List of tribes in Kenya

he complexity surrounding Kenya’s ethnic diversity is overwhelming. Despite the common narrative that Kenya consists of 42 tribes, it is argued that the number is slightly higher than this textbook number. The country is yet to recognize some marginalized communities that are working hard to put their name in the national tribes tally. Examples of tribes in Kenya without national recognition include the Nubians, Yatta, Ogiek, and Endorois. As Kenya’s ethnic makeup continues to grow, there is an increasing concern about the exact number of tribes in the country.

The number of tribes in any country is subject to change in the wake of modernization and migration. It is also possible to overlook existing minor communities for lack of proper representation in national affairs. We are going to compile this list with these two important facts in mind to ensure that we paint an accurate picture of the different tribes in the nation.

Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) regularly monitors the list of tribes in Kenya. Even though Kenya among the most multi-ethnic states in East Africa, only a few tribes dominate its total population. Bantu and Nilotic tribes take a lion share in ethnic representation across the country. Cushites and other independent tribes, on the other hand, play host to less populous tribes in Kenya.

Tribes in Kenya list (In Alphabetical Order)

1. Ameru Tribe

Ameru is one of the ethnic tribes in Kenya residing on the northeastern slopes of Mount Kenya. Like several other Bantu ethnic groups, Meru land sits on vibrant agricultural land. As such, the Ameru people are primarily agrarians practicing crop farming and controlled animal rearing. The Meru tribe is further divided into:

  • Igembe
  • Tigania
  • Imenti
  • Igoji
  • Muthambi
  • Chuka
  • Mwimbi
  • Tharaka
  • Miutuni

All these sub tribes speak a unique dialect of the Kimeru
language. The Meru people have a stable upbringing in their religious practices and traditions including male circumcision, which is arguably the most important rite of passage to their males. Even though Meru county isn’t in the list of the richest counties in the country, it definitely has a place in the fastest growing counties tribes in Kenya.

2. Embu tribe

Comprising of about 1.5% of the Kenyan population, the Embu people reside in Embu district on the foothills of Mount Kenya. With origins from Mwene-Ndega and his wife Nthara, Embu people initially occupied Runyenjes from whence they spread out to their current ancestral land. The tribe now speak the Embu dialect.
Embu people are fundamentally agrarian and firmly adhere to their customs and rituals as it is the case with other Bantu tribes. The tribe grows maize, sorghum, millet, yams beans, and cassava.
Some of the cash crops grown by Embu people include coffee, macadamia nuts, and tea. Embu people also rear livestock. Before becoming Christians, Embu people believed in and prayed to Ngai, a traditional god residing at the top of Mount Kenya.

3. Kalenjin tribe

Kalenjin tribe in Kenya form part of the Nilotic ethnic group that resides in the country’s highlands. The tribe comprises 8 distinct groups with strong relations, dialects, and culture. These are the Kipsigis, Tugen, Marakwet, Pokot, Keiyo, Sabaot, Terik and Nandi. The tribe is renowned globally for its excellent record in multiple athletics competitions.


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