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The Kipsigis are a Nilotic ethnic group of Kenya. Their first language is Kipsigis, which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language family. The traditional occupation of the Kipsigis is herding. In pre-colonial Kipsigis society, there was a warrior element. Living on the Western Highlands at an altitude of 1500 to 2000m, the Kipsigis now also grow maize, wheat, pyrethrum and tea.[1]

Total population
Regions with significant populations
Christianity, traditional religion
Related ethnic groups
Kalenjin and other Nilotes
Workers picking tea near Kericho.



Location of Kericho in Kenya.

The Kipsigis describe their place of origin as To near Lake Baringo. The Kipsigis are a Nilotic (Nilo hamitic) people. They are the most populous sub-group of the Kalenjin, a subdivision of Nilotes, who originated in the South Sudan region. Another Kalenjin sub-group are the Tatonga people of Tanzania. In the 1700s, the two tribes migrated to the present-day region of Shinyanga in western Tanzania. Later, the Kipsigis returned to Kericho and a smaller group moved south to Angata Barigoi near the Tanzanian border. By the 19th century, the Kipsigis were living in the Rift Valley province of Kenya.

British rule forced the Kipsigis into the colonial market economy.[2][3] Kipsigis mainly used finger millet, meat and milk as their staple food. Some of the known finger millet varieties (list not exhaustive) are:

  • Kapnyagoboba
  • Ketui
  • Kapkimoru
  • Chepkeani
  • Taptonon
  • Koraran
  • Naikuro
  • Sagongonyik


The Kipsigis inhabit the highlands of Kericho from Timboroa to Mara River in the south, and from Mau Escarpment in the east to Kebeneti in the west . The Kipsigis also live in parts of Laikipia, Kitale, Nakuru, Narok, Trans Mara District, Eldoret and the Nandi Hills, Bomet and some parts of Mara province of Tanzania.


The mother tongue of the Kipsigis is Kipsigis. It belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language family. Dialects of the language resemble Nandi. The Kipsigis are part of the Kalenjin nation.

In 2009, there were approximately 1,900,000 speakers of Kipsigis, most in the Rift Valley. The number of speakers has been increasing.[4]

Religion and SpiritualityEdit

The Kipsigis have a circular view of life. They are deeply spiritual and consider all life as sacred. They believe that the nutural world is all connected and that a good deed never goes unnoticed. Similarly bad deeds lead to consequences in various forms. This view ensures that all members of the community act in a morally upright manner.

The Kipsigis believe in a supreme being that is manifested in the Sun - Asis. The supreme being manifests through nature and natural occurrences and manifests in many different forms.

The Kipsigis know that all human life is cyclical. All persons are in essence reincarnates of their ancestors who existed before them. The ancestors' souls return to earth, and inhabit the bodies of their heirs who are named after the revered forebears. The ancestors continue to play a central role in life as they are the bridge through which the people are able to communicate with the supreme being.

The Kipsigis religion and their way of life is fused to form a sense of spirituality that recognizes that all life exists for each other. Aspects of this religion encompasses all aspects of life-birth, rites of passage, marriage, adulthood and death. Islam and Christianity has been adopted in some groups but there is still strong sense of connection between the Kipsigis, their ancestors and their traditional view of spirituality that recognizes the cyclical nature of life on earth.

Tulwap KipsigisEdit

Tulwap Kipsigis is a hill near Londiani township, Kericho county, Kenya. To the Kipsigis, it has both religious and cultural importance.[5]


Kipsigis gourd (sotet) used for storing sour milk (mursik).

Kipsigis have a tradition of humility, endurance of hardship, strong emotional expression, loyalty, courage hospitality and courtesy. Artists such as Joel Arap Kimeto, Paul Sang Temugo, Paul Subembe, Kipchamba Arap Tapotuk, Solomon Manori, Francis Koech, Junior Kotestes, and the comedian, Bomori Araap Baikalyaang, are from the Kipsigis community. The Segechek are a smaller clan with a belief in luck, wisdom and wealth and secretiveness.


As with some Bantu groups, the Kipsigis and other Nilotes in the Great Lakes region have, through interaction, adopted customs from Southern Cushitic groups, including the age set system of social organization, circumcision, and elements of vocabulary.[6][7]

Coming of ageEdit

Kipsigis men undergo circumcision at about 14 years of age. Afterwards, the boy lives in a menjo near a forest or away from the main community while they heal. During this period, Kipsigis males undergo three traditional ceremonies called the kelab-eun, the tyenjinet and the kayaet. After the first ritual, the boys are allowed to venture out into the forest for hunting using bows and wood-made-arrows. It is at this point in time that they master the use of the weapons of traditional warfare.


