Traditional Kings in Kenya

Kenya is an east african nation with 43 recognised tribes in the constitution categorized into Bantus, Nilotes and Cushites. All these tribes had their own systems of governance and leadership before colonialism, some of which continue to date. Much of Kenyan royalty disappeared with independence in the 60s, some royal lineages serve in government.

Royal Titles

  • Nabongo – Title for King of Wanga Kingdom / Abawanga
  • Haye ywe Ngaji  – Title for King of Pokomo
  • Haye – Title for King of WaIlwana tribe
  • Oloibon/ Laibon – Title for ruler of Maasaiand Samburu people, both spiritual and political
  • Orkoiyot – Title for Political/spiritual ruler of Nandi people
  • Mugwe – Title for Ruler/Spiritual leader of Meru people
  • Njuri Ncheeke – Title for Council of elders of Meru People
  • Rwoth/Ruoth – Title for Ruler/Chief of Luo people
  • Ker – Chair of Luo council of elders
  • Sultan/Ugaas – Title for clan chiefs of the somali clans
  • Wabar – Title for King/Sultan of Degodia clan of Somali people
  • Sheikh/Mfalme – Title for rulers of historic coastal towns/sultanates of kenya

Members of a royal family gathered for a group portrait, Kenya 1900 and 1925


Nabongo (King) Mumia of AbaWanga People/ Wanga Kingdom

The Wanga are a bantu ethnic group (part of the luhya) found in western Kenya. They were organised into a kingdom called AbaWanga/Wanga Kingdom located in Kakamega county. The King is locally called Nabongo and hails from the Abashitse clan that produces kings (father to son succession). Their most famous king was Nabongo Mumia who ruled for 67 years, he interacted with the british during the colonial era. The current King is Nabongo Peter Mumia II. The royal compound is found at the Nabongo cultural centre in Matugu, Mumias town

  • Nabongo Wanga – Founder of Wanga after break from Buganda, reigned 1050 – 1140
  • Nabongo Wabala – reigned 1140 – 1190
  • Nabongo Musuwi – reigned 1190 – 1274
  • Nabongo Chibwire – reigned 1274 – 1354
  • Nabongo Musindalo – reigned 1354 – 1464
  • Nabongo Chitechi – reigned 1464 – 1554
  • Nabongo Netya – reigned 1554 – 1617
  • Nabongo Osundwa – reigned 1617 – 1717
  • Nabongo Wamukoya – reigned 1717 – 1797
  • Nabongo Shiundu – reigned 1797 – 1880
  • Nabongo Mumia I – reigned 1882 to 1949
  • Nabongo Shitawa – reigned 1949 to 1974
  • Nabongo Peter Mumia II – reigned 1974 – current

Nabongo Mumia I and Nabongo Mumia II

Haye Ywe Ngaji (King) of Pokomo people

The Pokomo are a bantu ethnic group currently foud in Tana river and Kilifi coastal coubnties of Kenya. They are organised into a social government led by the King locally called Haye ywe Ngaji. He is advised by the Kidjo group of elders and Gasa judicial arm. The King is also the official custodian of the Ngaji (the Sacred Drum) of the Kidjo sect of the Pokomo, that was symbol of authrotiy, governance, religious and social order. The Ngaji was illegally taken by the British colonial Alfred Claud Hollis and still has not been returned after many years plea from the tribe. The current King is Haye Makorani-a-Mungase ywa Fungahe (Makorani Mungase VII). He is a medical lecturer at Pwani University

Hayu(King) of Wailwana/Ilwana people

Ilwana or Wailwana are a bantu speaking tribe regarded by some to be a subtribe under larger Pokomo tribe. The name Malakote (meaning slave) was given to this people group by the Somalis. The Somalis introduced them to Islam and made them slaves. The people today prefer to be called Ilwana (meaning free men). The are led by a elected king called locally as Hayu who is highly regarded on culutral matters. King (Hayu) Ramadhan Divayu Babisani is the King of Ilwana community who live in Madogo ward in Tana river county. He was elected in 2006 and rules with help by a council of elders. He reigned in 2023 due to ill health. The Ilwana have clans headed by 11 clan elders who make up the king’s council namely

