Sub-counties, also known as Districts, are the decentralised units through which government of Kenya provides functions and services.[1] At national level, sub-counties take a more administrative function like security, statistical purposes, provision of government services, etc. Even though the sub-counties are divisions of counties, powers to create new national sub-counties lies with the national government. As of 2023, there are 314 sub-counties, compared to 290 constituencies. A deputy county commissioner is appointed by the state to lead each sub-county. The sub-counties are further divided into divisions, locations and sub-locations.

Districts were introduced in Kenya by the colonial government for ease control and management of the colony. The number of districts in Kenya through the colonial period varied. Headed by District Commissioners (DC), districts were the second level of administration after the provinces. In 1962, as the colony was transitioning to self-rule, the colonial government redrew the districts and capped them at forty, in addition to the Nairobi Area.[2] A bicameral parliament meant that the districts were to send one senator to the Senate. In 1966, the Senate was abolished by an amendment to the constitution, making the districts purely administrative. By 1992, one district had been eliminated, five more had been created by splitting some of the existing districts. By the start of the 21st century more districts had been created, and by 2005, seventy two districts were in existence, and by 2010, Kenya had 265 districts. In 2009, the High Court declared all districts created after 1992 unlawful, though they remained functional.

Under the former Constitution of Kenya, the Provinces of Kenya were subdivided into a number of districts (wilaya). In line with restructuring the national administration to fit with the devolved government system brought in by the 2010 Constitution, that came into full effect following elections in March 2013, the 8 provinces and their administrators and districts were replaced by County Commissioners at the county level, while former districts existing as of 2013 were re-organised as sub-counties, and had Deputy Commissioners appointed over them.[3]

At county government level, except for the parts which fall under urban areas, sub-counties coincide with the constituencies created under article 89 of the Constitution of Kenya.[4] In that case, constituencies are sometimes referred to as 'sub-counties' at county management level, but defer significantly from the sub-counties at national level. The sub-counties have a sub-county administrator, appointed by a County Public Service Board.[5] The sub-counties or constituencies in this case are further divided into wards and villages. The county governments are mandated to appoint administrators in both decentralised levels.

List of the 46 districts plus the capital of Kenya (as of 1992)

Following a High Court ruling in September 2009, there were 46 legal districts in Kenya,[6] excluding Nairobi which constituted a 47th district.

Following the Kenyan general election, 2013, these districts and Nairobi now constitute the 47 counties which will be the basis for rolling out devolution as set out in the 2010 Constitution of Kenya (district headquarters are in parentheses):

Coast Province:

North Eastern Province:

Eastern Province:

Central Province:

Rift Valley Province:

Western Province:

Nyanza Province:

All these 46 districts (plus Nairobi) have been replaced with 47 counties since March 2013, promoting them as the first level of administrative subdivisions of the country, and the 8 former provinces (which were the first level of subdivisions) have been dissolved.

New districts started to be created by President Moi, and there were up to 57 districts in 2003 when President Kibaki first came into office.

List of the 70 districts of Kenya (starting 2007)

In early January 2007, 37 new districts were created by the government from the 14 former districts, rising their number to 70.[7][8]

More recent (defunct) districts (after 2007 up to March 2013)

Many more districts have been created since then, such that in July 2009 there were 254 districts (an up to 256 districts plus Nairobi on 20 September 2009, when the High Court outlawed 210 of them).[9]

The creation of new districts has been criticised by opponents for being waste of money and a populist attempt to please local residents. The government, however, say new districts bring services closer to the people and will provide security.[9]

The following list contains 208 districts, taken from a Kenyan government website in July 2009 (the list is incomplete, but their number stopped growing after the High Court decision in September 2009):[10]