Traditionally, marriage is an important custom in Kipsigis society. The belief that the reincarnated spirit enters the newborn means having a family is desired. Secondly, a legitimate male heir is needed to inherit property (livestock).[8]


Marriage is strictly exogamous, no male may marry a woman of his clan or oret. Descendants of a woman may marry after the third generation. Exogamy extends to the family of the man and woman assigned to care for teenage initiates (boys and girls). It also extends through generations. One may not marry the children of a man of the same generation.[8]

Arrangement and ceremonyEdit

Girls are available for marriage as soon as their initiation is complete. The betrothal ceremony of girls before their initiation is the same as the actual wedding ceremony. Men may marry at any age. A marriage is arranged through a number of visits of the groom's father to the family of the girl he chooses. A dowry of cattle is promised. The ceremony may take up to three hours.[8]

Polygamy and other marriage statesEdit

Polygamy is practiced with certain restrictions. A widow may become the partner of her husband's brother but with consent of the ageset. A childless elderly widow may 'wed' a young woman for support.[8]

Community organisationEdit

A kokwet, a word derived from kok, a man's sitting place, is used to signify the neighborhood or primary community of 20 to 40 interrelated homesteads. Adult brothers tend to establish homesteads in different areas.

Connection through marriageEdit

Thus, the ortinwek (exogamous groups) are dispersed and intermingled. On the other hand, marriages tend to be between geographically nearby families. Neighbourhoods become small networks of direct and indirect affinal (connected by marriage) relationships together with a few further connections of direct agnation (relationship through the male side of the family) or common clan membership.

Connection through localityEdit

Strictly speaking, kokwet refers to the occasional gatherings of homestead heads and junior men to, for instance, make group decisions, settle local disputes, reprimand wrong-doers or celebrate communal work harvests. Kokwet meetings are held some distance from any particular homestead yard. The meetings are open and are attended by men interested in the matter at hand. Whether the issue arises from domestic problems or breaches of the norms of public conduct, individual interests are expressed in terms of kinship. Senior men represent themselves at most meetings and dominate discussion. Younger men may need to attend because of family connections or with friends of their age group. Younger men speak only when their opinions or knowledge are solicited. Women and children may be called to kokwet meetings to give evidence but otherwise do not attend.

Connection through geographyEdit

Streams and rivers hinder interaction and so there is a tendency for communities to develop on particular hillsides or areas of higher ground. However, communities are not ultimately defined by topographical features rather, they are marked by nodes or focal points. Place names may refer to a past event or a significant natural feature. The topographical areas that place names describe are not arranged hierarchically nor are they mutually exclusive. For example, koret, the area of a few communities and emet, the tribal region, are not prescribed by boundary lines.[9]

