The Top 20 Largest Tribes in Kenya

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How many tribes are in Kenya? Kenya has 42 tribes, each with its culture, customs, and language. The diversity of these ethnic groups makes Kenya a beautiful place to live in. However, some tribes in Kenya have larger populations than others.

The largest tribes are Kikuyu, Luhya, Kalenjin, Luo, Kamba, Somalis, Kisii, Mijikenda, Meru, and Maasai. Turkana, Taita, Teso, Swahili, Kuria, Samburu, Embu, Rendille, Oromo, and Njemps also top the list.

Keep scrolling down to learn more about these largest tribes in Kenya!

The Biggest Kenyan Tribes

Tribe Population Regions Found Subtribes or Clans 
Kikuyu 8,148,668 Central Region
Luhya 6,823,842  Nyanza region Maragoli, Bukusu, Banyore, Banyala, Mariachi, Marama, Isukha, Kisa, Tiriki, and Wanga
Kalenjin 6,358,113 Rift Valley Kipsigis, Nandi, Marakwet, Pokot, Terik, Tugen, and Sabaot
Luo About 4 million Lake Victoria basin Alego, Gem, Nnyakach, Kabundo, Seme, and Ugenya
Kamba 4,663,910 Eastern Region
Somali 2,780,502 North Eastern
Kisii 2.7 million Western Kenya in the highlands of Nyanza Nyaribari, Kitutu,Bobasi, Murirango, and Bomachoge
Mijikenda 1.96 million Coastal region Digo, Chonyi, Kauma, Ribe, Giriama, Jibana, Kambe, and Rabai
Meru 2.2 million Meru region Tharaka, Igoji, Igembe, Chuka, Mwimbi, Tigania, Imenti, and Mitine
Maasai 1.18 million Part of the Northern, Southern, and Central regions
Turkana 1.02 million Northwest Kenya
Taita 340,671 Coast Wadawida, Wasagalla and Wakasighau
Teso 450,000 Western Region Ateso and Karamojong
Kuria 329,000 Nyanza region Nyabasi, Bairege, Bakira, and Bagumbe
Embu 650,000 Southeastern of  Mt.Kenya
Swahili 56,074 Coast Bajun, Vumba, Ozi, Amu, and Shela
Samburu 250,000 Northcentral Kenya
Rendille 64,000 Northcentral Kenya
Oromo 656,636 Northern Kenya Borana, Gabra and Orma

List of the Most Populous Tribes in Kenya

1. Kikuyu

Kikuyu is the biggest tribe, with a population of 8.1 million. They believe they originated from their descendants, Gikuyu and Mumbi, who had nine daughters. They occupy the central part of Kenya in counties such as Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Kirinyaga, and partly Nakuru.

2. Luhya

The Luhya community forms the second largest tribe, with a population of about 6.8 million. The Luhyas live in Kakamega, Vihiga, Bungoma, and Busia counties. Besides, they are divided into 18 subtribes, including Nyala, Bukusu, Batura, and Samia.

3. Kalenjin

This tribe in Kenya is known to produce the best athletes in the world, including Eliud Kipchoge and Faith Kipyegon. Also, the sitting president of Kenya is a Kalenjin. They live in counties such as Kericho, Nakuru, Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Narok, and Bomet. Most of the Kalenjins are pastoralists and farmers. The most common Kalenjin clans are Kipsigis, Nandi, Marakwet, Pokot, Terik, Tugen, and Sabaot.

4. Luo

The Luo tribe in Kenya is about 13% (5 million) of the total population. They are majorly in Kisumu, Homabay, Migori, and Nyamira counties. The primary source of income for the Luo Kenya tribe is fishing in Lake Victoria.

5. Kamba

The Akamba people live in the Eastern part of Kenya. You can find most Kambas in Kitui, Makueni, and Machakos counties. In the past, this community made and sold ornaments and wood carvings. Currently, they engage in farming of drought-resistant crops and other commercial activities.

6. Somalis

If you have been to Wajir, Tana River, Garissa, and Mandera, you have encountered Kenyan Somalis. They form about 6% (2.7 million) of the Kenyan population. The Somalis practice pastoralism by rearing camels, goats, cows, and sheep. Mostly, they move from place to place in search of food and water for their animals.

7. Kisii

Another Nyanza community in the top 10 largest tribes in Kenya is Kisii. It is also known as the Abagusii, which are found in Nyamira and Kisii counties, but you can also find them in Kericho and Bomet. Their soapstone carving skills are internationally recognized and attract tourists in Kenya. Besides, they produced one of the iconic long-distance runners, Naftali Temu, who won Kenya the first gold medal in 1968 at the Mexico Olympics.

