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Kisii people

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Kisii people by Kenyans247(1): Wed 13, May, 2020 10:27am
The Abagusii (also known as Kisii, Mkisii or Wakisii in Swahili, or Gusii) is an East African ethnic group that traditionally inhabit Kisii county (formerly Kisii District) and Nyamira county of Western Kenya. The Abagusii are also found in other regions of geographical Western Kenya. The Abagusii speak Ekegusii language which is classified together with the Great Lakes Bantu languages. Mogusii is culturally identified as their founder and patriarch. The Abagusii are however, unrelated to the Kisi people of Malawi and the Kissi people of West Africa, other than the three very distinct communities having similar sounding tribal names.

Kisii town - known as Bosongo or Getembe[2] by the locals - is located in Nyanza Province to the southwest of Kenya and is home to the Abagusii people. However, the term Kisii refers to the town and not to the people. The name Bosongo is believed to have originated from Abasongo (to mean the Whites or the place where white people settle(d)) who lived in the town during the colonial times.[3] According to the 1979 census, Kisii District had a population of 588,000. The Abagusii increased to 2.2 million in the latest Kenya Census 2009.

Etymology of the Word Kisii
The term Kisii is a Swahili name and originates from the colonial British administration who used it in colonial Kenya (1900s) to refer to the Abagusii people. The term was popularly used during the colonial period by the British administration in reference to Abagusii as it was much easier to pronounce.[4] The term Kisii however has no meaning in Ekegusii language as it is a Swahili term.[5] In the Swahili language the singular form of the word is Mkisii and the plural form is Wakisii which only make sense in the Swahili language and related coastal and Central Bantu languages of Kenya. The Swahili name for the Ekegusii language is Kikisii. The term has existed since 1900s and is now popularly used in Kenya to refer to Abagusii people although that is not what they are called.[6] Among Abagusii the name Kisii is used to only mean Kisii town and not to the people. The original and correct name by the people for themselves is Omogusii in singular and Abagusii in plural and the language spoken by the people is Ekegusii. The term gusii comes from Mogusii who was the founder of the community. However, the speculation that the term Gusii comes from Gwassi is incorrect and the Abagusii never lived near Gwassi hills of the modern Homa Bay County and Gwassi is a Luo-Abasuba name for one of their sub-groups.[7][8] The Abagusii only lived shortly and passed through modern day Kisumu County in the course of their migration and settlement in Nyanza. The terms "Gwassi" and "Gusii" don't really even sound or look alike as an ordinary ignorant person may assume. The two terms have distinct pronunciations and Etymology. The term "Gwassi" originates from the Olosuba language spoken by Luo-Abasuba and is used to refer to one of their sub-groups and Gwassi hills. The term "Gusii" on the other hand, originates from the Ekegusii and specifically from the name "Mogusii" who was the founder of the community. The term "Gusii" is not used as a reference to any geographical features such as hills in Gusiiland which is commonly referred to as Gusii highlands due to presence of several hills in the region. The terms "Kisii" and "Gusii" are also not synonyms as most people tend to assume and have distinct etymology and pronunciation just like the terms "Gwassi" and "Gusii". For instance the term "Gusii" is phonetically pronounced as "Goosie" and the term Kisii is pronounced as "Keesie". The Ekegusii language also does not have the "SS" but just "S" in its alphabet.

Origins of the Abagusii
According to the oral literature of Abagusii, they migrated to present day Kenya from areas further North of Mt. Elgon region of Kenya. This pre-Elgon homeland of Abagusii is referenced as Misiri and is a general area to the North of Mt. Elgon and does not state that Misiri is Egypt.[9] This Misiri homeland is realistically the Nile Valley region adjacent to modern day Ethiopia due to migration through the Rift Valley province of Kenya and settlement at the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya largely part of the Rift Valley.They migrated along a great mythical river called Riteru and passed through a desert land, Eroro. The Misiri homeland of Abagusii is unconnected to the so called popular Hamitic hypothesis by C.G. Seligman on the migration of hamites from North Africa that introduced advanced civilizations to Sub-Saharan Africa.[10] The oral traditions similar to those of Abagusii are also found in the Abamaragoli, Ameru and Abatende that are most closely related to Abagusii with the Ameru and Abakuria being the closest.[11] Similar oral traditions are also found in some Kalenjin tribes some (especially Kipsigis) of who are related to Abagusii and/or migrated together with Abagusii despite being linguistically classified as Nilotic.[12] As the Abagusii migrated from their semi-mythical homeland(Misiri),they first settled at the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya for several years before migrating to current homeland. From Mt. Elgon, the Abagusii migrated to Nyanza Province near Lake Victoria and are believed to have migrated together with the Ameru and the Abamaragoli whose oral traditions are somewhat similar to those of Abagusii. The Abamaragoli settled in Western Kenya and the Ameru later migrated to the former upper Eastern province of Kenya where they later formed relationships with neighboring communities such as Borana people and communities in Central and lower Eastern provinces of Kenya. The other closely related Lacustrine Bantu speaking groups mostly settled in modern day Uganda, Rwanda and Northwest Tanzania. However, the speculation that the Abagusii migrated from Uganda is inaccurate and they have never been to Uganda as they only settled on the Eastern slopes that is the Kenyan side of Mt. Elgon. The Abagusii are also unrelated to the Bantu speaking communities in Eastern Uganda such as Abasoga, Masaba people, and other tribes in the same region both linguistically and culturally. The Bantu speaking communities in Eastern Uganda as well as Buganda are largely part of and/or related to the Luhya people of Kenya in language and culture. The only tribes that migrated to Kenya from Uganda are the Luo, Luo-Abasuba and several Luhya tribes. The Luo and Luhya are from Eastern Uganda while the Olosuba speaking Luo-Abasuba are mostly from Buganda and some from Busoga. In Kenya the Abagusii, are most closely related with the Abatende and the Ameru of the former Upper Eastern Province in culture and language. The Abamaragoli though close to Abagusii, their relationship is only tied to having similar oral traditions. Other than that, they are distinct in terms of culture and language as the Lulogooli is very distinct from Ekegusii language spare some lexical items. The Abagusii and Abamaragoli don't really understand each other and their cultures are also distinct from each other. Therefore the speculation that the Abagusii and Abamaragoli were originally one people is rather absurd and just a general opinion.[13] The only languages that are almost mutually intelligible with the Ekegusii are the Egekuria, Kimiiru and Egesuba (not to be confused with the Olosuba of Luo-Abasuba ) of the Suna-Girango and Suba-Simbete. In fact the Abagusii even have more in common in several aspects with the Luo and Kipsigis than they have with the Abamaragoli that are presumed to have been originally one people with Abagusii. The same can be said about the relationship between the Abagusii and the Bantu speaking tribes in East Africa and Africa as a whole.