  • Wayui
  • Karari
  • Mamboya
  • Hajeji
  • Abole
  • Karayu
  • Ilani
  • Galgedha


Wabar(King) of Degodia clan of Somali people

Degodia clan is a sub clan of the larger Saransoor clan of Somali people. They are found in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Degodia are ruled by a monarch called Wabar who is more of a religious king than political. He is usually apolitical and in public, his spokesman does the talking while he only rises to pray for the community. It has had 12 Wabars and the current 12th Wabar(King) is Abdille Abdi

Kings of Witu Sultanate

Witu is today a inland town in the coastal part of Kenya, initially formed in 1810s by a ruler from Pate island. It was headed by a King locally known as Mfalme from 1810 until 1923 when the last King died. Wituland was a haven for slaves fleeing the Zanzibar slave trade and thus a target of attacks from the Sultanate of Zanzibar. In 1885, the Clemens and Gustav Denhardt negotiated a treaty with the Sultan of Witu, and the area became a German protectorate. In 1890, Sultan Fumo Bakari staged a resistance after a group of Germans set up camp near Witu and later Witu was ceded to Great Britain in exchange for Heligoland.

  • Mfalme Bwana Mataka – 1810s-1848
  • Mfalme Mohammed Sheikh (son of Bwana Mataka) – 1848- 1858
  • Mfalme Ahmad ibn Fumo Bakari – 1858–1888
  • Mfalme Fumo Bakari ibn Ahmad – 1888–1890
  • Mfalme Bwana Shaykh ibn Ahmad – 1890–1891
  • Mfalme Fumo Umar ibn Ahmad – 1891–1895

Photo; History Kenya, Darius J. Piwowarczyk

Sultans of Cushites clans

The Cushites people of Nothern Kenya are usually lead by clan sultans similar to their brothers in Somalia.

see- Traditional Kings in Somalia

Sultan Haji Abdi Ogle of Mohammed Subeer clan of Wajir

Suldaan Mohamed Yare Abdi Ogle of Mohammed Subeer Clan of Wajir. Son of above sultan

Sultan Najib Ugas Ahmed Liban of Fai clan, degodia subtribe of Somali tribe in Wajir county. He was crowned in 2015

Photo/Adow Mohamed

Sultan Hassan Sultan Omar Shurie of Samadawal community of Ogaden clan, Somali tribe in Garissa county. He is son Sultan Omar Shurie of Samawadal community of Ogaden who was killed 50 years ago at Ijara.

Sultan Hamud Sheikh of Aulyahan community of Ogaden clan, Somali tribe in Garissa county


Sultan Deqow Abdikadir Maalim Sambul of Awudwaq community of Ogaden clan, Somali tribe in Garissa county

Sultan Mohamed Khalif Ali of Murule clan, Somali tribe in Mandera county

Sultan Robow Haji Hassan Gababa of Garre/Gharri clan both in Ethiopia and Kenya. He succefully defeated the British occuping forces and stopped them from collecting taxes from the northern frontier district of Keny to the southern frontier of Ethipia, also known as “the Gharri country”. He was killed in 1964 by Emperor Haile Sellasie mercenaries.

Sultan Mohamed Haji Hassan Gababa of Garre clan both in Ethiopia and Kenya. Son of Sulatn Robow above

Oloibon of the Maasai people

The Maasai are a nilotic speaking group that named many places in Kenya. They were ruled by a divine King called Oloibon who held prophetic and supernatural gifts of fortune telling, medicine healing, conflict solving, environmental protection etc. The position was hereditary, passed on from father to son, but the Oloibon chose his heir mongst his many sons. Their most famous was Oloibon Lenana/Olonana. He was the son of Oloibon Mbatian whom he succeeded in 1887. There was a small dispute with his elder brother Sendeu who was supported by the Loitai clan. Senteu and his followers moved to Narok. Lenana mistakenly collaborated with the british by signing agreements that resulted in hthe maasai lands being taken by the whites. He reigned until his death in 1911 and was buried in the foot of ngong hills. Lenana School and Lenana Peak on Mount Kenya are named in his honour. He was succeeded by his son Segu/Seku.

