Teso people

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The Teso (or Iteso, people of Teso) are an ethnic group in eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Teso refers to the traditional homeland of the Iteso, and Ateso is their language.[1]


In Uganda, the Teso live mainly in Teso sub-region, i.e., the districts of Amuria, Soroti, Kumi, Katakwi, Ngora, Serere, Pallisa, Bukedea and Kaberamaido, as well as in the districts of Tororo and Busia. They number about 3.2 million (9.6% of Uganda's population; still the second largest ethnic group in Uganda). Until 1959, they were the second largest ethnic group in Uganda. As of 2002 they were the fifth largest.[2]


The Teso in Kenya, numbering about 279,000, live mainly in Busia District, Teso District.[3]

Northern and Southern Teso[edit]

Teso traditions relate that they originated somewhere in what is now Ethiopia and migrated south West over a period of centuries.[4] They were part of a larger group of Nilotic peoples who migrated from Sudan in several waves. A splinter of this group later formed a branch called the "Karamojong Cluster" or Ateker. The Ateker further split into several groups, including Jie, Turkana, Karamojong and Teso.[5]

The Teso established themselves in present-day north-eastern Uganda, and in the mid-18th century some began to move farther south. During the course of this latter migration, conflicts ensued with other ethnic groups in the region, leading to the split of Teso territory into a northern and southern part. In 1902, part of eastern Uganda was transferred to western Kenya - leading to further separation of Teso.[4]

Northern Teso occupy the area previously known as Teso District in Uganda (now the districts of Amuria, Soroti, Kumi, Katakwi, Pallisa, Bukedea and Kaberamaido). Southern Teso live mainly in the districts of Tororo and Busia in Uganda, and Busia District in Kenya's Western Province.


  1. ^ Karp, Ivan (1978). Fields of Change among the Iteso of Kenya. Routledge; Reprint edition (2005). ISBN 0-415-32990-6. 
  2. ^ 2002 Uganda Population and Housing Census: Analytical Report (Uganda Bureau of Statistics)
  3. ^ Ethnologue: Teso
  4. ^ a b Mwakikagile, Godfrey (2009). Ethnicity and National Identity in Uganda: The Land and Its People. New Africa Press. ISBN 9987-9308-7-5. 
  5. ^ Shillington, Kevin (2005). Encyclopedia of African History Volume 1 A-G. New York: Routledge. pp. 1912 pages. ISBN 1-57958-245-1.