The immediate neighbours of Abagusii include the Abatende, Luo, Kipsigis, Nandi and Maasai. A number of clans of these neighbouring communities especially the Kipsigis have Abagusii origins. During the pre-colonial period the Abagusii and the neighbouring communities engaged in Barter trade some of which led to the formation of modern day Kisumu city of Nyanza Province.[14] The Abagusii are naturally very industrious and resilient despite engaging in some minimal cattle rustling activities with their neighbours. The Bantu speaking community with a great many similarities with the Abagusii is the Meru people (Abameru in ekegusii) from the windward slopes of Mount Kenya, although the Kuria people (Abatende in ekegusii) share a great deal in common with the Abagusii in language and culture as well, and a history of intermarriage has led to prohibition of marriage alliances for specific clans of the Abagusii with some Kuria clans. Additionally, intermarriages between members of the same clans are prohibited.

Abagusii origins and the Nile Valley.
The Abagusii together with Luhya people, Kalenjin people, and some Cushitic speaking communities are among the earliest settlers of present day Kenya and the general Lake Victoria Basin which comprises modern day Rwanda, Northwest Tanzania, Uganda and geographical western Kenya. The actual migrations and settlement of Abagusii in Kenya during the pre-colonial period can be tracked to the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya as well as the Rift Valley. The Mt. Elgon region of Kenya is in fact the original point of dispersal of Abagusii to other regions of Kenya where they settled during the pre-colonial period as well as their current homeland in Nyanza province of Kenya. The oral literature of Abagusii indicate that prior to settlement at the Mt. Elgon region, they migrated from areas further North of Mt. Elgon.[15] This pre-Elgon homeland is referenced as Misiri according to the oral literature of Abagusii and does not state that Misiri is Egypt.[16] In fact Egypt as a country did not exist in pre-colonial Africa and was created in the 1950s by European conquerors just like other present African countries and the naming of the modern country of Egypt was done by Europeans. Therefore the Abagusii like other Africans did not know Egypt as the name did not exist in pre-colonial Africa. In that sense, the Misiri homeland of Abagusii is not referring to Egypt which is a country that never existed in pre-colonial Africa. Although Misiri is sometimes automatically assumed to mean the modern Egypt country and the lost tribes of Israel, the Misiri homeland of Abagusii does not refer to Egypt and lost tribes of Israel. The Misiri homeland of Abagusii does not refer to a specific area to the North of Mt. Elgon, but rather a general area to the North of Mt. Elgon. This Misiri homeland to the North of Mt. Elgon is realistically the Nile Valley region adjacent to modern Ethiopia which lie to the North of Mt. Elgon. During migration and settlement in present day Kenya, the Abagusii passed through the Rift Valley and settled at the Mt. Elgon region which is part of the Rift Valley. This justifies the location of Misiri homeland of Abagusii at the Nile Valley region adjacent to Ethiopia which all lie to the North of Mt. Elgon. Although the Nile Valley region is generally assumed to be a homeland of the Nilotic speaking and some Cushitic speaking communities, it is also a homeland to Abagusii and some Lacustrine Bantu speaking communities. This is supported by strong cultural similarities between Abagusii (as well as some other Lacustrine Bantu speaking communities) and some cushitic speaking and Nilotic speaking communities.

