Do We Know All Of Kenya’s Tribes And Which Make The 44 Official Ones?

Categories Lifestyle

It has often been said that Kenya has forty four official ethnic groups. The reality, however, is that Kenya has way over forty four tribes and sub-tribes and it is not clear which among them has made it into the list of forty four official tribes.

This article aims to celebrate the uniqueness of each of the tribes and sub-tribes. It aims to show how the diverse ethnic, cultural and traditional experiences make Kenya great and a heritage of splendor.

We start with the Swahili; who, with all majesty, gave away their language to, not only be made Kenya’s national language, but also to be an official language of several countries in East Africa and beyond.

Then comes the Maasai, the Samburu, the Borana and all others who have proudly conserved their original culture, traditions, beliefs and history even amidst the strong influence of the outside world and modern culture. From their mode of dressing, such as the red-stripped shukas, the magnificent multi-beaded plate-like necklaces, earrings, bracelets  and other traditional regalia of the Maasai and the Samburu; and the turbans and white cotton robes of Gabbra men and the Kanga of their women; to their warrior tradition; to their artistic, striking body decorations; and, to their semi-nomadic lifestyles. And the Maasai we are celebrating here include all the sixteen sections of the Maasai (known in Maasai as Iloshon); namely, the Ildamat, Ilpurko, Ilkeekonyokie, Iloitai, Ilkaputiei, Ilkankere, Isiria, Ilmoitanik, Iloodokilani, Iloitokitoki, Ilarusa, Ilmatatapato, Ilwuasinkishu, Kore, Parakuyu, Ilkisonko, and Iltorobo.

Following the Maasai are the Mijikenda, the Kalenjin and all others whose staple food makes Kenyan cuisine and delicacies mouth-watering and enjoyable to the taste-buds around the world; the likes of the Mijikenda’s ‘wali’ (rice prepared with coconut milk), and the Kalenjin’s ‘mursik’ (traditionally fermented milk), served with a nicely prepared ‘nyama choma-ugali-sukuma wiki’ dish. And the Mijikenda we are celebrating here include all their nine different sub-tribes; namely, the Giriama, Digo, Chonyi, Duruma, Jibana, Kambe, Kauma, Rabai and Ribe.

Then comes the Asians, the Luhya, the Suba, the Luo and all others who have produced men and women who use their skills and muscles to win international accolades and medals for Kenya in games such as hockey, netball, cricket, rugby, and football. And the Luhya we are celebrating here include all their eighteen sub-tribes; namely, the Bukusu, Maragoli, Banyala, Banyore, Batsotso, Gisu, Idakho, Isukha, Kabras, Khayo, Kisa, Marachi, Marama, Masaaba, Samia, Tachoni, Tiriki and Wanga.

A special tribute goes to Kenya’s amazing traditional dances; including the ohangla of the Luo, mwomboko of the Kikuyu, isikuti of the Luhya, chakacha of the Mijikenda, kilumi of the Kamba, adumu of the Maasai, and sengenya of the Digo; dances to music produced by Kenya’s astounding traditional musical instruments; including the nyatiti of the Luo, to the burkandit of the Kalenjin, mukanda of the Kamba, and mshondo of the Giriama.

We then celebrate the Asians, the Somali, the Kamba, the Embu, the Kikuyu, the Mbeere, the Tharaka, the Meru, the Kisii, the Kalenjin, the Taita, and all others who have unmatchable entrepreneurial zeal. And the Somali we are celebrating here are all their clans including the Ogaden, the Hawiye, the Gosha, the Degodia, the Garre, and the Ajuran.

Sincere accolades go to the Luhya, the Kikuyu, the Kamba, the Kisii, the Taveta, the Tharaka, the Kalenjin, the Embu, the Watha, the Pokomo, the Teso, the Meru, the Mbeere, the Kuria, the Mijikenda, the Taita, the Luo, and all other agriculturalists who toil day and night to grow crops and rear livestock to feed the nation.

Kudos to the Rendille, the Dorobo, the Orma, the Somali, the Sakuye, the Turkana, the Borana, the Maasai, the Samburu, and all others who are nomadic and semi-nomadic; who utilize the scarce water, pasture or grazing land in the vast and harsh arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya to produce 75% of our livestock meat needs. And the Dorobo we are celebrating here include all their constituent peoples, namely, the Ogiek, the Mukogodo (the former Yaaku),the Kinare, the Chaamus (Njemps), the Omiotik, the Maasai Dorobo (Iltorobo), the Mosiro, the Aramanick, the Kisankasa, the Mediak, and the El-molo.

Special honor goes to the Luo, the Kuria, the Pokomo, the Makonde, the Njemps, the Bajuni, the Suba, and all others who are out at night in the oceans, lakes and the seas fishing when the rest of the country is asleep.

Hats off to the Kalenjin and all others who are swift and accomplished runners; and the Kalenjins we are celebrating here are all the eight sub-tribes, namely, the Kipsigis, Nandi, Tugen, Keiyo, Marakwet, Pokot, Sabaot, and Terik. Their athletic prowess is acknowledged both nationally and internationally.

We honor the Kamba, the Pokot, the Nubi, the Makonde, the Kisii, and all others who have exceptional embroidery, carving, pottery and basketry skills; their unique wooden, soapstone or metal sculptures and weaved sisal baskets are sold in curio shops and art galleries in Kenya’s major cities and abroad.

We salute the Sengwer, the Yaaku, the Aweer (also called Boni or Sanye), and all others who have remained as indigenous foragers, traditionally subsisting on hunting, gathering, and collecting honey.

Also honored are tribes that have intermingled and intermarried with others and are diminishing almost to extinction; including the Dahalo who have been assimilated into the Swahili, the Kore who have been assimilated into the Somali, the Yaaku who have been assimilated into the Maasai, the Ogiek or Akiek who are slowly being assimilated into either the Maasai or the Kikuyu, the Suba who are slowly being assimilated into the Luo, and the El Molo who are slowly been assimilated into the Samburu and the Turkana.

What is most admirable is that people from all the tribes interact in all spheres of life and work together in harmony and in one accord to make Kenya the great country that it is; spheres of life that include the work place, catering, health, entertainment, housing, tourism, hospitality, transportation, and education; all united in one common bond, namely, their love for Kenya.

I am an epic introvert, who quickly becomes an open book when I pen what’s in my significantly fertile mind; fertile as a result of bombardment by realities that are continuously captured by my inquisitive eyes, ears which are constantly rubbing the ground, through constant reading, and through dreaming too.

Writing provides an opportunity to ‘say’ what my unapologetic quiet mouth will not say; which not only soothes me, but also bequeaths to me a relief, a release, and a hope that the written words will change the world, even if only one person at a time.

And so should you seek, that’s where to find me; deeply tucked inside the blankets of reading, seeing, listening, dreaming, and then writing.

3 thoughts on “Do We Know All Of Kenya’s Tribes And Which Make The 44 Official Ones?

  1. Congratulations for well researched paper. It gives a footing to the historians and those who want to understand the Kenyan peoples a little bit more.

  2. Well researched and very informative. I forever like the way you express and present you articles. Be blessed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.