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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les ethnies au Kenya

by Camille Bauer

Ethnic Groups in Kenya

Translated Saturday 29 March 2008, by Isabelle Métral

The notion of ethnic group is rather vague, some of the names having been coined by the colonizers.

The number of "ethnic groups" in Kenya varies between forty and forty-two or more, depending on your sources. The Kikuyu form the largest group (22% of the population), followed by the Luhya (14%), Luo(13%), Kalenjin (12%), Akamba (11%), Kissii (6%), Meru (6%), Maasai (1,5%)…

Some of these names were coined by the colonizers:

When organizing the administrative structure, they put together groups whose languages were closely related. So it was with the Luhya (comprised of the Bukusu, Kabra, Marchi, Maragoli…) or with the Kalenjin (comprised of the Nandi, Marakwet, Sabaot, Polot, Kipsigi…). So “ethnic” names are seldom used in the provinces, where sub-group identities are more significant. Depending on the political context, a player on the public stage will not hesitate to present himself as a member of a sub-group exclusively or on the contrary to proclaim his belonging to a larger group.


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