Abagusii People in Pre-colonial Kenya
According to the oral literature of Abagusii, the original progenitors of Abagusii migrated to their current homeland in Nyanza from areas further North of the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya. This pre-Mt. Elgon homeland of Abagusii is referenced as Misiri according to their oral literature. This Misiri homeland is realistically the Nile Valley region adjacent to modern Ethiopia due to migration through the Rift Valley Province of Kenya. After migrating from Misiri, the Abagusii passed through the present day Rift Valley province of Kenya and first settled at the Mt. Elgon region of present day Kenya where they stayed for several years before migrating to present day Nyanza province.[17] The Mt.Elgon region of Kenya is the original point of dispersal of Abagusii to other regions of Kenya where they settled during the pre-colonial period as well as their current homeland in Nyanza Province of Kenya. In fact the actual migrations of Abagusii can be tracked to the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya as well as the Rift Valley province of Kenya. At the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya, the Abagusii came into contact with Luhya (with exception of Maragoli) tribes most of whom had migrated from Uganda as well as Ogiek people. The Abagusii migrated together with some Kalenjin groups and Luo as well as most other closely related tribes such as Abamaragoli, Abakuria, Ameru, Abatoro, and Abakiga who are very similar to Abagusii in some aspects.[18] During their stay at Mt. Elgon region, the Abagusii were mainly herders that kept cattle, goats, sheep, with minimal crop cultivation of finger millet, sorghum and arrow roots among other local crops. The Abagusii also practised some hunting and gathering (a practise that was borrowed from the Ogiek people of Mt. Elgon) to supplement the food they obtained from their animals and crops. The land at the Mt. Elgon area became unfavorable for their animals and crops thus forcing the Abagusii to migrate in search of good land mainly for pasture and cultivation of crops. At this time, the Abagusii migrated to Nyanza region whereas, the Ameru migrated to the upper Eastern province. The Abamaragoli migrated to Western province of Kenya and other related tribes migrated to Uganda, Rwanda, and Northwest Tanzania.

During settlement in Nyanza, the Abagusii first settled close to the shores of lake Victoria at modern day Kisumu County (Kano plains) where they practised fishing activity at lake Victoria. At lake Victoria, the Abagusii came into contact with small pockets of Bantu tribes akin to Luhya possibly from Uganda who had already settled at the shores of lake Victoria.[19] Most these earlier Bantu tribes were later assimilated by the Luo people who later settled in much of the shores of lake Victoria after Abagusii had migrated out of Kisumu. A good example of such Bantu tribes are the Luo-Abasuba (not to be confused with Suba-Simbete and Suba/Suna-girango who are splinter groups from Abagusii) whose Olosuba language is very different from Ekegusii, Egikuria, and Dholuo language as well as other languages spoken in Nyanza. The Olosuba language is very similar to the Luganda language and some Luhya languages such as Olusaamia and Olunyala. A majority of these earlier Bantu tribes at the shores of lake Victoria linguistically became extinct due language shift and assimilation mainly by the Luo people as well as Abagusii. The Luo-Abasuba are the only ones left with their own language Olosuba still existent but spoken by few people as most of them speak Dholuo and most of them were completely assimilated by the Luo people. However, the Abagusii did not stay at this area for long and had to migrate out as the land was unfavorable for their animals and cultivation and there was frequent flooding in the area. The abagusii then migrated to present day Kericho County where they also stayed for several years before migrating to their current homeland in Gusii highlands of Nyanza. At Kericho, the Abagusii built fortified walls with thick thorn fences and dug deep trenches around their homesteads as a defense against cattle theft and raids by the Maasai and Nandi who have always been their immediate neighbors.[20]

The Abagusii and Siria-maasai indeed lived side by side for several years in Kericho before Abagusii migrated to Gusii highlands.[21] A number of clans from the Nandi and Tugen as well as other Kalenjin tribes later migrated to Kericho and this led to turmoil between them and Abagusii as well as the Siria-maasai.[22] They first drove the Maasai out of Kericho before doing the same to the Abagusii who stayed at what came to be known as Kabianga. Their attempts to drive the Abagusii out of Kericho were unsuccessful as the Abagusii were more armed and had stronger warriors than the Maasai who raided them at night for that reason.[23] Some of the Abagusii families/clans remained in Kericho and merged with the Nandi, Tugen and other Nilotic Kalenjin clans as well as Ogiek forming the modern day Kipsigis tribe. However, A majority of the Abagusii had to migrate out of Kericho as the area was deeply forested and unfavorable for crop cultivation and pasture for the animals.[24] The Abagusii named the region where they stayed in Kericho as "Kabianga" which means "to refuse" to imply that crops and pasture for their livestock refused to grow. In fact most Abagusii cattle died and crops failed which caused famine and death of members of the community and this forced them to migrate to modern day Gusii highlands.[25] At this point the Abagusii and Abakuria split into two tribes with the Abakuria migrating to modern Migori County and eventually to Northwest Tanzania where most of them reside today.[26] The Abakuria group that settled in Northwest Tanzania particularly the Mara and lake Victoria regions of Tanzania formed other tribes that populated much of Mara and lake Victoria region of Tanzania. A good example of such other closely related tribes include; Zanaki, Ngurimi, Ikoma and Haya among several other related small tribes in Northwest Tanzania. The other group originally part of the Abakuria group later migrated to modern Rwanda and Southern Uganda in the case of Abakiga and Abatoro who are linguistically and culturally similar to Abagusii. Indeed the oral traditions of Abakiga indicate migration from Northern Rwanda to Southern Uganda. From Kericho, the Abagusii migrated to their current homeland of Gusii highlands in Nyanza which was also originally forested just like Kericho. The Abagusii gradually cleared the forests in Gusii highlands for settlement and herding as well as crop cultivation. The forest cover on Gusii highlands has since then continued to decline as the Abagusii population became more and more dense as it is today. Some of the forests were cleared for tea plantations just like neighboring Kericho and Bomet counties of today. The Abagusii were originally organized into family units analogous to clans. The major Abagusii clans included, Abagetutu, Ababasi, Abanyaribari, Abanchari, Abagirango and others. However, during the 19 century with the introduction of maize, tea and coffee as well as several other crops initially absent on the Continent of Africa, the Abagusii now largely practise crop cultivation alongside keeping animals despite originally being predominantly pastoralists.