Kipsigis clansEdit

  • Boguserek-Bomet, Nakuru, Kericho, Abosi-Kapchumbe, Kaboson, sigor, chebunyon, sotik, lelechonik-Dikir and Angata Barikoi. The origin of this clan can be traced to the Laikipia maasai, where a woman and her two children, Koisomoi and Bonge, left their land during a severe drought. The woman was later nicknamed Chesamich because she was found in a forest. They were found by a man called Tiror of Okiek descent who took them to his home. The two children were later abducted by a Gusii man of the Abagusero clan and taken to Gusiiland. After many years, the descendants had increased in number and now they founded The Boguserek clan a name which they adopted from Gusii land. The totem of this clan is Lion(Simba).They are cousins with Kipindoek clan.
  • Kabioria
  • Kapkitoleek-Abosi, Ndanai, Nakuru ---
  • Kapnabe
  • Kipsamaek-Ng'etundo (in Tebesonik Bureti, Kitale, Ng'ororga, Kabitungu, Kipkelion, Bomet, Kericho)
  • Kaptirit
  • Kipomuek-Cheptirkichet (in Sigor Koitakalyet, Bomet, Sotik, Kaplong, Kericho)
  • Kimeiteek
  • Kibasisek
  • Kibetu (in Belgut, Sosiot, Kapsoit)
  • Kibokwoek
  • Kapsengerek
  • Kipkogosek
  • Kapcheroigik
  • Kapmelgut
  • Kapsyoriri
  • Kapkiprotichek( related to Kapchebororek and Kapkerichek clans)
  • Kapcheboin
  • Kaptumoto
  • Kaptuiyek
  • Kaparsingil
  • Kibororek
  • Kapbecherek
  • Kipbororek
  • Kapkolwolek
  • Kipkendeek
  • kapkerichek(very related with chebororek clan)
  • Kapbomoek
  • Bobuserek(Ngusero Sambu) -Lion
  • Kabarangweek - belyot
  • Kobasisek
  • Kapkomosek
  • Kapchamogondek
  • Kiplegenek-totem-cheplanget. Sub clans: Kamerengo, Kapkoloibai, Kapsirere (in Kabianga, Kiptere, Bomet-Ndaraweta, Taabet, Chesoen, Kapletundo, Keongo, Kebeneti, Sachangwan, Bureti.
  • Kapsoenik
  • Kapmochoek
  • Kaptotonek
  • Kipintoek
  • Chepkesek
  • Kipbaek
  • Kipcheromek
  • Kipkeles
  • Kapkechwoek
  • Matoboriik
  • Kapsoikoek
  • Narachek
  • Babasik
  • Kipang'wanek
  • Kapmagu
  • Kapchebures
  • Kipsirgoiik
  • Kapmalumaasiaan
  • Kapkenyogore
  • Kaptolil
  • Kapborowek
  • Kapcheurek
  • Kapsegit (The Segit or totem is Ng'okto (the dog))
  • Kapcherongong - Kongonyot
  • Kapkaon
  • Kapkarugo(Kaptebeswet in Belgut/Ainamoi, Fort-Ternan)
  • Kapsiteek
  • Segechek (a smaller clan).
  • Kapmunga
  • Kapsigilaek
  • Kapchebororek
  • Baguserek
  • Kapboit
  • chepbororek
  • Kapmanereriek
  • Kapchepalungu/Kimaunyiyet (in Bomet County: Motigo, Cheptagum, Kipkeigei, Kapsabul, Tarakwa, Singorwet, Kapkoros, Chemaner, Tegat, Sotik, Silibwet Olbutyo, Chebunyo, Nyambugo, Kipreres and others in Kericho, Nandi, Narok, and Nakuru Counties and even in Tanzania and some in South Sudan)
  • Kapmaek Clan (totem is "Kimaketiet", concentrated in Belgut Kericho, originated from Nandi).
  • Kamogoreek/Umoek. Totem = Ong'ongonyot (Crested Crane) (in Bomet, Nakuru, Narok and Kericho Counties: Chemaner, Tegat, Singorwet, Gelegele, Chebole, Kapkimolwa, Sigor, Kipreres, Chelemei, Sogoo, Koiwa, Kirenget, Olengurone, Mauche, Njoro, Dikirr and Loliondo in Tanzania)
  • Kaboboek - Moset (Kericho, Kipkelion, Londiani, Bureti, Bomet)
  • Kapkolwoleek
  • Kapbinduk-totem- Ng'etundo.(found in Roret, kapkatet, kapkelek, Kabartegan, chemist, chemoiwa, sondu and nandi chepkumnyat)
  • kaptemoet-totem- lion found in chepkechei fort ternan and tinderet ,ainamoi,
  • kapkomutket-totem buffalo have close relation with kimatagee, chebunyek, kimologek and kapmochoek.(found in kericho, bureti, bomet and rongai)
  • kabarsumek. totem monkey. originates from maasai.
  • kibwamwek
  • kapmoek
  • kabarangwek
  • talaek
  • Kapchebereek - Also related to Kapkesuundeek and Kapsaosaanik. Totem is Kong'onyoot. Migration route from Kericho from 1920s: Kapsaos; Saosa; Woochii/Kipcheboor; Lelsa-Changoi; Seretut; Nyabangi-Kiptule; Kabianga; Tulwaab-Bureeti; Kiptome; Kabusienduuk; Cheborgei-Chaakoroor; Keseengiit-Kaborus;Tiriitaab Eito; Kipwaastuiyo; Kapsinendeet; Cheplangeet; Tiriitab Moita; Kaamungei; Kaitiit; Simooti; Koiwa; Sootiit; Kaabosoon; Tereet; Chepluumiat. Societal role: They were the Priests of the Kipsigiis people during times of conducting raids. They prayed to the God of protection, Chebopkooiyo, to provide signs of affirmation failure to which the warriors (oondo in Kipsigis) would not proceed for a raiding mission. If Chebopkooiyo answer the prayers, the priest of Chebere people would lead the raiders accompanying them (referred to in Kipsigis as Kosibon) throughout the mission and interceding on their behalf until the mission is accomplished. Upon a successful raid and on returning to a point where it is obvious the enemy will no longer overcome the raiders, the people of Chebere are called to blow their trumpets and declare victory by singing a song of victory that goes this way: "Kuut ndurereet Kosibon; kaakoloong Kooiyeet; indoowuneen lagookab Kosibon".


  1. ^ "The Kipsigis". African Latitude Safari. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  2. ^ "Kipsigis - history and cultural relations". Countries and Their Cultures. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  3. ^ Saltman, Michael (1 January 1977). The Kipsigis: A Case Study in Changing Customary Law. Transaction Publishers. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-4128-2719-5. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  4. ^ Lewis, M. P.; et al. (eds.). "Kipsigis". Ethnologue, Languages of the World (17th (online) ed.). SIL International. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  5. ^ "Sacred hill of the Kipsigis". The Star. 27 March 2013. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  6. ^ Collins, R. O. (2006). The Southern Sudan in historical perspective. Transaction Publishers. pp. 9–10.
  7. ^ Okoh, A.; Ndaloh, A. Peak revision K.C.P.E. social studies. East African Publishers. p. 113.
  8. ^ a b c d Orchardson, J. M. (1931). Notes on the marriage customs of the Kipsigis. The East Africa Natural History Society. Retrieved 15 December 2013.
  9. ^ Daniels, R. E. (November 1976). "Kipsigis age-sets: coordination without centralization". 75th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association. Washington, D.C.: University of North Carolina. Retrieved 15 December 2013.

10. Kosibon, Elijah Kipngetich (2018). An Oral Narrative about Kapchebereek Clan Among the Kipsigis People of Kenya to His Son Dr. Festus Kipkorir Ngetich.Unpublished.

External linksEdit