Kisii, Kenya

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Not to be confused with Kisii County.
Kisii, Kenya
Municipality town
Nickname(s): Bosongo/Getembe
Kisii, Kenya is located in Kenya
Kisii, Kenya
Kisii, Kenya
Coordinates: 0°41′S 34°46′E / 0.683°S 34.767°E / -0.683; 34.767
Country  Kenya
Region Nyanza
County Kisii County
 • Governor Hon. James Ongwae
 • Municipality town 10 km2 (4 sq mi)
 • Metro 29 km2 (11 sq mi)
Elevation 1,700 m (5,577 ft)
Population (2009[citation needed])
 • Municipality town 200,000
 • Density 2,862/km2 (7,410/sq mi)
 • Urban 103,000
 • Metro 97,000
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)
Area code(s) 058
Location of Kisii Town in Kenya

Kisii is a city located in southwestern Kenya. It is the main urban and commercial center in the Gusii Highlands & the South Nyanza region. A vibrant town, the Kisii municipality has a population of about 200,000, according to 2012 estimates.[citation needed] However, it has a large dependent metropolitan population of over 100,000 residents, as per the latest national population and housing census of 2009. Kisii town is the capital of the Kisii County. Formerly the headquarters of the original and larger Kisii District before it was split to create Nyamira a district located in the north and Gucha, a district located in the south. Moreover, with the passing and the promulgation of the new Kenya Constitution in August 27, 2010, Gucha District was re-absorbed back into Kisii County whereas Nyamira District has since been renamed Nyamira County. Today, it is a bustling town and a home to several businesses, organizations, educational institutions and government agencies. Kisii municipality sits right at the centre of the Western Kenya tourist circuit that includes the Tabaka Soapstone Carvings, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Lambwe Valley Game Reserve and the entire Lake Victoria basin. The town continues to serve these former districts, the larger South Nyanza County and the Trans Mara area of western Narok County in terms of commerce.


Kisii town was originally known by the Gusii people as Bosongo. It is believed to have originated from 'Abasongo' (to mean the White people or Whites) who lived in the town during the colonial times.The town was originally established by British soldiers who were being forced to retreat from Lake Victoria by heavy gunfire from German soldiers' gunboats during the Great War in the early 20th Century. Later Kisii was chosen to be the District Headquarters of the larger South Nyanza and Kisii region. .[citation needed]

Kisii Town in the 60s.


The town is predominantly inhabited by the Gusii community (also known as the Kisii), a Bantu people. The Luo, Luhya, Kuria, Asian and Kalenjin make up a minority of residents.

Population Statistics[edit]

The population of Kisii town is currently at 200,000. It is the second most populous town in Nyanza after Kisumu. Kisii town is the 8th most populous town in Kenya.

Among Kenya's urban areas, Kisii municipality has a relatively high population density. However, the population density currently at 2862 per km2[citation needed] is relatively high owing to the scarcity of land within the municipality boundaries spurring further expansion of settlement in the outlying metro area. These alternative settlements have been sanctioned by the municipal government which, in turn, has allowed residents to develop their homes just outside of the municipality boundary to alleviate this phenomenon.


The economy of Kisii town today is derived from commerce and agriculture. Crops & fruits cultivated around the Kisii area include maize, managu, beans, bananas, pineapples, avocados, pawpaws etc.

Capital roundabout.

Kisii town is dotted with tall commercial buildings and is ever bustling with activities. Kisii is the fastest growing town in Western Kenya thanks mainly due to its high population, political stability and general tranquility. New businesses are steadily being installed in the town. Smaller components are in food processing, health care, education. Although it has are few industrial activities, it has potential for larger agro-based industries due to its location in a rich agricultural area. Soapstone quarrying also takes place near the town around Tabaka, south west of the town and a few miles off the Kisii-Isebania Road. Coca-Cola has a bottling and distribution plant in Kisii municipality. Also, the town hosts large supermarket chain stores e.g. Uchumi, Nakumatt Naivas and Tusky's. Besides, the town currently hosts 19 commercial banking and financial institutions' branches. These include the long existing

  • Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB)
  • Barclays Bank
  • National Bank
  • Post Bank
  • Co-operative Bank (2 branches within the town)

Newer entrants in the banking sector such as Equity Bank, I&M Bank, CFC Stanbic, Credit Bank, Kenya Women Finance Trust, Family Bank, Chase Bank, Eco-Bank, Diamond Trust Bank, K-Rep Bank and others have also launched new branches in the town taking advantage of the large population and the positioning of Kisii as an increasing commercial hub town. Mwalimu Cooperative Savings & Credit Society Limited (Mwalimu Sacco), the largest Sacco in Kenya, maintains a branch in Kisii. Moreover, like many of Kenya's major urban centers, there is an influx of numerous other business ventures such as the hospitality sector with hotels, bars, restaurants, sports pubs, among other commercial activities.


The Kisii County Government runs the town. It is currently headed by Hon. James Ongwae, the elected Governor of Kisii County and serves as the Headquarters of the County. The town hosts a large County Government campus office, County Law Courts, Ministry offices, State Law Office branch, among other governmental installations.