  • Oloibon Supet – reigned 1850 to 1866
  • Oloibon Mbatian
    • Oloibon Lenana – reigned in Ngong from 1887 to 1911
      • Oloibon Seku
    • Oloibon Senteu – left and ruled Loita clan in Narok
      • Oloibon ole Senteu Simel – died 1986
        • Oloibon Mokompo Senteu ole Simel – custodian of Naimina Enkeyio Loita forest
  • Today each community/clan of the Maasai has its own Oloibon
  • Oloibon Taipapusha of Keek-Onyokie – reigned 1940 to 1961
  • Oloibon Simel ole Letoya of Keek-Onyokie – reigned 1961 to

Oloibon Lenana/Olonana

Oloibon Lenana – reigned in Ngong from 1887 to 1911

Oloibon Senteu

Oloibon Senteu left and ruled Loita clan in Narok

Oloibon Mokompo Senteu ole Simel

Custodian of Naimina Enkeyio Loita forest

©Immaculate Pisoi/ Lensational

Oloibon Simel ole Letoya

Photo ; Kurgat Marindany

Laibon of Samburu people

Samburu(Sampur) people ae a nilotic group who are closely related to the maasai. They are pastoralists majorly found in Samburu county in Kenya are are famously known as the Butterfly people due to their colourful handmade jewellery. Historically they were ruled by Spiritual leaders known as Oloibon who held prophetic and supernatural gifts, today can be called Kings. The Laibon held a spiritual role more than a political role. Their most famous King/Laibon was Laibon Bari Kaldojan Oleaduma. He was arrested by the british colonialists for resisting colonialism in 1933 to Kwale and was never seen again. His family is still looking for his remains

  • Laibon Bari Kaldojan Oleaduma – 1934

Abagada(King) of Wayuu people of Kenya and Ethiopia

The King resides in Ethiopia

Mugwe and Njuri Ncheeke of Meru People

Mugwe/Mugaa – Most revered figure among the aMeru, transmitter of blessings, spiritual leader among the aMeru groups of Imenti, Igembe, Tigania, muthambi, igoji, Tharaka, Chuka etc. Also remover of curses and link between God and Ameru. Mugwe was most famous spiritual leader of Meru tribe who led with the help of the njuri Ncheeke and Kiama. Mugwe had prophetic and supernatural pwers of leadership and is mentioned in the migration of the Meru from Mbwaa(now mande island coast). Each subtribe later had a Mugwe and a sub nchuri ncheeke. Later Each region was headed by chiefs, some of royal lineage and others appointed by colonials.

Njuri Ncheeke now commonly called the council of elders (literally means council of a few) were the keepers of secrets of the aMeru by oath. Today they lead the aMeru nation and now carry out some roles of Mugwe like laying or removal of curses, sacrifices to the gods, intermediary between the aMeru and Gods. On top leadership is the chairman who chairs the council. Dissemination of the secrets was punishable by death. Members represented each clan or lineages and membership was for life. Today members are drawn from all the sub councils of the 9 subtribes

  • Njuri Ncheeke – was the name given to council of elders among the Tigania subtribe. Today used for the one council which leads the aMeru nation
  • Kiama Kia Njuri – name given to the council of elders among the Imenti and igoji sub tribes
  • Njuri Nkome – name given to council of elders among the Mwimbi and Muthambi sub tribes

Early 1900 image of Chief Namaan of the Meru Tribe. From the Kenya National Archives.

