Kisii Town Historical background

Kisii town was originally known by the Gusii people as Getembe. It was later named Bosongo, it originated from 'Abasongo' (to refer to the British or Whites) who lived in the town during the colonial times.

Oct 18, 2023 - 18:08
Oct 19, 2023 - 11:09
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Kisii Town Historical background

Kisii also known as Getembe or Bosongo is a municipality and urban centre in south-western Kenya and the capital of the kisii county. Kisii Town also serves as major urban and commercial centre in the Gusii Highlands—kisii and nyamira counties—and the South Nyanza region and the second largest town in formerly greater nyanza after kisumu city. Kisii municipality sits right at the centre of the western Kenya tourist circuit that includes the Tabaka Soapstone Carvings, maasai mara, ruma national park and part of the l. victoria basin.


Kisii town was originally known by the Gusii people as Getembe. It was later named Bosongo, it originated from 'Abasongo' (to refer to the British or Whites) who lived in the town during the colonial times. The town was originally established by British soldiers who were being forced to retreat from Lake Victoria by heavy gunfire from German soldiers' gunboats during the Great War in the early 20th century. Later Kisii was chosen to be the District Headquarters of the larger South Nyanza and Kisii region.


The town is predominantly inhabited by the Gusii community(also known as the Kisii. The Nubians, Arabs, luo, luhyia, kuria, Kikuyu, Kamba, Somali, Asian and kalenjin  make up a minority of residents.

Why Kisii town is a new gem for real estate developers - The Standard

Population statistics

As of 2019, Kisii town in its location of Kisii Central had a population of 13,422, with 6,839 male and 6,583 female, and a population density of 4,011/km2 in an area of 3.3 km2. It is the second most populous town in terms of population density in Nyanza region after Kisumu. The population of the town grew rapidly after the 2007/08 post election violence. The growth was due to the consideration that the town experienced peace becoming the hub for all communities in the country. Among Kenya's urban areas, Kisii municipality has a relatively high population density owing to the scarcity of land in the municipality boundaries spurring further expansion of settlement in the outlying area. These alternative settlements have been sanctioned by the municipal government which, in turn, has allowed residents to develop their homes just outside the municipality boundary to alleviate this phenomenon.


The economy of Kisii town is derived from commerce and agriculture. Crops and fruit cultivated around the area include maize, managu, beans, bananas, pineapples, avocados, pawpaws etc. Cash crops in this area within and outside the municipality include coffee and tea which have been in existence before independence. Coffee processing within the municipality is carried out. Kisii is the fastest growing town in western Kenya thanks mainly to its high population, political stability and general tranquility.

Smaller components are in food processing, health care, education. Although it has are few industrial activities, it has potential for larger agro-based industries due to its location in a rich agricultural area. Soapstone querrying takes place near the town around Tabaka, southwest of the town and a few kilometres off the Kisii-Isebania Road. coca-cola has a bottling and distribution plant in Kisii municipality until recently when it was closed. The town hosts large supermarket chain stores, e.g., Uchumi, Nakumatt and Tuskys which have been closed Naivas and Quick mart. It also hosts 19 commercial banking and financial institutions' branches. These include the long-existing: Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Absa Bank, National Bank, Post Bank, and Co-operative Bank (two branches). Newer entrants in the banking sector such as Equity Bank, I&M Bank, CFC Stanbic, Credit Bank, Kenya Women Finance Trust, Family Bank, Chase Bank, Eco-Bank, Diamond Trust Bank, K-Rep Bank and others have launched new branches taking advantage of the large population and the positioning of Kisii as an increasing commercial hub town. Mwalimu Sacco the largest Sacco in Kenya, maintains a branch in Kisii. Due to more cash flow the central bank of Kenya has set an exchange center to serve the larger south nyanza region and some parts of Central rift. Moreover, like many of Kenya's major urban centres, there is an influx of numerous other business ventures such as the hospitality sector with hotels, bars, restaurants, sports pubs, among other commercial activities.


The Kisii County Government runs the town, headed by the governor. The county government headquarters are located in the town. The town hosts Law Courts, Ministry offices, State Law Office branch, among other governmental installations.

Geography and transportation

Kisii is located in western Kenya, on latitude: 0° 41' 0 S and longitude: 34° 46' 0 E. The town is a driving distance of 309 km (192 mi) from the capital city of Nairobi, located east-southeast, on Class B3 all-weather road. Other major urban centre's distances from Kisii town are Kisumu City which is 114 km (71 mi) to the northwest; Nyamira at 23 km (14 mi) to the immediate north; Keroka at 25 km (16 mi) to the east; Kericho at 101 km (63 mi) to the northeast; Kilgoris at 46 km (29 mi) to the southeast; Narok at 165 km (103 mi) to the east; and Migori to the south-west 67 km (42 mi) which otherwise connects the town to the Kenya /Tanzania border at Isebania town a further 31 km (19 mi) south.

Business resumes to normalcy in Kisii – Kenya News Agency

Public transportation, which is operated privately, is available throughout the town. A good example is private-owned taxis (matatus), taxi cabs and 'boda-boda' (motorcycle taxis) as an alternative to privately owned vehicles. Kisii town has one of the most organized bus stations and public transport systems in the country. Buses and matatus are not allowed inside the town. Air service to Kisii is minimal. However, chartered flights mainly from Nairobi's Wilson Airport transport passengers to Kisii's Suneka Airstrip situated 9 km (6 mi) southwest of the town centre. The facility is underused, but many of the residents especially businessmen, local politicians, and tourists use it for convenience.From Kisii, it is easy to get to Tabaka Soapstone quarries, the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Narok County, Lambwe Valley Game Reserve in Homa Bay County, Kisumu, Lake Victoria, and the Kenya/Tanzania or Kenya/Uganda border points.


Kisii town enjoys a Tropical highland climate. Temperature vary from lows of 52F July to highs of 79F January, annually . It generally receives rain all year round thanks to its positioning in the Lake Victoria lake basin and the heavily foliaged Kisii highlands. Due to its unique positioning within hills, Kisii town has never experienced flooding. The city frequently receives thunderstorms, and some thirty people in Kisii die each year from lighthening strikes because of their frequency and because many of the area's structures have metal roofs.


carving is the predominant craft in Kisii. Kisii town is home to the best soapstone carvers in the continent. Their products are very popular in Europe and USA. Kisii is a favourite stopover for tourists who want a taste of the exquisite Kisii carvings. Kisii town is also the venue for the annually held Gusii Cultural Festival, an event focusing on the cultural heritage of the Gusii community.


A portion of larger Kisii Golf Club's course was open for public recreation by the local authority for a couple of years. This area was later consolidated back to the golf course. Immediate availability of land for commercial or residential development has been the greatest challenge facing its longtime residents and potential investors. Lately, this impediment has been addressed by the local authority.

Kisii Golf has experienced major challenges from encroachment through illegal farming activities. The area has since been fenced to control public encroachment. As a result, the area has improved and further developed into a bird sanctuary..

The Kisii Sports Club which claims to have responsibility of managing the golf has put up adequate and viable legislation to govern the green space. Enabling the development of local sport talent and often doubling up as a helipad for visitors.

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Clinton Ondigi Sports Journalist, TV host and news presentor,