Kenya offers a distinct collection of cultures and customs. The traditions and cultures vary by ethnicity. In Kenya, ethnicity is a huge concern, so much so that there are over 42 ethnic groups, also known as tribes. The majority of the tribes are Bantus, Nilotes, Cushites, and Asian Europeans. The Bantu constituted the greater part, followed by the Nilotes and then the Cushitic communities. This article provides a list of Kenya’s ten largest tribes.
As of the year 2019, the Kikuyu people are the most numerous ethnic group in Kenya, making up approximately 23 percent of the total population. Although the majority of the tribe’s members live in the Central area of Kenya, members of this ethnic group can be found all over Kenya in smaller numbers. The vast majority of Kikuyu people are agriculturalists. They cultivate significant quantities of coffee and Tea on their land. According to tradition, a Kikuyu man is permitted to have numerous wives so long as he is able to provide for all of them.
After the Kikuyu, the Luhya come in second with a population between 11,743,149 to 20,000,000. It is also referred to as Abaluyia and Luyia. The Luhya primarily inhabit the western region of Kenya. Luhya refers to the 20 clans and dialects of the Luhya people.
The population of the Kalenjin community ranges between 4,967,328 and 6 million individuals, based on the 2019 census. The statistics indicate that the Kalenjin tribe is the third largest in Kenya, behind the Kikuyu and the Luhya. The community has distinctive traditions and rituals, including circumcision and the age-based social organization system. For survival, the majority of the population resides in the Rift valley counties and does agriculture and livestock husbandry. The region’s excellent soils favor the cultivation of Tea and maize, two of the crops they cultivate. Within the Kalenjin are lesser tribes such as the Nandi, sebei, pokot, sabaot, Tugen, Kipsigis, Marakwet, Endorois, and Elgeyo.
Population: 5 million
They constitute the fourth largest population in Kenya. The Luo speak Dholuo, a dialect of the Nilotic language family. This community represents approximately 15% of the country’s population and primarily resides in the Nyanza area. Due to their proximity to Lake Victoria, they rely heavily on fishing as an economic activity and are known as traditional fishermen. Other cultural practices of the Luo include wrestling for young men of specific ages, keeping animals as a supplement to their diet, and subsistence agriculture.
The Kamba, also known as the Wakamba, are a Bantu people who occupy the majority of the former Eastern province, which encompasses Machakos, Kitui, and Makueni counties. According to the 2019 census, there are between 4,663,910 and 6,000,000 Kamba people. They are the fifth largest community in Kenya, according to the data. The Kamba are Bantus and are culturally and linguistically related to the Kikuyu, Embu, and Meru. They were initially hunters and gatherers, but as the times have changed, they have transitioned to other economic activities, including agriculture, commerce, and formal employment for some.
Population: 3 million
During the census that took place in Kenya in 2019, there were around 3 million Somalis counted. They engage in pastoralism as their principal form of economic activity, and their territory is located in the country’s northeastern corner. The Bantus and the other Somali minorities should not be confused with this particular group. The Cushites, of which this tribe is a member, were the first people to settle in Kenya, arriving there before the Bantus. A significant number of Somalis call their god Eabe, and their culture involves the practice of intermarriage.
They also go by the names Abagusii and Gusii and dwell in western Kenya. They adopted their patriarch’s name, Mogusii. This ethnic group resides in Nyamira, Kisii, Nyanza, Kericho, and Bomet. The Abagusii are closely related to the Maragoli, Ikoma, Ngurimi, Rangi, Zanaki, and Rangi linguistically. Principal economic activities include crop agriculture, animal husbandry, and industrial pursuits such as pottery and blacksmithing. They practice traditions such as circumcision, which is a rite of passage into adulthood, and they customarily play the obokano, a big bass lyre. Their primary diet consists of cattle meat, milk, and blood. They also graze on cereals such as millet and sorghum. According to the 2019 census, the community has a total population of 2,703,235 people.
Population: 2.7 million
Mijikenda is a cluster of nine tribes linked to Bantu ethnic groups living along the Kenyan coast.The nine tribes include the Pokomo, Chonyi, Giriama, Jibana, and Swahili. Originally residing in coastal cities, the Mijikenda community relocated inland to avoid Portuguese armies. They speak Mijikenda, Swahili, and English as their primary languages, according to the 2019 census data.
The Meru village resides on Mount Kenya’s northeastern slope. They are a Bantu ethnic group that also goes by the name Amiiru. The Meru are connected to the Kikuyu, Embu, Mbeere, Kamba, Temi, and Dhaiso ethnic groups. The meaning of the Banytu name Meru is “shining light.” The community consists of nine subgroups, namely Imenti, Igoji, Tigania, Mitine, Mwimbi, Chuka, Muthambi, and Tharaka. They speak Kimiiru, Kikamba, Kiembu, Kiembu and Kikuyu. The 2019 census revealed that the total population of the Meru people was 2,195,887 individuals. Their primary faiths are traditional African religion and Christianity. The culture of the Meru is remarkably close to that of the highland Bantu. They perform circumcision as a required rite of passage for boys and raise cattle in addition to cultivating a range of crops.
The Maasai are semi-nomadic, pastoral people that reside in the northern, central, and southern regions of Kenya. Their primary economic activity is cattle and goat herding. They survive well where there are big tracks of land. They are well-liked around the world due to their propensity to inhabit areas close to game parks and reserves, where pastoral lands are readily available. According to the 2019 census, the Maasai population is 1,189,522. They practice Maasai, Christianity, Isam, and Maasai mythology as their primary religions. Other closely related ethnic groups include the Ilchamus and Samburu.