Pokot people

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A group of Pokot women walk to a meeting

The Pokot people (commonly 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 speak Pökoot, a language of the Southern Nilotic language family which is close to the Marakwet, Nandi, Tuken and other members of the Kalenjin grouping. Kenya's 2009 census puts the total number of Pokot speakers at about 620,000 in Kenya. In addition, there are close to 100,000 Pokot speakers in Uganda. According to the census, there were 133,000 Pokot speakers in Baringo county and close to 500,000 in West Pokot county. A fair estimate indicates that there are close to 700,000 Pokot speakers in Kenya and Uganda.

Based on areal and cultural differences, the Pokot people can be divided into two groups (Rottland 1982): the Hill Pökoot 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.

Many Pokot people from the present eastern part of the Pokot area claim that they come from the hilly areas of northern Cherengani (Bollig 1990). Halfway through the nineteenth century, they seem to have expanded their territory rapidly into the lowlands of the Kenyan Rift Valley, mainly at the expense of the Laikipia Maasai people. Key personalities of recent times from the community include the one time fiery politician, the late Hon. Francis Loile Polisi Lotodo whose mantle since his death in early 2000 to date (2012) has been taken by the equally combative Kacheliba M.P and Kenyan minister for Information and Communication Hon. Samwel Losuron Poghisio. Other key personalities include the renowned female athlete Tegla Loroupe, who in 2012 appeared in the African top 100 personalities of the year. Prof. John Krop Lonyangapuo is also a renown elite from the community.

War with neighbouring Turkana[edit]

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 since 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 of any elephants passing through Pokot country, as they have over millennia.


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  • Bianco, Barbara 1992. The Historical Anthropology of a Mission Hospital in Northwestern Kenya. A Ph.D. dissertation New York University.
  • Bollig, Michael 1990. 'An outline of pre-colonial Pokot history', Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere, 23, pp. 73–91.
  • Bolling, Michael 1996. Bridewealth and Stockfriendship, the Accumulation of Security through Reciprocal Exchange." In Angewandte Sozialforschung, 1996–1997, Vol. 20: (1-2) 57-72.
  • Cox, P. S. V. 1972. The Disease Pattern of the Karapokot and its Relationship to Their Environment and Culture. A dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Medicine. University of London.
  • Dietz, T. 1987. Pastoralists in Dire Straits; Survival Strategies and External Strategies, Interventions in a Semi-Arid Region at the Kenya/Uganda Border: Western Pokot, 1900-1986. A Ph.D. dissertation University of Amsterdam.
  • Kjartan Jonsson 2006. Pokot Masculinity, The Role of Rituals in Forming Men. A Ph.D. dissertation, Reykjavik: University of Iceland, Faculty of Social Sciences.
  • Meyerhoff, Elisabeth L. 1981. The Socio-Economic and Ritual Roles of Pokot women. A Ph.D. dissertation, Lucy Cavendish Collage, Cambridge.
  • Reckers, Ute 1992). Nomadische Viehalter in Kenya : die Ost-Pokot aus human-ökologischer Sicht (Arbeiten aus dem Institut für Afrika-Kunde vol. 83). Hamburg: Institut für Afrika-Kunde im Verbund der Stiftung Deutsches Übersee-Institut. ISBN 3-928049-12-7
  • Reynolds, John Eric 1982. Community Development, Ethnicity and Stratification in a Rural Destination: Mnagei, Kenya. A Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington.
  • Rottland, Franz 1982. Die Südnilotischen Sprachen: Beschreibung, Vergelichung und Rekonstruktion (Kölner Beiträge zur Afrikanistik vol. 7). Berlin: Dietrich Reimer. (esp. pp. 26, 138-139)
  • Schladt, Matthias 1997. Kognitive Strukturen von Körperteilvokabularien in Kenianischen Sprachen (Afrikanistische Monographien vol. 8). Köln: Institut für Afrikanistik / Universität zu Köln. (esp. pp. 40–42)
  • Schneider, Harold K. 1953. The Pakot (Suk) of Kenya, with Special Reference to the Role of Livestock in Their Subsistence Economy. PhD Dissertation, Northwestern University.
  • Tully, Dorene R. 1985. Human Ecology and Political Process: The Context of Market Incorporation in West-Pokot District, Kenya. A Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington.
  • Visser, J.J. 1989. Pökoot Religion. Oegstgeest: Hendrik Kraemer Institut.

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