Chief M”Iminuki of Meru taken in 1890s by John Guille Millais. The white men who met him incorrectly call him N’Dominuki similar to Dominic when they couldn’t pronounce M’ Iminuki (pronounced as Ntoiminuki)

Photo and information by WWW.AMERUKENYA.COM

Chief Angaine M’Itiria – father of Minister Jackson Angaine (pictured)

Njuri Ncheeke council of elders

  • Chief Mbogori – Chief mbogori girls is named after him
  • Chief Kithunguuru of Kirigara

Chiefs and Kikuyu Council of Elders of Kikuyu People

The Kikuyu are a bantu ethnic group inhabiting western parts of Mount Kenya in Nyeri, Muranga, Nyandarua, Kiriinyaga, Kiambu counties. Different regions had different rulers modernly called Muthamaki which can be translated as Chief or King. Some were not of royal lineage and were appointed by colonials. Today there is a Kikuyu council of elders

Paramount Chief Kinyanjui wa Gathirimu of Kikuyu, Riruta and Dagoretti and wife. Kinyanjui technical institute and Kinyanjui road are named after him

Chief Karuri wa Gakure of Muranga. He died in 1916

Chief Waiyaki wa Hinga of Kabete, Dagoretti. He was against colonialism and was killed by the british. Waiyaki Way is named after him

Chief Njega wa Gioko of Ndia and Mwea. Later of entire embu district. He was against colonialism. He died in 1948. Njega high school is named after him

Chief Michuki wa Kagwi – he had 47 wives and was father to Minister John Michuki

Chief Njiiri wa Karanja of Kigumo – He vacated the Kigumo legislative seat in 1962 to allow Kenyatta to make it to parliament & participate in the 2nd Lancaster House Conference.

Chief Muhoho wa Gatheca – Father to first lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta. He died in 1966. He was son to chief Gathecha wa Ngekenya of Ngenda, Kiambu

Chief Waruhiu wa Kung’u of Githunguri – H e was shot in 1952 for collaboarating with colonials

Chief Koinange wa Mbiyu of Kiambaa – father of the Koinange dynasty. Father in law of Jomo Kenyatta, Father of Politician Mbiyu Koinange. Senior Chief Koinange High School and Koinange Street are named in his honour. He died in 1960

Chief Charles Karuga Koinange of Kiambaa – son of Chief Koinange Mbiyu whom he succeeded in 1951. Later was PC. He died in 2004

Chief Josiah Njonjo of Kabete – He collaborated with the colonials. Father to Kenyas first attorney General Charles Njonjo. H died in 1985

Chief Nderi Wango’ombe – was hacked to death in Nyeri by freedom fighters in 1952, for collaborating with the British colonialists.

Chief Ndungu of Thika in 1945

National Archives UK

Kikuyu Tribal Chiefs

Chief Luka wa Kahangara of Kirenga Lari– collaborated with the colonials forcing kikuyus to be displaced from Tigoni to Lari thus Lari 1953 Massacre. He and 11 members of the family were killed by the MauMau

Kikuyu Council of Elders

  • Chief Peter Gatabaki of Thakwa
  • Chief Magugu wa Waweru of Komothai Location
  • Chief Ikenya Charles of Bathi
  • Chief Makimei wa Kuria of Gituamba

Chiefs of Kamba People

Chief Mwendwa Kitavi of Kitui – his children include Kenyas first chief justice Kitili Mwendwa and daughter in law Nyiva mwendwa, Kenyas first female minister

Chief Kivoi Mwendwa – long distance trder and interacted with Luwdig Krapf. Died 1852

Chief Masaku wa Munyeti

Machakos/Masaku town is named after him. His grandson was Politician Paul Ngei(pictured)

  • Prophetess Syokimau

Embu People

Paramount Chief Runjenje wa Mukubo – Runyenjes town is named after him. He died in 1939

Photo ; Prunyenje

Group photograph of leaders from Embu

Photo ; Prunyenje

Chiefs of Taita Taveta People

Taita/Dawida and Taveta people are two seperate bantu groups living side by side in today Taita Taveta County