Districts Headquarters
Central Province
Gatanga District
Gatundu District Gatundu
Githunguri District Githunguri
Kabete District
Kandara District
Kiambaa District Kiambu
Kiambu East District Kiambu
Kiambu West District Limuru
Kieni West District Chaka
Kieni East District Chaka
Kigumo District
Kipipiri District
Kirinyaga Central District
Kirinyaga East District Kerugoya
Kirinyaga South District
Kirinyaga West District
Lari District
Mirangini District
Mukurweini District Mukurweini
Muranga East District Muranga
Muranga South District Kenol
Nyandarua Central District Ol Kalou
Nyandarua North District Nyahururu
Nyandarua South District Engineer
Nyandarua West District
Nyeri Central District Nyeri
Nyeri East District Karatina
Nyeri South District Nyeri
Ruiru District
Thika East District Thika
Thika West District
Coast Province
Kaloleni District Kizurini
Kilifi District Kilifi
Kilindini District Dongo Kundu
Kinango District Kinango
Kwale District Kwale
Lamu District Lamu
Malindi District Malindi
Mombasa District Mombasa
Msabweni District Msambweni
Taita District Wundanyi
Tana Delta District
Tana River District Hola
Taveta District Taveta
Eastern Province
Buuri District Timau
Embu East District Rúnyenjes
Embu West District Embu
Garbatula District Garbatula
Igembe North District Laare
Igembe South District Maua
Imenti North District Meru
Imenti South District Nkubu
Isiolo District Isiolo
Kangundo District Kangundo
Kathiani District
Kathonzweni District
Kibwezi District Makindu
Kilungu District
Kitui Central District Kitui
Kitui West District
Kyuso District Kyuso
Maara District Kieganguru
Machakos District Machakos
Makueni District Wote
Marsabit District Marsabit
Marsabit North District Malkona
Marsabit South District Laisamis
Masinga District
Matungulu District
Mbeere North District Siakago
Mbeere South District Kírítirí
Mbooni East District Mbumbuni
Mbooni West District Mbooni
Meru Central District Gatimbi
Meru South District Chuka
Moyale District Moyale
Mukaa District
Mutitu District
Mutomo District Mutomo
Mwala District
Mwingi District Mwingi
Nzaui District
Tharaka North District Marimanti
Tharaka South District
Tigania East District Muriri
Tigania West District Urru
Yatta District Kithimani
Nairobi Province
Nairobi East District Komarock
Nairobi North District Kasarani
Nairobi West District Ndararua/J.Kangethe
Westlands District
North Eastern Province
Fafi District Bura
Garissa District Garissa
Ijara District Masaini
Lagdera District Modogashe
Mandera Central District Mandera
Mandera East District El Wak
Mandera North District Rhamu
Mandera West District Tabaka
Wajir East District Wajir
Wajir North District Bute
Wajir South District Habaswein
Wajir West District Gritu
Nyanza Province
Bondo District Bondo
Borabu District Nyansiongo
Gucha District Ogembo
Homa Bay District Homa Bay
Kanyanya District
Kisii Central District Kisii
Kisii South District Kerina
Kisumu East District Holo
Kisumu West District Kisumu
Kuria East District Kegonga
Kuria West District Kehancha
Manga District Manga
Marani District
Masaba District Keroka
Mbita District
Migori District Migori
Ndhiwa District Ndhiwa
North Masaba District
Nyakach District Pap Ondit
Nyamache District
Nyamira District Nyamira
Nyamira North District
Nyando District Awasi
Nyatike District Macaider
Rachuonyo North District
Rachuonyo South District
Rarieda District Madiany
Rongo District Rongo
Siaya District Siaya
South Gucha District Nyamarambe
Suba District Mbita
Uriri District
Rift Valley Province
Baringo Central District Kabarnet
Baringo North District Kabartonjo
Bomet District Bomet
Buret District Litein
East Pokot District Chemlingot
Eldoret East District Naiberi
Eldoret West District Eldoret
Kajiado North District Kajiado
Kajiado South District
Keiyo District Iten
Kericho District Kericho
Kipkelion District Kipkelion
Koibatek District Eldama Ravine
Kwanza District Endebess
Laikipia Central District
Laikipia East District Nanyuki
Laikipia North District Mukogodo
Laikipia West District Rumuruti
Loima District
Loitoktok District Loitoktok
Marakwet District Kapsowar
Marigat District
Mogotio District
Molo District Molo
Naivasha District Naivasha
Nakuru District Nakuru Town
Nakuru North District Bahati
Nandi Central District Kapsabet
Nandi East District -
Nandi North District Kabiyet
Nandi South District Kabujoi
Narok North District Narok
Narok South District Olulunga
Njoro District
North Pokot District Kacheliba
Nyahururu District Nyahururu
Pokot Central District Sighor
Samburu Central District Maralal
Samburu East District Wamba
Samburu North District Baragoi
Sotik District Sotik
Tinderet District Maraba
Trans Nzoia East District Maili Saba
Trans Nzoia West District Kitale
Trans Mara District Kilgoris
Turkana Central District Lodwar
Turkana East District
Turkana North District Lokitaung
Turkana South District Lokichar
Turkana West District
Wareng District Kesses
West Pokot District Kapenguria
Western Province
Bungoma Central District Chwele
Bungoma East District Webuye
Bungoma North District Kimilili
Bungoma South District Bungoma
Bungoma West District Sirisia
Bunyula District Budalangi
Busia District Busia
Butere District Butere
Emuhaya District Kima
Hamisi District Hamisi
Kakamega Central District Kakamega
Kakamega East District Shinyalu
Kakamega North District Malava
Kakamega South District Malinya
Lugari District Lumakanda
Mt. Elgon District Kapsokwony
Mumias District Mumias
Samia District Funyula
Teso North District Amagoro
Teso South District Amakura
Vihiga District Mbale