The Abagusii People today.
The Abagusii are regarded as one of the most economically active communities in Kenya, with rolling tea estates, coffee, and banana groves. However, Kisii district has a very high population density. It is one of the most densely populated areas in Kenya (after the two cities of Nairobi and Mombasa), and the most densely populated rural area. It also has one of the highest fertility and population growth rates in Kenya (as evidenced by successive census and demographic surveys). In fact the fertility rate of Kisii ranks among the highest in the world, (see Kenyan Conundrum: A Regional Analysis of Population Growth and Primary Education (Paperback) by Juha I. Uitto [Author]). These factors have ensured the Abagusii to be among the most geographically widespread communities in East Africa. A disproportionately large number of Abagusii have gone abroad in search of education.The Abagusii are some of the most heavily represented Kenyans in foreign (usually Indian and American) universities and a few in the United Kingdom. Their lands are currently overpopulated despite their rolling fertile hills, spurring immigration to other cities in Kenya and a substantial representation in the United States, especially in major hub cities like Houston, Atlanta, Jersey City, Dallas, Cleveland and Minneapolis-Saint Paul. The hard cash that flows from the diaspora has spawned significant economic prosperity in a locale lacking in politically motivated 'hand-me downs'.

The Abagusii people have as a result moved out of their two counties and can be found virtually in any part of Kenya and beyond. In Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kisumu and many other towns in Kenya, they run most businesses. For example, the "matatu" business in Nairobi estates like Utawala, kawangware, Dandora, Embakasi, Kitengela, Matasia, etc. They have bought land and are residents in most of these Nairobi estates like Utawala, Ruai, Joska, Kamulu, Kitengela, Rongai, Ngong, etc. They are generally, by nature, independent and thorough in their pursuits whether in education, professional practices, or even religious belief(Islam, Christianity or Traditional African religions); making them more visible that their absolute numbers.The Abagusii people are very diverse in terms of culture, religion and appearance(ranging from caucasoid like to negroid like features). Abagusii people are not related to the Kissi people of West Africa or to the Kisi people of Malawi

Abagusii Relationship with Nilotic and Cushitic speakers.
The division of indigenous African peoples into; Nilotic, Bantu, Niger-Congo, Cushitic, Sudanic, West Sudanic (West Africans), Nilo-saharan, Afro-asiatic, Chadic and Khoisan linguistic groups was a purely European concept that never existed in pre-colonial Africa.[27] These linguistic classifications began in 1900s with Joseph Greenberg and other European scholars and conquerors pioneering the idea of dividing African into different linguistic groups.[28] The creation of all these linguistic groups made colonization of Africa easier as Africa was divided into regions based on the created linguistic groups. For instance, Southern African was defined as Khoisan area, Eastern Africa as a Cushitic area, Central Africa (and sometimes West Africa) as a Bantu area, Sahelian region and Nile valley as a Nilo-saharan area and West Africa as a West Sudanic area.[29] After creation of all these linguistic groups, collective histories for each group were created that assumed common origin of each linguistic group. For example, the Nilotic speaking communities were assumed to be from South Sudan, the Cushitic speaking communities were assumed to be from Ethiopia and the Bantu speaking communities were assumed to be from the border of Nigeria and Cameroon.[30] These linguistic groups were also associated with specific economic activities regardless of what they practised. For instance, the Cushitic and Nilotic speaking communities were assumed to be all herders, and the Bantu speaking communities were assumed to be all farmers. Each of these linguistic group was assumed to be all genetically homogeneous and DNA haplogroups such as E1b1a, E1b1b, B-M60, A3 and A1b1 were created for each group.[31][32] [33] The haplogroup E1b1a was associated with Bantu, E1b1b with Cushitic speakers, B-M60, A3, and A1b1 were all associated with Khoisan, Nilotic speakers and pgymies.[34] [35][36] This contributed to tribes that were originally unconnected developing a sense of unity and belonging together. All these groups were polarized against each other depending on region and ethnic groups hence some of the conflicts and bitter relations witnessed today between different linguistic groups. Creation of these linguistic groups is one of the major contributing factor to the blanket stereotypes created against each of these linguistic groups in the modern African societies. In the context of Kenya, the Abagusii relationship with the neighboring Nilotic speaking communities such as Maasai people, Nandi people, Kipsigis people and Luo people has always been painted as negative on social media and in public opinions of some people especially scholars and researchers. The Nilotic speaking communities have been stereotyped as hostile and warlike compared to the Abagusii people and the Bantu speaking African tribes in general. Despite these public opinions, the Abagusii indeed have had good relationships with the neighboring Nilotic speaking communities who have always been their neighbors since many years prior to colonization of Africa. Prior to colonization, the Abagusii engaged in barter trade with these communities especially the Luo people and at times worked together during cattle raids to defeat the raiders.[37] For instance, the Abagusii together with Luo and Maasai worked together to defeat the Kipsigis cattle raiders.