Geography and Transportation[edit]

Kisii town as seen from Getembe

Kisii is located in Western Kenya, on Latitude: 0° 41' 0 S and Longitude: 34° 46' 0 E. The town is a driving distance of 309 km (192 mi) from Kenya's capital city of Nairobi, located east-southeast, on Class B3 all-weather road. Other major urban center's proximity distances from Kisii town are; Kisumu City which is 114 km (71 mi) to the northwest, Nyamira at 23 km (14 mi) to the immediate north; Keroka at 25 km (16 mi) to the east; Kericho at 101 km (63 mi) to the northeast, Kilgoris at 46 km (29 mi) to the southeast; Narok at 165 km (103 mi) to the east, and Migori to the south-west 67 km (42 mi) which otherwise connects the town to the Kenya /Tanzania border at Isebania town located a further 31 km (19 mi) south.

Public transportation, which is operated privately, is available throughout the town. A good example is private owned taxis (matatus), taxi cabs and 'boda-boda' (motorcycle taxis) as an alternative to privately owned vehicles. Kisii town has one of the most organized bus stations and public transport systems in the country. Buses and matatus are not allowed inside the town.

Air service to Kisii is minimal. However, chartered flights mainly from Nairobi's Wilson Airport transport passengers to Kisii's Suneka Airstrip situated 9 km (6 mi) southwest of the town centre. The facility is under utilized currently but many of the residents especially businessmen, local politicians and tourists are using this means for convenience reasons.

From Kisii, it is easy to get to Tabaka Soapstone quarries, the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Narok County, Lambwe Valley Game Reserve in Homa Bay County, Kisumu, Lake Victoria and the Kenya /Tanzania or Kenya /Uganda border points.


Kisii town enjoys a highland climate.The town generally receives rain all year round thanks to its positioning in the Lake Victoria lake basin and the heavily foliaged Kisii highlands. Due to its unique positioning within hills, Kisii town has never experienced flooding.


Soapstone carvings shop in Kisii.

Soapstone carving is the predominant craft in Kisii. Kisii town is home to the best soapstone carvers in the continent. Their products are very popular in Europe and USA. Kisii is a fovorite stopover for tourists who want a taste of the exquisite Kisii carvings. Kisii town is also the venue for the annually held Gusii Cultural Festival, an event focusing on the cultural heritage of the Gusii community.


Football (soccer) of national league status is played at Gusii Stadium and other surrounding grounds. Shabana Football Club is based in Kisii town and has been a popular soccer club in Gusiiland and has featured in the Kenya national premier league for many years. Formed by V. Dogo Khan, the proprietor of Shabana Hardware Stores as an incentive to his store employees in the mid-1980s, it grew to be a strong football team which in its successful run, attracted and recruited star players from local high schools and talented individual players living or working in the municipality.

Shabana FC celebrating.

However, its team performance has lately be relegated down to national 2nd Division league after losing most of its star players to other local and international teams for economic reasons. Track sports such as athletics meetings are popular with the town's residents and Gusiiland in general. Such meetings are held during schools' and colleges' sports season in mid year. Other forms of sport in town include Volleyball, Basketball and Netball which attract a diverse participation yearly, respectively. Gusii Stadium has been a popular venue for these meetings for many years now. Lastly, golf is mainly played by middle or upper income residents who are members of the Kisii Golf & Sports Club, a private members' club in the municipality. This trend is one of the remnants of a tradition that was borrowed from former British settlers in this town by the emerging Kenya African educated and elite in many towns in the nation which host vast golf courses of which Kisii town is one of them.


Radio Egesa broadcasts in the town. It owned by Royal Media Services company and broadcasting from Nairobi. This radio channel has daily programming broadcasting mainly in the Gusii language (Ekegusii) for its rural /urban target audience. Moreover, the more informed and educated prefer tuning into the larger broadcast networks programming from Nairobi, Mombasa or Kisumu stations relayed to the area local satellite. Moreover, the major broadcasting media services have installed boosters and transmitters within the greater municipality area and this has continued to serve the residents with current events on an instant daily basis.

Minto FM is another of Kisii's 24-hour broadcasting stations. It was established by the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation in July 2011. The station broadcasts in Ekegusii, which is the language of Abagusii community who reside in the southern part of Nyanza province. For purposes of quality production, programme presentation and responsible broadcasting, Minto FM as recruited qualified staff and presenters.

Religion and Charity[edit]

The town's residents are predominantly Christians and Protestants. The majority of residents identify with the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Others identify themselves with Pentecostal Assemblies of God (PAG) Church, evangelical and inter-denominational congregations such as Redeemed or Full Gospel Church of Kenya. Recently built is a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, suitable for the local congregation to meet as well as hosting larger annual meetings. Also, the town has a Mosque for Muslim faithfuls and a small Temple for Hindu faithfuls who collectively constitute the minority of the municipality's population. There are local and international based non-governmental (NGO) and philanthropic organizations based in the urban area. These aid organizations mainly target the needy bright or economically poor students who seek funds to further their studies in schools and tertiary institutions and also addressing pressing societal impact issues.

