There are at least 47 ethnic groups in Kenya that are classified into 3 major groups that include: Bantu, Cushitic and Nilotic. Kikuyu-bantu are the largest community in Kenya that holds a larger percent in Kenya. Together, the five largest groups – the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kamba, and Kalenjin – make up 70% of Kenya’s population and form the top tribes in Kenya
The Kikuyu, who were most actively involved in the independence and Mau Mau movements, seem to be disproportionately represented in public life, government, business and the professions.
The Luo people are mainly traders and artisans.
The Kamba are well represented in defense and law enforcement.
The Kalenjin are mainly farmers.
Kalenjins also are known as great athletes in long-distance running sports. All these groups are said to have originated from a place due to several challenges and settled in Kenya.
Cushites were the first in Kenya from southern parts of Ethiopia. Cushitic people live in the arid and semi-arid eastern and northeastern parts of Kenya. They reside along a very large area of land that runs from the east of Lake Turkana, stretches to the north of Kenya, and through to the Indian Ocean. Cushites include the Somali, Rendile, Borana and Oromo tribes. They are pastoralist.
Bantus originated from the central part of Africa. The word Bantus mean “human beings”. The Bantus are industrious farmers. Bantu speakers account for nearly two-thirds of the population although they traditionally occupy less than a third of the national territory.
Their land, however, is among the most fertile and supports agricultural and animal keeping. Coastal Bantus include those who live near the coast and in the plains: Pokomo, Taita, Makonde, Taveta and the ‘nine tribes’ of the Mijikenda (Digo, Chonyi, Kambe, Duruma, Kauma, Ribe, Jibana, and Giriama).
Highland Bantus live in the central highlands near Mt Kenya and the Aberdares Range: Chuka, Aembu, Mbeere, Kamba, Agikuyu, and Ameru.
Nilotes comprise the Luo, Maasai, Pokot, Samburu, Turkana, and many of the subgroups which constitute the Kalenjin. They occupy the vast sweep of western Kenya’s Rift Valley, which skirts the border of Uganda from Sudan in the north to Tanzania in the south. It is said that they originated from Sudan.
Highland Nilotes, make up the Kalenjins. Who are well known for farming. They grow tea on the vast land of Kericho. The Kalenjins Included among the Kalenjin are the Cherangani, Kipsigis, Marakwet, Nandi, Sabaot, and Tugen.
Western Nilotes are the Luo speakers. They live along the shores of Lake Victoria. They are cattle-herders; they are believed to have converted to an agricultural and fishing lifestyle when they arrived in Kenya.
Plain Nilotes, holds the famously known tribes. They include; Maasai, Samburu and Turkana. The Maasai arecattle-herders and are the southernmost of the Plains Nilotes.
The Samburu, who are believed to have split from the Maasai a few centuries ago, occupy the more central region northwest of Mount Kenya, while their Turkana neighbors live in the more arid northwest of Kenya, bordering Sudan and Uganda.
Like the Maasai, both the Samburu and Turkana also keep cattle, although the Samburu have increasingly been experimenting with cultivation and the Turkana also keep camels.
In the past, Kenya’s ethnic diversity led to disputes, particularly during election periods. Despite this challenge, having many different tribes helps in enriching culture and contributes to socio-economic gains.
There’s also a lot of inter-marriage between the various tribes, especially in the urban areas. In future, tribalism and ethnic divisions will definitely be minimal. Our hope is that our rich culture will not be diluted and eventually lost.