The Abagusii and Maasai also lived side by side around Kericho for many years before the Abagusii migration to their current homeland of Gusii highlands.[38] The co-existence between the Abagusii and the neighboring Nilotic communities was largely peaceful despite these communities and Abagusii occasionally engaging in cattle rustling activities which were sometimes violent. The cattle rustling and raiding was mainly common among the Maasai people and to a lesser extent the Kalenjin people who believed that cattle were given to them by God to control and take care of them. The Abagusii have more in common with the Nilotic speaking communities in terms of culture as well as migration and settlement patterns compared to the Bantu speaking communities. For instance, the Abagusii were originally predominantly herders in pre-colonial Africa and farmers to a lesser extent which is very similar to the Nilotic communities. The migration routes and settlement patterns of Abagusii in present day Kenya are very similar to those of the Kalenjin people, Ateker people including Maasai people and Luo people. For instance, the original point of dispersal to other regions of Kenya was Mt. Elgon for the Abagusii, Kalenjin people, Luo people and Ateker people. A number of clans of the neighboring Nilotic communities especially the Kipsigis have Abagusii origins suggesting a very close relationship between Abagusii and neighboring Nilotic speaking communities. In terms of relationship with the cushitic communities, the Abagusii don't live in close proximity with the Cushitic speaking communities that are mostly found in geographical Eastern and Northern Kenya. However, there is similarity between the Abagusii cultures and cultures of some cushitic communities particularly the East Cushitic communities such as Konso people and Oromo people. For instance, a majority of the Cushitic communities are herders which was originally dominant among Abagusii though still practised to a lesser extent. The oral literature of Abagusii indicate migration from Misiri that lie at the North of Mt. Elgon prior to settlement at the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya.[39] This pre-Elgon homeland of Abagusii is the Nile Valley region adjacent to modern Ethiopia thus the many similarities between Abagusii and the Nilotic and Cushitic speaking communities. The general conclusion is that the Abagusii have more in common with the Cushitic and Nilotic communities than with the Bantu speaking communities in several aspects. These similarities suggest that Abagusii share origins with some Cushitic and Nilotic communities. On the basis of the Abagusii history and migration routes, they could be more genetically related to some Nilotic and Cushitic speaking communities than they are related to the Bantu speaking communities. Indeed a majority of Abagusii share physical appearance with the some Cushitic and Nilotic speaking communities as well as with some closely related Bantu speaking communities such as the Abakuria. For instance, an outsider will confuse a majority of Abagusii with the Cushitic speaking communities, Nilotic speakers and so being confused for some other closely related Bantu speaking communities. Generally speaking, the majority of Abagusii don't possess the very prominent facial features that tend to be common in some Bantu speaking communities as well as some other linguistic groups in Central, Western, Eastern and Southern Africa.

Abagusii Relationship with East Africa Bantu speakers
During the pre-colonial period, the Abagusii mostly had contact with the luo, Nandi, Kipsigis and maasai who have always been their immediate neighbors as well as other tribes at the Lake Victoria region of East Africa. The Abagusii Engaged in Barter Trade with some of these communities such as Luo, Nandi, Kipsigis and maasai as well as other Lake Victoria communities depending on proximity.[40] The Abagusii had very limited contact with the Bantu speaking communities and led very independent and distinct life styles from a majority of the Bantu communities of East Africa and possibly the entire continent of Africa. Indeed even the Ekegusii language is significantly different from most East African as well as other Bantu languages of Africa in some structural elements.This supports the view that Abagusii were originally separate from other East African Bantu tribes as well as the Bantu language group as whole, despite being linguistically classified as Bantu since the 1900s.[41] In the context of Kenya, the Abagusii originally never had contact with the Bantu speaking communities in former Central,Eastern and Coast provinces of Kenya. This is with the exception of Ameru that migrated to the former Upper Eastern province from geographical Western Kenya and indeed the Kimiiru is very similar to Ekegusii. Even in terms of linguistics, the Abagusii are closest to the Bantu communities at the Lake Victoria region as compared to communities in central, Eastern and Coastal provinces of Kenya as well as a large chunk of Tanzania which also borders lake Victoria. However, in the post-colonial period with the availability of modern transportation, the Abagusii have been able to contact the Bantu speaking communities in Central, Eastern and coastal provinces of Kenya with who they originally had no contact with. The Abagusii have also been able to learn of other Bantu communities they never knew before such as those far away from the lake region of Tanzania, Uganda and other African countries through modern Education on African linguistic groups such as Niger-Congo.[42] A majority of the tribes now labelled Bantu barely knew each other during the precolonial period as they were originally very scattered and didn't have the concept of the term Bantu as a linguistic marker denoting hundreds of diverse tribes in Central, Eastern, and Southern Africa.[43] In the precolonial period the term Abantu (The term Abantu is a Nguni term and has distinct versions in other Bantu languages) out of which the term Bantu was coined, was only used to mean people with no Bantu as a linguistic group in mind.[44] The tribes now labelled as Bantu never had a sense of unity or belonging together during the precolonial period as they were very scattered and led very distinct and independent life styles having no knowledge of each other.