Health and Utilities[edit]

Kisii (Level 5) General Hospital is the largest government owned health facility in the County. However, the town has reputable private hospitals and medical centers and these include Hema Hospital, Getembe Hospital, Christa Marianne Hospital,Nyangena Hospital, Bosongo Medical Center, Ram Hospital and the Agha khan hospital being one of the new ones opened recently serving the municipality and the County in general.


Universities based in Kisii town include:

  • Kisii University
  • Jomo Kenyatta University of Science & Technology
  • University of Nairobi
  • Narok University
  • Moi University
  • Mount Kenya University
  • Africa Nazarene University... among others.
  • Nairobi Aviation college

Colleges within the town are Gusii institute of Technology,Kenya Institute of Management,Kisii College of Accountancy,St.Annes college, Nyanchwa Teacher's College, Intraglobal College etc.

Secondary schools in the municipality and outlying areas include Kisii High School, Kereri Girls' High School, Our Lady of Lourdes Girls' High School, Nyabururu, Cardinal Otunga High School Mosocho, St. Mary's Mosocho, Itierio High School,Nyanchwa High School, Daraja Mbili High School, Kioge Girls' High School among many other notable schools in the municipality.

Notable private schools such as Sakagwa School,Rehema Schools,Genesis Preparatory, Set Green Hill,AIC, Gusii Highlights Academy, Imperial Primary School are located in this city. Municipal schools such as the vintage Kisii Primary School, Jogoo Primary School,Nyanchwa Primary, Getembe Primary are based in the town.

Housing conditions[edit]

Due to the hilly topography, the frequent rains in town and much of the surroundings, the town lacks effective drainage system. The only sewerage formerly in the Daraja Mbili area of the town, has since been moved outside the town to Suneka area. There is an acute shortage of land and most of its suburbs have developed without proper planning. However, aside from the existing housing estates owned by the municipality and private owned homes, there is currently new housing estates coming up in Nyanchwa neighborhood owned by the government's housing agency. Many residents owning private homes and flats can be found all over the municipality and its precinct areas such as organized suburbs or municipality wards such as Milimani, Gesonso, Itierio, Nyangena, Nyamataro, Mwembe Tayari, Gekomu, Menyinkwa, Nyabururu, Embassy and Nyanchwa. These are regarded as middle to upper-middle-class neighborhoods with many modern private homes on freehold areas and apartments. The municipality lower to middle-class neighborhoods and outlying residential areas include Suneka, Jogoo, Getare, Menyinkwa and Nyankongo which entail a large and diverse population. Most of all, the main reason for the few housing estates in the municipality limits is scarcity of land and many residents' preference for owner occupancy homes than purchasing flats or homes built by either the government or the municipality. The settlements both consist of regular village homes as well more organized modern suburban homes and freehold homes. The effects of the post-election violence of 2007-8 also contributed lately to the rise of numerous private home construction and migration of residents from other major cities and towns such as nearby Kisumu, Kericho, Sotik, and as further away as Eldoret, Kitale and Nakuru. This situation encouraged a mass exodus from these towns and diaspora residents fleeing persecution fearing inter-tribal stigmatization into the town for their own safety. ln conclusion, Kisii town and municipality was literally calm during this brief tumultuous period, except for the border market centers such as Chebilat in the east and Nyangusu in the southeast.


Kisii Library, a branch of the national library system, serves the municipality residents. It is located near the center of the town opposite the County Government office. For sports lovers, the Gusii Stadium is the venue for scheduled Kenya Premier League (KPL) soccer tournaments and locally organized sporting events, The Kisii Golf Course & Sports Club for lovers of golf and relaxation. The town has other avenues for entertainment and leisure.

The town boasts a very diverse collection of country or garden hotels e.g.

  • Kisii Hotel
  • Zonic Hotel
  • Storm Hotel
  • Nile Restaurant
  • Bluu Nile Restaurant
  • Ufanisi Resort
  • Mwalimu International Hotel
  • The Stevens Hotel.
  • Mash Park Hotel... among others.
  • Dados hotel

It has numerous bars & sports pubs. The most popular are Dallas pub, Lisbon pub, Secrets, Jazz Pub, Rockers, Keiko, Havvana, among others.


A portion of larger Kisii Golf Club's course was initially open for public recreation by the local authority for a couple of years. However, this area was later consolidated back to the golf course. Immediate availability of land for commercial or residential development has been the greatest challenge facing its longtime residents and potential investors. Lately, this impediment has been addressed by the local authority.

Kisii Golf has experienced major challenges from encroachment through illegal farming activities.The area has no fencing and the public uses it as a through way towards their residential areas.As a result,the area has been degraded,cases of insecurity have been reported,immorality by prosititutes at night among other social challenges.

Kisii Golf Course (Erera)

The Kisii sports club which claims to have responsibility of managing the golf has failed to put adequate and viable legislation to govern the green space.It is quite sad that students who survey the area to gather important information are harassed by the officers and threatened to apper before the court as a way of asking them to give bribe.This is a public open space and it should not be used for special interests.

External links & References[edit]

Coordinates: 0°41′S 34°46′E / 0.683°S 34.767°E / -0.683; 34.767