Iteso migration is said to have lasted six generations from Abysinnia to Moruito (present day Moroto in Uganda) spanning as early as 1300 AD to 1800 AD. Each generation had its distinctive characteristics,

The exact origins of the Iteso remain unclear. Iteso oral tradition holds that they originated from Djibouti thousands of years ago. The first generation of the Iteso was called ’Itunga’, a semi-hermitic group that was born by Oduk.The Iteso had six major clans, namely:- 1. Ikariwok – who were leaders and fighters 2. Ikomolo – who were foretellers 3. Irarak – who were gatherers 4. Igoria – who were builders 5. Ikatekok – who were peacemakers 6. Ikinom – who were the doctors.

The current generation of Iteso is the 12th. The Iteso is a hunter-gatherer group that also herded cattle, goats, sheep, carmels and poultry. The second generation of the Iteso was called ‘Omongoise’. This generation originated its name from a great herder who led a group of Iteso from Djibouti to Eritrea where they settled. The third generation of the Iteso was called ‘Okori’, named after Okori who led the Iteso from Eritrea to Ethiopia where they met the Oromo and gave birth to the following Iteso sub-tribes:- (a) Ingorok (present day Ngorokos in Ethiopia) (b) Ididinga (present day Dinkas in Ethiopia) (c) Idongiro (present day Dongiros in Ethiopia) (d) Lotuko (e) Jie (f) Toposa.

The fourth generation of the Iteso was called ‘Itikiro’, named after Otikir who led them from Ethiopia to along the banks of river Nile. Some also settled in Moru Kinyet and Lolibayi, a region full of shrubs in Southern Sudan. They later crossed to Moroto in Northern Uganda, where they now came to be called ‘Iteso’, a name coined by a group of young men who said ‘Ite so ibaren’ meaning they were on the move in search of pasture for their animals when the old men said they could no longer move because of old age and decided to settle in a place currently called ‘Karamoja’ occupied by Karamojong in Uganda Karamojong.[6] there are notable cultural ties and linguistic similarities between the two groups; the word “Karamojong” literally means “the old ones who stayed behind.”[7]

The fifth generation of the Iteso was called ‘Ijureta’. This group of Iteso moved from Karamoja to the present day Tesoland in Uganda which begins from river Iriiri, the boundary between the Iteso and Karamojong. This river was so steep and slippery that some of the Iteso together with their animals drowned and got carried away by the strong waters. Those who managed to cross over called themselves ‘Ijureta’. They settled in Katakwi district in Uganda at a place called Moru Kabila where they built an altar for giving thanks to God for enabling them to cross the steepy and slippery river Iriiri safely and for overcoming other numerous problems in their movement.[8]

The sixth generation of the Iteso was called ‘Asonya’. This group anticipated floods in their movement from Katakwi to Soroti since there were rivers that fed lake Kyoga between them. So, they were adequately prepared for the challenges they met along the way. Asonya kept cattle, goats, sheep and poultry only since their carmels succumbed to the harsh and hostile weather conditions. The seventh generation of the Iteso was called ‘Ilemelemen’. This group crossed river Auja along the boundary between Ngora and Soroti districts in Uganda led by Okapel. They settled on the eastern part of the river Auja and on top of Kapir hills while some spread to Kumi district in Uganda. Some still moved to Palisa through Akadot, Kanyum and Mkongoro.

The eighth generation of the Iteso was called ‘Ibwangeta’, named after a place called Kabwangasi where there was war with enemy tribes over their settlement in the area. The ninth generation of the Iteso was called ‘Imodingo’. This group moved from Kabwangasi and settled on the slopes of Mt. Elgon towards Mbale Uganda. The tenth generation of the Iteso was called ‘Ikutai’, named after a tree called Ekutat from which farming implements were made. This was because this group began traditional farming. Ikutai settled in Tororo Uganda and its environs.

The eleventh generation of the Iteso was called ‘Arionga’. They crossed the Uganda-Kenya border into Kenya around 1706 and settled along the border in the present day Tesoland in Kenya.[citation needed] This generation of Iteso went to school and got formal education with the coming of Missionaries who brought with them civilization of the west. The twelfth and present day generation of the Iteso is called ‘Emorimori’ which means unity of all the Iteso all over the world. Emorimori is led by the king of the Iteso based in Soroti Uganda called Papa Emorimori Augustine Osuban. This generation of Iteso is of age, well educated, civilized and largely Christian, rearing a wide range of animals both for domestic and commercial use, farming using modern techniques and engaging in economic activities beneficial to the society at large [9] The current generation (Emorimori) occupies the Eastern parts of Uganda and western parts of Kenya.[10]


It’s believed there were two waves of migration. The first migration brought them to present day northeastern Uganda and western Kenya and was largely gradual and peaceful. The legendary hero Oduk and his wife Among’in supposedly helped the Iteso in this second migration to modern day Busia County circa 1500 AD, and by the 19th century, they controlled a vast swathe of territory. Their aggressive expansion drew them into conflicts with other already present ethnic groups. Oduk is credited with militarily organizing the Iteso and helping them defeat their rivals.[11] However, their gains were reversed as neighboring ethnic groups allied with the British defeated them. Much of traditional Iteso culture and organization was lost when they were conquered by the Ganda people in the 19th century;[12] the language of the northern Ateso is markedly influenced by Luganda due to this conquest. In contrast, southern Ateso has been influenced by the Turkana language.

British colonialism and independence[edit]

During the 20th century, the Iteso people underwent drastic changes in their lifestyles, transitioning from a pastoral lifestyle to prolific farmers.[13] Many Iteso men travelled abroad to work in overseas British territories, such as Burma. In 1902, part of eastern Uganda was transferred to western Kenya, splitting the Iteso; despite this division, there’s little cultural difference between the two.[14] However, the two’s economic and social paths have diverged greatly. At independence, Ugandan Iteso were wealthier, as they did not suffer from the economic marginalization Kenyan Africans did due to white settlers. However, the Kenyan Iteso did not suffer the same degree of political instability their Ugandan cousins have, and Kenya’s more developed economic infrastructure allowed for Kenyan Iteso to overtake Ugandan Iteso in wealth.

During Milton Obote‘s first period of rule, many Iteso received army and administration posts, allowing them to gain relative prosperity, which they invested back into cattle herds.[15] After Idi Amin was overthrown in 1979, the Karamojong acquired large amounts of arms, which they used to raid cattle from largely unarmed Iteso civilians; Iteso cattle herds were decimated, and many fell into poverty. During Obote’s second period of rule, the Ugandan army was composed largely of the Iteso and Acholi. When Yoweri Museveni came to power, he disbanded a military unit meant to stop the Karamojong’s cattle rustling and dismissed many Iteso, Acholi, and Kumam soldiers from the army for their previous service under Obote.[15] These disgruntled soldiers, upon returning to their economically deprived homelands due to violent cattle raids, took up arms against the Museveni regime. The Teso insurgency lasted into the late 1980s, keeping the region undeveloped.[7][15]

In 1992, the conflict was brought to an end through the combined effort of the local initiatives, indigenous mediators, churches, and the Presidential Commission for Teso (PCT). This led to the creation of a war memorial near the Iteso capital Soroti, and the installation of an Iteso king, Emorimor Papa Paphrus Imodot Edimu. While successful in ending the violence and mollifying Teso opposition to Museveni, the Teso sub-region remains one of the poorest regions in Uganda, and the Iteso feel politically and economically neglected, widely distrusting the Museveni administration.[15]

Einos Iteso Kopiten is founded on principles of mutual respect and consensus-building, with a mission to promote unity and cultural preservation..

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