Sub-counties (since March 2013)

In August 2009, however, the High Court of Kenya declared all districts created after 1992 illegal. The judge stated that the districts were created "in complete disregard of the law". As a result, Kenya had only 46 legal districts (excluding Nairobi with its special constitutional status as the capital of the country).[11] Following the March 2013 elections, these 46 districts – together with the City of Nairobi – constitute the 47 counties into which Kenya is now divided administratively, and they are also the 47 constituencies for the elections to the National Senate.

All the former districts have disappeared (as well as the former 8 provinces whose devolution was transferred to the new 47 counties), and are now considered only as "sub-counties", without autonomy; they are used in urban areas for a limited organisation for providing public services locally. These remaining sub-counties are transitional and could be replaced by more efficient cooperative structures grouping the local services in organised cities and their surrounding towns, either for dedicated missions or for temporary plans; so they may be deeply reorganised or disappear at any time. The remaining sub-counties already do not match with the subdivision of the new 47 counties into electoral-only "wards" (based on resident population, to determine the number of elected seats for each county in the National Senate.

Nairobi sub-counties


  1. ^ Decentralized Units, Section 48 (1) (b) County Governments Act 2012
  2. ^ "Kenya Gazette dated 2nd April, 1963" (PDF). Gazettes.Africa. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  3. ^ Momanyi, Bernard (11 May 2012). "Kibaki names 47 County Commissioners". Capital News. Archived from the original on 14 March 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  4. ^ Decentralized Units, Section 48 (2) County Government Act, 2012
  5. ^ Office of the sub-county administrator, section 50, County Government Act 2012
  6. ^ Nyasato, Robert (5 September 2009). "High Court outlaws 210 districts created by Moi and Kibaki since 1992". The Standard. Archived from the original on 1 July 2014.
  7. ^ List of the new districts from the website of the Kenyan embassy in Germany (pdf)[dead link]
  8. ^ "Newspaper report on the new districts (Kibaki Gives Kenya 37 New Districts – Jan 19, 2007)". Archived from the original on 24 July 2009. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  9. ^ a b "All constituencies now turned into districts". Daily Nation. Retrieved 18 October 2010.
  10. ^ Office of Public Communications: List of Provinces, Districts & Contacts Archived 15 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ The Standard, 27 September 2009: After Ringera, House to take on Kibaki over new districts