After Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, and Mombasa, Kenya’s coastal metropolis, Kisumu is the country’s third-largest city. It is the third-largest city in the Lake Victoria Basin (after Kampala, Uganda, and Mwanza, Tanzania). Kisumu is close to Kogelo, a community most known as the birthplace of Barack Obama Sr., the 44th president of the United States. Kisumu serves as the cultural capital of East Africa’s Luo-speaking people. It was the most significant urban center for Kavirondo residents in the pre-colonial, post-colonial, and modern eras. The historic political quarrel between Kenya’s founding president Jomo Kenyatta and founding vice president Jaramogi Odinga during the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in 1969 is one of the most significant political events that have defined the country’s destiny. In addition to being an important political center, it is also one of Kenya’s most potent industrial and commercial centers. The city’s downtown and lower town are currently undertaking an urban renewal project that involves renovating the lakefront, decongesting important roadways, and making the streets more pedestrian-friendly. Despite its natural beauty, Kisumu has suffered from the national government in Nairobi’s political neglect and weak leadership by the local political elites.
From an adjacent hill, Kisumu City may be viewed.
According to the Kenyan 2019 census, Kisumu is the capital of Kisumu County and has a population of 397,957 people. During the same census, Kisumu County’s rural population was 714,668, showing that the city is home to most of the county’s urban residents, totaling 1,155,574. Kisumu is the former capital of Nyanza Province, the seat of Kisumu County, and a critical commerce link between Lake Victoria and Mombasa due to its maritime and rail links. It’s also the main distribution point for agricultural products from Nyanza and Western provinces. It is the most populous and influential city in Western Kenya. Kisumu is a commerce and transportation hub for western Kenya’s Great Lakes region. Kisumu International Airport regularly has flights to Nairobi and other nearby cities such as Mombasa. Flights to Mwanza, Kampala, Kigali, Dar es Salaam, and Juba have been planned but have yet to be implemented. Although Mwanza has overtaken its population, it is the second-most important city in the broader Lake Victoria Basin after Kampala. The United Nations chose it as a significant city and a “Millennium City” — the first in the world and East Africa.
Kisumu City is its official name (and formerly Port Florence). Kisumu port was established in 1901 as the Uganda Railway’s “Port Florence” inland terminal. Even though trade was stagnant in the 1980s and 1990s, it expanded due to oil exports. Dala (home of the Luos), Kisuma (site of barter commerce), KC (short for Kisumu City), Odhumo (Nairobi sheng for Kisumu), and others are some of the city’s other names. The city’s residents are known as “Kisumunians.” Residents are referred to as Luopeans in allusion to their preference for upper-class and high-end lifestyles similar to those in European cities such as Milan, London, and Paris. Residents frequently remark that “Kisumu is like Europe.”
Kisumu translates to “sumo,” which means “barter commerce.” The city enjoys “friendship” status with Cheltenham in the United Kingdom and “sister city” status with Roanoke, Virginia, and Boulder, Colorado. It is at 1,131 meters (3,711 feet) above sea level. Kisumu is located on the beaches of Lake Victoria, some 320 kilometers (200 miles) northwest of Nairobi. On the northeastern side of the Winam Gulf, Lake Victoria’s long, shallow arm protrudes from the main body. Kisumu is located 24 kilometers (15 miles) south of the Equator and has moderate temperatures due to its elevation of 1130 meters. The enormous Kenya National Game Preserve: the Maasai Mara, a world-renowned safari attraction, is only four hours distant by automobile. Because Kisumu is only a few kilometers south of the Equator. The day is roughly 12 hours long, and local sunset is always between 18:40 and 19:00. [doubtful – debate] The city and its suburbs and the satellite towns of Maseno, Kondele, and Ahero make up the metropolitan region.
Residents of Kisumu, Kenya, in 1911.
Kisumu city is thought to be one of Kenya’s oldest communities. According to historical documents, Kisumu was ruled by many communities at various times long before Europeans arrived. At the point of Lake Victoria, people from the Nandi, Kalenjin, Kisii, Maasai, Luo, and Luhya clans converged and named the spot “sumo,” which means “barter trade.” For example, each community gave it a different name:
The Luo termed it “Kisumo,” which means “a location to look for food,” and they would say things like “I’m going Kisuma” to signify “I’m going to look for food.”
It was termed “Abhasuma” by the Abaluhya, which means “a place to borrow food,” and the Luhya say “I am going Khusuma” to imply “I am going to beg food.”
It was named “egesumu” by the Abagusii, which meant “a structure for keeping/rearing chicken.” The Abagusii are thought to have been in Kisumu. Still, they discovered that the city was unsuitable for crop farming and agriculture.
The name “Kisumett” was given by the Nandi, which means “a spot where food was obtained during times of scarcity and exchange,” Nandi and Terik could not attack regardless of the situation.
Agricultural processing, brewing, and textile production are the primary industries. Asians originally made up more than a quarter of the population. Still, their numbers fell after the country gained independence in 1963.
Early in 1898, British explorers identified Kisumu as an alternate railway terminus and port for the Uganda railway, then under construction. It was to take the place of Port Victoria, which was then an essential stop on the caravan trade route along the Nzoia River’s delta. Kisumu was strategically placed on the beaches of Lake Victoria, on the edge of the Winam Gulf, at the end of the caravan route from Pemba, Mombasa, and Malindi, with the potential for steamer connections to the entire Lake region. The first skeleton plan for Kisumu was drawn out in July 1899. This comprised landing spots and harbors along the northern shoreline, approximately where Airport Road now stands. The concept also featured demarcations for government buildings and retail stores.
In May 1900, a new design was drawn up, with plots allocated to a few European enterprises and Indian businesspeople who had come to Kisumu on contracts to build the Uganda Railway and decided to reside at the developing terminus. A jetty for flying boats was included in a later plan (now used by the Fisheries Department). The 62-ton ship SS William Mackinnon was reconstructed and registered in Kisumu in October 1900. It made its inaugural voyage to Entebbe, launching Lake Marine Services. In 1902 and 1904, the SS Winifred (1901) and the SS Sybil (1901) were added to the fleet. The railway line reached the Kisumu dock on Friday, December 20, 1901, and the city was renamed Port Florence.
The railway line was open for cargo and passenger operations by February. Kisumu also hosts Kenya’s first flight; the current police workshop was the country’s first hangar. Before the advent of jet airlines, the city served as a stopover for passengers and mail on the British flying boat passenger and postal route from Southampton to Cape Town. Kisumu also served as a link between Port Bell and Nairobi. Meanwhile, it was discovered that the township’s initial location north of the Nyanza Gulf was unsuitable for growth due to its flat topography and low soils. As a result, a new site was found, and the town was relocated to the ridge on the Gulf’s southern shore, where it still stands today. As a result, in 1902, a new plan was drawn up that detailed the fundamental shape of the new settlement on the southern crest. Several government buildings were constructed following that, including the former Provincial Commissioner’s Office (now State Lodge) and the Old Prison (now earmarked for creating an Anglican Cathedral).
The township limits were gazetted in 1903, with 12,000 acres designated aside for development, including water. In place of Port Florence, the new township reverted to its previous name, Kisumu. On Mumias Road, north of the Gulf, there existed an ‘Old Kisumu,’ which comprised two rows of Stalls (Dukas). It was demolished in the 1920s when new sites became available on Odera and Ogada Streets in modern-day Kisumu, earning the region the name ‘New Bazaar.’ In 1907, Winston Churchill paid a visit to Kisumu.
By the 1930s and 1940s, the city had established itself as a significant Kenyan commercial, administrative, and military center. In the 1960s, Asians outnumbered natives by a large margin. In 1940, the town was upgraded to a Municipal Board and then to a Municipal Council in 1960. Kisumu experienced relatively little development in the early 1960s, with a severe scarcity of housing homes, shops, and offices. Following the proclamation of independence in 1963, the issue was exacerbated by the inflow of locals into the town.
As a result of the breakdown of the East African Community in 1977, the city’s growth and prosperity paused temporarily. The community’s reformation in 1996 and its status as a “city” fueled the city’s development. The transformation of international commerce and trade and exports of goods headed for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania have boosted the port’s activity.
Kisumu is currently one of Kenya’s fastest-growing cities. It has strong sugar and rice irrigation sectors, which contribute significantly to the national economy due to its natural resources and status as Kenya’s business epicenter.
Languages and Culture
Kenya has two official languages, one of which is English and Kiswahili. The majority of Kisumu citizens are trilingual and speak Dholuo, the indigenous language of the Luo, Kenya’s fourth-largest ethnic group, which comprises 90 percent of Kisumu residents. There has been a significant surge in other local ethnic communities inside the city due to its growth after devolution.
Kisumu has a tropical rainforest environment with no dry season and substantial year-round rainfall. January is the driest month, while April has the most significant rain. 22.9 degrees Celsius is the average temperature.
Kisumu has exceptionally fertile ground, and the region’s temperature and rainfall changes, with two wet seasons per year, create an ideal setting for a wide variety of crops. A total of 1.6 million hectares of agricultural land are located in the Kisumu region. However, according to estimates, only 58 percent of the land is now used. The vast bulk of farming in the lake basin is subsistence-based, resulting in low production. Current agricultural yields are much lower than soil and climate conditions. The lack of guaranteed markets and accompanying support services is blamed for the recent poor land utilization and outcomes. Livestock farming, like agriculture, is currently predominantly a subsistence endeavor. Cattle are primarily indigenous breeds that produce less milk than grade cattle.
Aquaculture, The Kenyan portion of Lake Victoria, encompasses over 0.4 million hectares (4,100 square kilometers) and has 550 kilometers of lake shoreline, the majority of which is underutilized.
Interesting points of interest
The Jomo Kenyatta Sports Ground is located in Nairobi, Kenya.
Kibuye Market, Oile Market, the Kisumu Museum, a bird sanctuary, Hippo Point, an impala sanctuary, shopping malls, and the adjacent Kit Mikaye and Ndere Island National Parks are among the city’s attractions. Kisumu has modernized over the years, but it still has an old town feel, especially on the outskirts, and the culture is still robust.
Night in Kisumu
Clock in the Town
On Oginga Odinga Road, Kisumu’s major thoroughfare, a tall Town Clock stands in the middle of the road. The then-Governor of Kenya, Sir Robert Brooke-Popham, unveiled it on August 19, 1938. Kassim Lakha, who arrived in 1871 in East Africa and died in Kampala in 1910, is commemorated by the Town Clock. According to the inscription on the Town Clock, it was built by his sons Mohamed, Alibhai, Hassan, and Rahimtulla Kassim.
Kisumu Museum is located in Kisumu, Kenya.
The Kisumu Museum, which opened in 1980, features a series of outdoor pavilions in the shape of a Luo farmhouse. Live animals can be found in some of the pavilions. One pavilion, for example, has multiple aquaria with a wide variety of fish from Lake Victoria and educational displays. A terrarium with mambas, spitting cobras, puff adders, and other venomous Kenyan snakes may be found in another pavilion. Outside, the museum features a snake pit and a crocodile container, among other displays.
Weaponry, jewelry, farm equipment, and other artifacts manufactured by the Nyanza Province’s many peoples are displayed in separate pavilions. There are also plush animals, birds, and fish on display. The prehistoric TARA rock art, which was brought to the museum for its safety after being destroyed by graffiti in its original position, is housed in one pavilion.
The UNESCO-sponsored Ber-gi-dala is the museum’s most essential and most extensive display.
A full-scale replica of a typical Luo homestead can be found here. Ber-gi-dala comprises a fictional Luo man’s residence, granaries, livestock corrals, and the homes of his all three wives and eldest son. The display also describes the Luo people’s origins, migration to western Kenya, traditional medicinal plants, and the process of creating a new home through signage and audio programs in both Luo and English.
Beach and Wetlands of Dunga
The Dunga Wetland Pedagogical Centre, which Ecofinder Kenya created near Dunga Beach, is a grass-roots-led initiative with the overarching cardinal purpose of empowering the Dunga Wetland Community and improving the livelihood stability of its people. As a result, the center’s principal goals include encouraging Eco-Cultural Tourism and assisting in conserving the Dunga Papyrus Wetland Ecosystem.
Kisumu Impala Sanctuary is a wildlife sanctuary in Kisumu, Kenya.
The Kisumu Impala Sanctuary is located in Kisumu. Impala Park, a sanctuary, was known as Connaught Parade during British control. The sanctuary is the smallest wildlife preserve in Kenya, at about 1 square kilometer (0.39 square miles). It is home to an impala herd, as its name suggests. There are also several hippos and a variety of reptiles and birds. Several caged baboons and leopards are also kept after encountering difficulties in the wild. There are around 115 distinct bird species that dwell there.
At the Impala Sanctuary, there are cheetahs.
Hippo Point is a 240-hectare (590-acre) observation area on Lake Victoria. Despite its name, it is better known for its uninterrupted sunsets over the lake than its occasional hippos. Hippo point lies a few kilometers south of the city, near the settlement of Dunga. A fishing port and a camping area are also available in the hamlet.
Kit Mikayi is a big rock with three rocks on top that can be found off Kisumu Bondo Road in the direction of Bondo. In Dholuo, the Luo language, Kit-mikayi means “Stones of the First Wife” or “First Wife Rocks.” Mikayi (literally, “the first wife”) is said to have gone up the hill to the rocks when her husband took his second wife and has been sobbing ever since. It has become a popular local pilgrimage site for the Legio Maria sect members, who visit the rock for several weeks to pray and fast.
Ndere Island is a small island off the coast of Kenya.
Ndere Island is a small island in the Winam Gulf of Lake Victoria in Kenya (4.2 km2 or 1.6 sq mi). The Ndere Island National Reserve was established in November 1986 and has remained uninhabited. There are outstanding sweeping views of the lake, with a more quiet atmosphere than the mainland.
Kisumu All Stars and Kisumu Telkom FC are among the clubs that call Ndere Island Sport Moi stadium home. The county will build a new stadium, according to Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, the governor and father of Hollywood star Lupita Nyong’o. At the same time, the country’s present government intends to construct a national stadium. Neither concept has come to fruition as of 2018.
Kisumu RFC represents Kisumu in the national rugby league. The city is also one of only six city hosts for the national rugby sevens circuit leg. The Dala sevens is the name given to the Kisumu leg of the yearly competition, which draws thousands of supporters from all around Kenya.
Kisumu Lakeside, which plays its home games at Jomo Kenyatta Sports Grounds, is also well-represented in the Kenya Basketball Federation League.
Kisumu International Airport is in Kisumu, Kenya.
Kisumu was a stopover on the British flying boat passenger and mail route from Southampton to Cape Town before the jet aircraft era. Kisumu served as a link between Port Bell and Nairobi.
Kisumu has an international airport, Kisumu International Airport, with daily flights to Nairobi and Mombasa. Following the completion of the passenger terminals, the airport freight facility is currently being expanded in expectation of more significant trade brought about by the newly formed East African Community comprising Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Kisumu Harbour is located in Kisumu, Kenya. Water hyacinth is the green vegetation.
Lake Victoria boats have run between the port and Tanzania’s Mwanza and Bukoba and Uganda’s Entebbe, Port Bell, and Jinja. The SS Sybilla and the SS Nyanza were the first steamships built in Kisumu in 1905.
The Uganda Railway, which began in Mombasa and ended in Kisumu in 1901, was discussed above under ‘History.’ There are currently no passenger trains running between Nairobi and Kisumu in 2013. The newer standard gauge railway is now being extended from Nairobi to Kisumu (2018). The city is planning a new passenger terminal.
On July 24, 2009, President Kibaki inaugurated a Ksh. 6.8 billion road project to revamp Kisumu’s road network.
The A104 highway connects the city to the towns of Nakuru, Nairobi, and Mombasa and the B1 route to the north rift city of Eldoret. A 450-kilometer lake Victoria ring road is now being built along the lake’s borders and will pass through the town.
Accidents on trains and in the air
Three South African Air Force planes fell into Lake Victoria shortly after taking off from Kisumu Airport during World War II. The first was a Lockheed Lodestar aircraft transporting a top South African military commander, Major General Dan Pienaar, which crashed on December 19, 1942, killing all 12 people on board. The other two crashes involved Douglas C-47 planes, the first on May 11, 1945 (one fatality), and the second on July 11, 1945 (exactly three months later) (28 deaths). Those killed in the first two accidents were returned to South Africa. In contrast, those killed in the third accident were interred in the Kisumu war cemetery.  The katabatic wind, which frequently strikes Kisumu in the early morning, is now assumed to cause the incidents.
In the 2000s, two significant railway accidents occurred near Kisumu.
On August 15, 2000, the first took place outside of Kisumu. The train’s brakes failed, and it began to roll. Thirteen people were murdered, and another 37 were injured. On October 16, 2005, the second occurred when a passenger train collided with a matatu (taxi minibus). Six individuals were killed, while another 23 were injured.
Following it, there have been numerous accidents in the country’s biggest cities, including Ojola/Kisian, Kisat Bridge, Ahero, Sondu, and Awasi, to name a few.
Education (primary school)
Kisumu has a wide range of public and private schools to select from. Some of the most well-known are:
Kisumu’s Aga Khan Elementary School is a well-known private primary school in the city.
Obwolo Primary School is a public co-educational primary school in the Winam Division’s Kajulu ward.