake in the world, exceeded in size only by Lake Superior in North America and the largest lake in Africa.

Fishing forms the main economic activity in the lake. The Tilapia is the most popular fish from this lake, majorly because of its economic importance. There are other 200 species of fish in the lake.

There are numerous Islands on the Kenyan side of the lake namely Rusinga Island, Mfangano Island and Ndere Island.

The Luo

Despite having a multi-ethnic population, the Luo ethnic tribe of Kenya form the major population of Kisumu City. Originally from the Southern Parts of now the Republic of South Sudan, the tribe migrated along the Nile and settled at the shores of Lake Victoria, Winam Gulf. They are popularly referred to as the River-Lake Nilotes in history books. Their native language is known as Dholuo.

It is from this tribe that the popular Legend of Lwanda Magere is spoken, a popular film released in 2020. Folklore spoke of this mighty warrior with superhuman strength at the shores of Lake Victoria, that would single-handedly fight the enemies of the tribe. Other global figures that trace their roots to the Luo tribe include Lupita Nyong’o- Academy Award winner actress and Barack Obama-the 44th President of the United States of America. 


The Luo native language is Dholuo. Here are few common Dholuo words and phrases to use while in Kisumu City…

Greetings in Luo language:

Koro – Hi,

Erokamano – Thank you.

Oriti – Goodbye.

Apenji – excuse me, 

Jaber – beautiful one

Ber – good