Etymology of Bantu and Relevance to Abagusii.
The term "Bantu" originates from the Nguni languages of Southern Africa from the term "Abantu" which means people and was coined by Wilhelm Bleek in 1850s.[45] The term was originally and initially used in South Africa during the apartheid rule to refer to non-Khoisan South Africans and was later used as a linguistic marker denoting hundreds or thousands of unrelated tribes in Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.[46] The term "Bantu" has no grammatical meaning in the Nguni languages out of which it was coined. The singular form of the word Abantu is Umuntu which lenders the term Bantu meaningless as it makes no grammatical sense. The term Bantu as well as the so called Bantu speakers did not exist in precolonial Africa. Prior to colonization of Africa, the term "Abantu" as well as its other distinct versions in other so called Bantu languages was used to simply mean people and nothing more than just that. However, beginning 1900s with classification of indigenous African peoples into; Bantu, Niger-Congo, Nilotes, Nilo-saharan, Sudanic, West Sudanic(West Africans), Cushites, Afro-Asiatic, Hamites,and Khoisan,the term Bantu started being used in reference to tribes that occupy Central, Eastern and Southern Africa.[47], [48]These thousands of tribes were assumed to be the same and having a common origin on the basis of using words similar to Abantu in reference to people. The languages spoken by these tribes were also assumed to be the same and having a common origin on the basis of possessing words similar to Abantu.[49] The assumption that these very diverse and unconnected tribes share a common origin on the basis of the terms similar to Abantu contributed to them being lumped up together into one collective group called Bantu. The assumption that the Bantu languages are the same is not necessarily right given that these languages have very minimal structural similarities and lack mutual intelligibility. The speakers of these languages don't understand each other and were originally unconnected to each other. In precolonial Africa, these tribes barely knew each other and were very scattered with very little to no contact with each other. These tribes also never had a sense of unity or belonging together and led very independent and distinct life styles with no prior knowledge of each other.

After creation of the Bantu linguistic group, a collective history was coined that assumed that all these thousands of tribes originated at the border of Nigeria and Cameroon and expanded from their to other parts of Africa where they are found.[50] The assumption that these very diverse tribes that were originally very scattered and disunited expanded together from the border of Nigeria and Cameroon is rather absurd.[51] This raises the question of when these originally unconnected tribes learnt about each other and decided to expand together from the border of Nigeria and Cameroon where they are absent.[52] This leads to conclusion that the so called Bantu expansion never occurred and the expansion was just used to justify land dispossession from the black South Africans during apartheid as well as other Africans during the colonial period. The assumption that thousands of the so called Bantu speaking tribes expanded from the border of Nigeria and Cameroon and are genetically and linguistically homogeneous is rather absurd and inaccurate.[53] The Bantu speaking tribes are in fact the most diverse in Africa in terms of genetics, culture, appearance, origins, history and linguistics. The general assumption that belonging to the Bantu linguistic group automatically makes people genetically related is also quite absurd as these thousands of tribes lack a common origin and were randomly labelled Bantu on the basis of the simple term Abantu. Speaking a Bantu language does not necessarily mean that one cannot be related to people from other linguistic groups given that all these groups were also randomly lumped up together. For instance, the Bantu speaking tribes in Southern Africa are genetically more related to Khoisan than they are related to East African Bantu tribes and other regions. The Bantu speaking tribes in East Africa especially Kenya are also genetically more related to the Nilotic and Cushitic speaking communities than to the Central African Bantu speaking tribes that are also more related to Southern African Bantu speaking communities. Therefore the term Bantu has no genetic meaning other than just being a linguistic marker of several thousands of unrelated tribes. The over 600 Bantu languages are distinct from each other enough to be treated as distinct languages that don't belong to one collective linguistic group. In terms of importance, the term Bantu only has meaning to the Nguni languages out of which it was coined as well as other tribes with the exact spellings of the term "Abantu". The term is of no meaning and importance to Abagusii as it is a mere linguistic marker and not a genetic marker of several diverse African tribes.

Agriculture and biodiversity in Gusiiland.
In the past, Gusiiland was a heavily forested area, with old indigenous broadleaf rainforest trees and other flora. It was part of the old Congo Basin forests. The only remnant of this old forest in Kenya is the Kakamega Forest, which is the westernmost tip of the Equatorial rainforest. The two ancient forest areas were linked through Nandi and Kericho, before the Nandi and Kericho areas were cleared for tea farming and settlement. Now most of the tree life in Gusiiland consists of members of 4 tree families, all of them introduced from outside the continent. The most common trees in Gusiiland are the Eucalyptus spp. family (blue gum/eucalyptus), Grevillea robusta and Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii). All these three species are native to Australia. Finally, there is the Cupressus spp. family (cypress) native to South America. Other plant life forms are cultivated tea, bananas, maize, coffee and napier grass, with very little remaining of indigenous biodiversity.

It has been theorized that in future Gusiiland will increasingly be 'colonized' by the above few species of plants, as there is little awareness or even desire to re-plant the slow-growing and less economically valuable indigenous plant forms. This is aggravated by land shortage and reduced need for traditional herbal medicine, that has now been surpassed by modern hospitals and medical care.

Abagusii Economic Activities.
Subsistence Agriculture and Herding.

