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Tribes In Kenya – Beautiful Or Ugly?
Kenya has more than 40 tribes. Its role is slowly diminishing, but the tribe is one of the main features of life in Kenya. On the one hand, everyone admires the sight of proud Masai warriors, dressed all in red with their typical spears and shield. Tribes have social advantages, such as mutual aid. On the other hand, the tribes in Kenya stop the country. This article provides some background information.
The Big Picture Of Tribes In Kenya
Family in Kenya is very important. Large extended families live together and care for each other. Then comes your clan, your sub-tribe, and your tribe. Since Kenya’s independence in 1963, the government has tried to create a national consciousness, emphasizing the idea that “we are all Kenyans”. But because of the tribal system, national identity is very weak in Kenya.
Kenyan tribes are mainly based on language. There are three language groups into which all the tribes can be divided: the Bantu, Nilotic and Cushitic speaking tribes. Famous tribes that still follow traditional lifestyles such as the Masai, Samburu and Turkana tribes are Nilotic. However, many Kenyans speak three languages: their tribal language, English and Swahili (which together with English is the official language in Kenya).
The largest tribes are, respectively, the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin and Kamba (although the exact numbers differ greatly from source to source).
Tribes in Kenya: beautiful or ugly?
Of course, I really enjoy watching the traditional tribal life. The people of the Masai, Samburu, Turkana tribes have magnificent colorful jewelry and clothes, impressive rituals and beautiful songs. Experiencing this is for many one of the great reasons to come to Kenya.
But let’s be honest. How many of the tourists who idealize the tribes in Kenya could live like that themselves? Tribes also mean a belief in witchcraft (and better avoid being called a witch in Kenya!), female genital mutilation, and little individual freedom since the course of your entire life is already fixed at birth by customs tribal
The movie “White Masai” made this all too clear. It tells the real-life story of a Swiss woman (Corinne Hofmann) who marries a Masai warrior and joins traditional tribal life in her small village. During the first years, it shows a remarkable ability to adapt. She eats Masai food, sleeps in wooden huts, and gives birth to her baby in the bush. But her husband feels increasingly threatened by her independence and abilities. When she opens a small shop in the village, he is jealous. It is abuse and she finally has to flee with her daughter back to Switzerland.
Tribes in Kenya Business and Politics
In addition to culture, tribes play a major role in business and politics. The members of the tribe “help” each other, and this goes from , to favoritism in the government and cover other criminal activities.
The Kikuyu dominate business and politics. There are many reasons: they are the largest tribe, they have westernized to a great extent, they are street smart in business and they led the independence movement in the 1950s and 1960s. This independence movement became the first major political party, KANU, which dominated Kenyan politics for several decades.
Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, and current president Mwai Kibaki are Kikuyu, and both have shown clear favoritism, if not outright corruption towards their tribes. Kenyatta used the land reforms after the departure of the British to make himself and his fellow clansmen the biggest landowners in the country. Kibaki was elected in 2002 on a promise to end the ever-present corruption, but once in office he did precious little to fight it. Instead, he adopted members of his Kikuyu clan throughout his administration. These people are known as “Mount Kenya Mafia”, after the native region of the Kikuyu around this mountain.
Many voters support a political candidate not because of his ideas or personal abilities, but because he is from the same tribe. Political parties are based on tribes, not ideas. Elections are often based on the question: which tribe will exploit the other tribes? The 2007-2008 election struggles in Kenya also had a tribal background: many non-Kikuyu voters felt that the Kikuyu (22% of the population) had “eaten enough” (slang for stealing government funds) under the Kibaki government, and therefore supports a politician from the Luo tribe (Raila Odinga).
While some people in the West romanticize tribal life, seeing it as a “purer” lifestyle that is more social and “closer to nature”, I am personally happy that I am not a part of it , and I believe many Kenyans would. benefit from a gradual roll-back of the tribal system.
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