Tugen people



The Tugen are a sub tribe of the Kalenjin people alongside the Nandi, Kipsigis, Keiyo, Pokot, Marakwet, Sabaot, Ogiek, Lembus and Sengwer sub-tribes. They occupy Baringo County and some parts of Nakuru County and Elgeyo Marakwet County in the former Rift Valley Province, Kenya. Daniel arap Moi, the second president of Kenya (1978–2002), came from the Tugen sub-tribe. The Tugen people speak the Tugen language. The Tugen population was 197,556 in 2019.


A look into the history and culture of the Tugen community

The Tugen are a Nilotic community who speak the Tugen language. As  a sub-community of the Kalenjin community, they are related to the Terik, Pokot, Nandi, Marakwet, Kipsigis, Sabaot, Ogiek and Keiyo sub-communities. Some of the best known Tugen personalities today are the former president of Kenya, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi and 800m world champion athlete Paul Tergat.


Origin and migration

The Tugen live around Baringo and parts of Nakuru counties. Their oral traditions indicate that they migrated from the north, west and east of their present settlement.

The largest part of their population originated from the west, a place known as Sumo, in an area located between Mount Elgon and Cherangany Hills.

The rest migrated from the north (Suguta, Lake Turkana), the east (Koilegen, Mount Kenya), and brought with them non-Kalenjin speaking people.


Economic pursuits

The majority of the Tugen are primarily subsistence farmers. They cultivate grains such as maize and wheat, or practice a pastoralist lifestyle through rearing cattle, goats and sheep for food production.


Social and political organisation

The Tugens' social organisation traditionally centered on the age-set, or ibindo. There were seven age-sets (ibinwek). Most political action took place in the kokwet, or council of the locality. Men and boys were traditionally involved in farm and herding activities, whereas women and girls performed nearly all of the domestic work involved in running a household.



Unlike other Kalenjin sub tribes, Tugen is more diverse in culture and language. Aror and Samor follows Tugen circumcision rites. In terms of language, Aror is more isolated. They have strong connection with Marakwet people.



The oral traditions of the Tugen indicate three areas of origin located north, west and east of the present Tugen homelands. The bulk of the population originated from the west, from a place known as Sumo which is located between Mount Elgon and Cherangany Hills. The northern and eastern migrations came from Suguta (Lake Turkana) and Koilegen (Mount Kenya) and brought with them non-Kalenjin speaking people from northern Kenya and the highlands to the East of the Rift Valley respectively.



The Tugen are further subdivided into six subgroups or sections :



Traditionally, like other Kalenjin people, the Tugen prayed to a God called Asis (which means 'sun'.) There are also gods namely Chepapkoyo(god of harvest), Cheptengeryan (god of love). Most have converted to Christianity. Islam has flourished in the major towns and it was these towns that some Tugens convert into Islam and adopted Islamic names.



The Tugen social organisation centres on the age set, or ibindo. There are seven age-sets (ibinwek) which are rotational, meaning at the end of one ageset new members of that generation are born. The order is roughly as given below.

Among the some Kalenjin peoples, an age-set called Maina exists. However, among the Tugen, this ageset is extinct. Legend has it that the members of this ibindo were wiped out by the Keiyo, in skirmish between the two tribes near present day Cheploch gorge. For fear of a recurrence, the community decided to retire the age-set.

Ibindo was given out at initiation and by simple arrangements, there ought to be one ibindo between a father and a son. For example, a korongoro cannot beget a kipkoimet. The Tugen don't consider a woman to have an ageset, hence she can marry any ageset except that in which her father belongs. The Tugen say "ma tinyei ibin Kirkoswald meaning they can any age set but they have their own ageset like chesiran, masinya, chepigwek Mary " .

  1. Chumo
  2. Sawe
  3. Korongoro
  4. Kipkoimet
  5. Kaplelach
  6. Kipnyigei
  7. Nyongi

Age sub-set (siritie)

In each age-set, the initiates were bundled into siritie or what can be understood as a 'team'. There are three 'teams' or siritoik in an age-set (ibindo) namely: