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The ethnic group of Teso (or Iteso, people of Teso) are found in Eastern Uganda and western Kenya. Teso refers to their traditional homeland of  Iteso, and Ateso their language.

Teso can trace their ancestry to present day Alexandra, Egypt. They are believed to have descended from the Hebrew Joseph who had married a black Egyptian.

When the Israeli slaves left Egypt for the promised land, the group followed the blue Nile river into Ethiopia. It is from here that they obtained the name Iteso, meaning we have seen. They saw a land, part of the promise to Jacob, the grand son of Abraham. They later migrated south West over a period of centuries.

Northern & Southern Teso

The Teso people were part of a larger group of Nilo-Hamitic peoples who include; the Masai and Turkana of Kenya. 

The Teso established themselves in present-day north-eastern Uganda, and in the mid-18th century some began to move farther south. During the course of this southern migration, conflicts with other ethnic groups in the region developed. This led to the split of Teso territory into a northern and southern part.

Ugandan & Kenyan Teso

In 1902, part of eastern Uganda was transferred to western Kenya - leading to further separation of Teso.

Northern Teso occupy the area previously known as Teso District in Uganda (now the districts of Amuria, Soroti, Kumi, Katakwi, Pallisa, Bukedea and Kaberamaido).

Southern Teso live mainly in the districts of Tororo, Bugiri and Busia in Uganda, and Busia District in Kenya's Western Province.


In Uganda, the Iteso number about 3.2 million (9.6% of Uganda's population). Until 1980, they were the second largest ethnic group in Uganda.

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