During the pre-colonial period, the Abagusii cultivated finger millet, sorghum, root crops and bananas as well as other local crops.[54] By 1920s with introduction of maize to Gusiiland, finger millet and sorghum were largely replaced by maize as a staple and cash crop.[55] Other crops cultivated by Abagusii today include cassava, potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, beans, onions, tropical fruits and peas as well as several other crops.[56] By 1930s, coffee and tea had reached Gusiiland and were being cultivated as major cash crops. [57] During the pre-colonial period as well as early colonial period, the Ox-drawn plows and iron hoes were used in the cultivation of crops.[58] Today the same cultivation tools are used alongside modern cultivation tools. During the pre-colonial period, the Abagusii were predominantly herders that kept cattle, goats and sheep as well as kept poultry.[59] Today, the Abagusii still keep livestock and poultry alongside farming.[60] The high population density of Abagusii has contributed to utilization of available land for agriculture to satisfy subsistence and commercial needs thus making farming a dominant activity.[61] In addition to agriculture, the Abagusii also carry out business activities in major towns and cities in Kenya and abroad.[62] The Abagusii also participate in white collar jobs in Kenya and abroad

Industrial Activities
During the pre-colonial period, Abagusii produced iron tools, weapons, decorations, wooden implements, and baskets for diverse uses.[64] The Abagusii also made pottery products such as pots and imported some from the neighboring Luo community.[65] The most respected and highly valued activity was smelting of iron ore and manufacture of iron tools.[66] The blacksmiths were highly respected, wealthy and influential members of Abagusii society, but did not form a special caste as the Abagusii society was not based on caste stratifications.[67] Smithing activities were mainly carried out by men.

Trade
The form of trade carried out on pre-colonial Gusiiland was barter trade and mostly took place within homesteads as well as with neighboring communities especially the Luo people.[69] The major products exchanged included tools, weapons, crafts, livestock, and agricultural products.[70] The cattle served as a form of currency among Abagusii for the products exchanged and goats were used as a currency for lower valued products.[71] The barter trade between Abagusii and Luo took place at border markets and at Abagusii farms and was mainly carried out by women.[72] Today with advent of modern concept of trade, the Abagusii have established shopping centers, shops and markets which have connected them with other regions of Kenya beside the neighboring communities.[73] These markets are increasing exponentially and the Abagusii are getting more and more connected to the rest of Kenya as opposed to the pre-colonial Kenya where they only had contact with neighboring communities

Division of Labor.
In the traditional Abagusii society, labor was divided between males and females. The women specific duties included cooking, crop cultivation and processing, fetching water and firewood, brewing, and cleaning while the men specific duties included herding, building houses and fences, and clearing cultivation fields, and other duties.[75] Men were also involved in crop cultivation but with more responsibilities than women. Herding was primarily carried out by boys and unmarried men in the grazing fields and girls and unmarried young women helped with crop cultivation.[76] Today the division of labor between males and females has significantly changed and is now disadvantageous to women as they perform most of the duties traditionally meant for men. [77] There is no longer equal distribution of labor between men and women as it was traditionally.

Language
They speak the Ekegusii (also called omonwa Bwekegusii). However, some older texts refer to this community as Kosova. This language and some other Great Lakes Bantu languages have some similarities in structure but not mutually intelligible. They are markedly similar to the Bakiga of south western Uganda in culture, industry and choice of terrain. The LuTooro language of Western Uganda shares a great many words with Ekegusii. For instance, "omoiseke" is the Ekegusii for 'girl' and the word in LuTooro is just the same save for a slight difference in inflection.

Culture
The Abagusii play a large bass lyre called obokano. They are also known by their world-famous soapstone sculptures "chigware" mostly concentrated in the southern parts of Kisii County around Tabaka town. Circumcision of boys at around age of 10 as a rite of passage without anesthesia is common among the Abagusii. The girls also underwent clitoridectomy as a form of circumcision at an earlier age than boys.[78] This ritual takes place annually in the months of November and December followed by a period of seclusion during which the boys are led in different activities by older boys and girls are led by older girls, and is a great time of celebration indeed for families and communities at large. Family, friends and neighbors are invited days in advance by candidates to join the family. During this period of seclusion only older circumcised boys and girls are allowed to visit the secluded initiates and any other visitor could cause a taboo. Its during this period that initiates were taught their roles as young men in the community and the do's and the don'ts of a circumcised man. The initiated boys and girls were also taught the rules of shame ("Chinsoni") and respect ("Ogosika").[79] Unlike most communities in Kenya where the circumcised boys and/or girls joined an age set or age group, the circumcised Gusii boys and girls did not join an age set or age group given that the Abagusii lack age sets and age groups.

Some of the notable musicians from the Abagusii community include Nyashinski, Rajiv Okemwa Raj, Ringtone, Mwalimu Arisi O'sababu, Christopher Monyoncho, Sungusia, Riakimai '91 Jazz, Embarambamba, Bonyakoni Kirwanda junior band, Mr Ong'eng'o, Grandmaster Masese, Deepac Braxx (The Heavyweight Mc), Jiggy, Mr. Bloom, Virusi, Babu Gee, Brax Rnb, Sabby Okengo, Machoge One Jazz,among others.


