The Pokot people (also spelled Pökoot) live in West Pokot County and Baringo County in Kenya and in the Pokot District of the eastern Karamoja region in Uganda. They form a section of the Kalenjin ethnic group and speak the Pökoot language, which is broadly similar to the related Marakwet, Nandi, Tuken and other members of the Kalenjin language group. Kenya's 2009 census puts the total number of Pokot speakers at about 620,000 in Kenya (roughly 133,000 Pokot in Baringo county and close to 500,000 in West Pokot county). In addition, there are close to 100,000 Pokot speakers in Uganda. A fair estimate thus places the number of Pokot speakers in Kenya and Uganda at 700,000.
Hill & Plains Pokot
Based on areal and cultural differences, the Pokot people can be divided into two groups; the Hill Pokot and the Plains Pokot. The Hill Pokot live in the rainy highlands in the west and in the central south of the Pokot area and are both farmers and pastoralists. The Plains Pokot live in the dry and infertile plains, herding cows, goats and sheep, thus are pastoralists.
Halfway through the nineteenth century, the Pokot expanded their territory rapidly into the lowlands of the Kenyan Rift Valley, mainly at the expense of the Laikipia Maasai people. This was the formation of the plains Pokot, and is captured in their historical narratives.
In that account, when the Pokot nation was forming on the Elgeyo escarpment, the Kerio Valley was occupied by the Samburu. Whenever the Pokot descended into the valley, they were harassed and raided by the Samburu, "Until there arose a wizard among the [Pokot] who prepared a charm in the form of a stick, which he placed in the Samburu cattle kraals, with the result that all their cattle died". The Samburu are said to have then left the Kerio Valley and moved to En-ginyang where they formed a large settlement.
Once the Pokot saw that the Kerio Valley was no longer occupied, they descended in large numbers and occupied Tiati and the hills as far south as Ka-ruwon.
Female genital mutilation
Verbal art is very important among the Pokot. Proverbs are used with versatility both to teach and to make a point. At a gathering of elders, a person may use proverbs to show what a good speaker he is. They are also used to teach younger people the consequences of straying from the moral path. A popular tale, that of the Louwalan clan, is told to warn against pride. Riddles are mostly used as a way of sharpening children's wits and capturing their attention during story-telling time.
Even with the introduction of Western education, the Pokot still use folklore as a means of teaching.
War with neighbouring Turkana
Since time immemorial, the Turkana and Pokot ethnic groups have organized cattle raids against each other. Conflict began as a result of livestock theft. The two groups have been through numerous periods of war and peace. The poaching of elephants for ivory, plus the killing of them for no other reason than that they are wild animals, is common place amongst both Pokot and Turkana, which takes a heavy toll on elephants passing through Pokot country, as they have done for millennia.
Key personalities of recent times from the community include the late fiery politician, Francis Loile Polisi Lotodo, whose mantle since his death in early 2000 was taken up by the equally-combative Kacheliba M.P and Kenyan minister for Information and Communication, Samwel Losuron Poghisio. Others are the renowned athlete Tegla Loroupe, who in 2012 appeared in the African top 100 personalities of the year. Prof. John Krop Lonyangapuo is a member of the political elite. Kamama Asman Abongotum is another key personality from Tiaty constituency, because of the positive contribution he has achieved since he captured power, currently[when?] chairman of security countrywide under interior and co-ordination of national security.
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