Chief Ephraim Mwaruta of Mwanda. He is a descendant of Chief Mwangeka wa Malowa

Photo/PD/Reuben Mwambingu

  • Famous Chief Mwangeka wa Malowa – Colonial freedom fighter
  • Chief Richard Mwangeka of Mbale
  • Chief Nathaniel Mbele from Taveta
  • Chief Lengiriame Warisanga of Taveta
  • Chief Johana Mwadime of Mwanda
  • Chief Benjamin Mwavuda
  • Chief Nimrod Mbaje of Mbololo
  • Chief Solomon Mutigo of Chawia
  • Chief George Sowa of Sagalla

Chiefs of Kisii/Gusii People

Chief Musa Nyandusi – father to Simeon Nyachae. He had 15 wives and over 100 children, he died in 1970. Senior chief Musa Nyandusi is named after him

  • Prophetess Moraa – led a rebellion against the british colonials in 1943

Orkoiyot of Kalenjin people

Kalenjin are grouped into many subtribes. Today the Kalenjin are led by a council of leaders called Myoot council. The membership comprises of representatives from all the subtrribes of the Kalenjin headed by a chairman

Orkoiyot(King) Koitalel Arap Samoei of the Nandi subtribe -He was murdered for resisting British Colonialism in 1905. He was tricked into coming for a peace agreement and was shot dead by Richard Meinertzhagen. His head was cut off and taken away. It still hasn’t been returned

Barsirian Arap Manyei, last Orkoiyot of Nandi– son of Koitalel, he reigned from 1919 to 1973. He was jailed from1923 – 1964 by the british after the Nandi uprising

Myoot council of elders

Ruoth of Luo pople

The Luo are a nilotic group who are river lake nilotes currently inhabiting the shores of lake victoria in Kisumu, Siaya, Hoamabay and Migori counties. They were organised into many clans or regions each headed by a ruoth(King/chief). In neigbouring Tanzania, there is a chief. Today the have a Luo council of Elders led by a chairman/Ker whom they appoint from a number of candidates. The current 9th Chair or Ker of the Luo council of elders is Odungi Randa crowned in 2023 after the death of Willis Opiyo Otondi

  • Ker – Chairman of Luo council of elders
  • Ruoth – King now Chief
  • Miruka – Assistant chief
  • Kidhedhe – foot soldier

Ruoth Gor Mahia Kogallo of Kanyamwa subtribe of Luo – Gor Mahia football club is named after him. He was against colonialism and died in 1920

Ruoth Odera Okang’o of Gem, Siaya – he made western education compulsory for his people. He was exiled to kismayu by the british for ordering arrest and killing of a british soldier in his area. He died in 1919

ca. 1902 | ©Charles William Hobley

Ruoth Paul Mboya of Karachuonyo, Homa Bay, famously knwn as Paramount Chief. He and wife attended Queen Elizabeth II coronation in 1953

Chief Amoth Owira of Alego – Father of Governor Colonel Rasanga of Siaya

Chief Melkizedek Nindo Nyangaga of Seme

Current 9th Chair or Ker of the Luo council of elders Odungi Randa

Emorimor of Iteso people

Teso or Iteso are a nilotic group found in both eastern Uganda and Western Kenya. They are organised into a cultural institution called Iteso Cultural Union with its headquarters at Soroti. Their elective monarch is called Emorimor. The late Emorimor Papa Augustine Osuban Lemukol was crowned in 2000 and died in 2022. Paul Sande Emolot from Ikuruk clan is the new King since 2022

Umukuka of BaMasaaba/BaGisu people

Bamasaaba or Bagisu are bantu ethnic group found in Uganda and neigbouring Kenya. In 2011 they formed their own cultural institution -Inzu Ya Masaaba led by a monarch called Umukuka who reigns in both countres. Since the death of the late Umukuka II in 2020, the succession for the throne has been in battles between two groups

Kingdom website ;

Chiefs of Turkana

Turkana tribe royal Chief waiting at Nairobi to meet Princess Elizabeth of UK on her tour of Kenya (where she became queen) in 1952

© The African Royal Families. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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