Culture
The Abagusii play a large bass lyre called obokano. They are also known by their world-famous soapstone sculptures "chigware" mostly concentrated in the southern parts of Kisii County around Tabaka town. Circumcision of boys at around age of 10 as a rite of passage without anesthesia is common among the Abagusii. The girls also underwent clitoridectomy as a form of circumcision at an earlier age than boys.[78] This ritual takes place annually in the months of November and December followed by a period of seclusion during which the boys are led in different activities by older boys and girls are led by older girls, and is a great time of celebration indeed for families and communities at large. Family, friends and neighbors are invited days in advance by candidates to join the family. During this period of seclusion only older circumcised boys and girls are allowed to visit the secluded initiates and any other visitor could cause a taboo. Its during this period that initiates were taught their roles as young men in the community and the do's and the don'ts of a circumcised man. The initiated boys and girls were also taught the rules of shame ("Chinsoni") and respect ("Ogosika").[79] Unlike most communities in Kenya where the circumcised boys and/or girls joined an age set or age group, the circumcised Gusii boys and girls did not join an age set or age group given that the Abagusii lack age sets and age groups.

Some of the notable musicians from the Abagusii community include Nyashinski, Rajiv Okemwa Raj, Ringtone, Mwalimu Arisi O'sababu, Christopher Monyoncho, Sungusia, Riakimai '91 Jazz, Embarambamba, Bonyakoni Kirwanda junior band, Mr Ong'eng'o, Grandmaster Masese, Deepac Braxx (The Heavyweight Mc), Jiggy, Mr. Bloom, Virusi, Babu Gee, Brax Rnb, Sabby Okengo, Machoge One Jazz,among others.

Abagusii Religion, faith and beliefs
Prior to Introduction of Christianity and Islam to Africa, the Abagusii people believed in a supreme God called Engoro. This same God is also popularly called Nyasae among Abagusii. The Abagusii believe that Engoro also known as Nyasae created the Universe and was the source of all life. Death and disease was considered unnatural events brought on by evil spirits, bad luck or witchcraft. The Abagusii also believed in medicine men and the spirits of their ancestors called "Ebirecha". The displeasure of ancestor spirits was evidenced by disease, death of people and livestock as well as destruction of crops.[80] However, today a majority of Abagusii people practise Christianity with the Adventist protestant Christianity being the most dominant and a few practising Catholicism. A minority of Abagusii still adhere to their traditional religion and some being dual religion observing Christianity alongside their traditional religion. The practise of Islam among Abagusii is very little to absent.

Marriage
Among the Abagusii community, traditional marriage was arranged by the parents, using intermediaries called "chisigani", who also acted as referees for the bride and groom to be. The parents negotiated the dowry and organised a traditional wedding. The traditional wedding ceremony involved a mentor called "omoimari" who could provide continuing support to the newly married couple. Currently, civil and Christian marriages are recognized among the Abagusii. It is essential to note that traditions within the Abagusii community prohibit marriages between members of the same clan. Marriage was officially established through payment of dowry in the form of cattle to the wife's family.[81] Payment of dowry allowed man and woman to be considered husband and wife and gave room for a traditional marriage ceremony.[82] Divorce is traditionally not allowed among Abagusii as marriage is considered a permanent union that is only disrupted by death.

Living Conditions
Traditionally, a typical Gusii family is polygamous with one man having more than one wife that live in the same homestead. The polygamous family was divided into two constituents namely the homestead called "Omochie" and the cattle camps called "Ebisarate".[84] The married man and his wives and their unmarried daughters and uncircumcised boys lived in the "Omochie".[85] The "Ebisarate" were situated in the grazing fields and were protected by male warriors against theft by cattle rustlers and raiders.[86] The traditional Gusii compound also had elevated granaries for storage of crop harvests such as millet and other crops.[87] The Abagusii traditionally built fortified walls around their homesteads and villages for protection against cattle rustling wars,and raids by neighboring communities.[88] The Abagusii also dug trenches around their homesteads for the purposes of protection against raids. The fortified walls built around homesteads and villages as well as trenches also served as a protection against dangerous wild animals. However, the cattle camps were abolished in 1913 by the British forcing Abagusii to live in dispersed homesteads as compared to traditional homestead set up.[89] A typical traditional Gusii house is mad-walled with a conical grass thatched roofs that is mainly round and sometimes rectangular in shape.[90] The modern houses are still mad-wall with round and rectangular shapes but the roofs have corrugated iron sheets and grass thatched.[91] The Abagusii also built stone-walled houses today.

Food and Nutrition
Their staple meal is Obokima (dish of millet flour, or Sorghum flour cooked with water to a hardened dough-like consistency). It is often served with rinagu, chinsaga, rikuneni, enderema,emboga,omotere, risosa, egesare among other locally available green leaves consumed as vegetables. It can also be served with any other stew. The word for "having a meal" [ragera] usually connotes a meal involving [obokima] at the centre. However, by 1920s maize had been introduced to Gusiiland and had overtaken finger millet and sorghum as staple crops and cash crops which ensured that maize became the new dominant staple crop.[92] As a result, maize flour is now largely used to prepare Obokima although millet and sorghum flour is still used to a lesser extent. The Obokima was also served with milk particularly sour milk from livestock.[93] Although frequently associated with "ritoke" (plural "amatoke", cooked and flavoured bananas), this is usually supplemental and not considered to be a proper meal, but a popular snack.

Notable Abagusii People
David Kenani Maraga, President of the Supreme Court of Kenya.
Zachary Onyonka, Former Education and Foreign Affairs Minister
Sam Ongeri, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs and current Senator of Kisii County
Fred Matiang'i, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Security
Simeon Nyachae, Former Cabinet Minister
James Ongwae, First Governor of Kisii County
Caspal Maina Momanyi,Assistant Education Permanent Secretary
Janet Ong'era, Kisii County Woman Member of The National Assembly

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