8. Mijikenda

Mijikenda people are known for birthing the Swahili culture and delicious cuisines that locals and tourists enjoy.  Besides, the tribe comprises nine ethnic subgroups, including the Giriama, Rabi, Chonyi, Ribe, and Kauma. These groups previously lived within its hilltop village, known as Kaya.

9. Meru

The Meru community is a Bantu tribe in Kenya. They are about 2.2 million Amiiru, subdivided into nine subgroups. These people live on the eastern and northern slopes of Mt. Kenya, where they do farming and animal rearing.

10. Maasai 

Maasai Tribe

In the list of the top 10 largest tribes in Kenya is the Maasai community. The tribe has remained true to their culture. They still wear their traditional attire. Also, they practice semi-nomadic pastoralism and measure their wealth depending on the cattle they own. As a result, they are the face of Kenya in the world.

11. Turkana

Turkana is a Nilotic tribe living in the Northwest part of Kenya. They border Lake Turkana in the east, Uganda in the west, South Sudan in the north, and Pokot, Samburu, and Rendille in the south. The Kenyan tribe mainly depends on milk and meat from the livestock and sells some for money.

12. Taita

The Taita is one of the Bantu-speaking groups found in the coastal part of Kenya. They live around Taita Hills and have played a key role in Kenyan music. One of the popular songs from Taitas is Malaika, composed by Fadhili Williams.

13. Teso

Teso, also known as Iteso, is one of the popular Kenya tribes living in the western part. They inhabit the Busia and Trans Nzoia counties, with 478,000 people. Also, they are closely related to Turkana, Toposa, and Karamojong communities. Lastly, they are one of the most successful farmers in Western Kenya.

14. Kuria  

The Kuria people, also known as Abakuria, are one of the Kenyan tribes occupying Migori County. They are divided into clans called ibiaro, that slightly differ in language, laws, and practices. Besides, the Kisii are closely related to them in terms of physical appearance and language.

15. Embu

Their mother tongue language is Kiembu, and most of them are Christians. They are related to other tribes in Kenya, such as Kikuyu, Mbeere, and Meru. Embu people primarily produce maize, beans, yams, arrowroots, and cassava. Their main food is ngima, kithere, and nyenyi.

16. Swahili

The Swahili tribe was known as Wangozi, who migrated from Shungwaya to the coast of Kenya. They live in Mombasa, Kilifi, Lamu, Tana River, and Kwale counties. Besides, their main language is Kiswahili. Most of them, if not all, are Muslims.

17. Samburu  

You can easily confuse a Samburu with a Maasai, but they are distinct. The Samburu community is a semi-nomadic pastoralist group that herds cattle, sheep, camels, and goats. As a result, their primary food source is milk, sometimes mixed with blood. It is believed that they migrated from Sudan and settled in the northern part of Mt. Kenya.

18. Rendille

The Rendille tribe lives in the harsh climatic region between Lake Turkana and Marsabit hills. The Samburu, Turkana, Borana, and Gabbra tribes of Kenya are their neighbours. They were part of the Somali community but parted ways during migration. As a result, the Somalis refer to them as rejected people.

19. Oromo

The Oromo community, which comprises Gabra, Borana, Orma, and MunyoYaya, is one of the Cushitic tribes in Kenya. They make up close to one million of Kenya’s population. Oromos live in Mandera, Tana River, Garissa, Isiolo, and Marisabit. They are primarily pastoral rearing sheep, cattle, and goats.

20. Njemps

To close our list of the top 20 largest tribes in Kenya are the Njemps. The Njemps tribe, or II-Chamus, is part of plain Nilotes like the Maasai, Turkana, and Samburu. They are found around Lake Baringo in a place called Marigat. As a result, they rely on fishing to earn a living. Besides, they are considered part of the Samburu community since they speak the Samburu language.

FAQs

Which are the five biggest tribes in Kenya?

The 5 biggest tribes in Kenya are Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, and Kamba. They form 70% of Kenya’s population, with Kikuyu leading at 17%. They heavily influence the status of the country and especially when it comes to politics. As a result, they have birthed prominent people, including presidents, ministers, and other government officials.

Which tribe in Kenya has the highest population?

The Kikuyu or Agikuyu community has the highest population in Kenya. According to the 2019 population and housing census reports, there were more than 8 million Kikuyus in Kenya. They live in the central part of Kenya near Mt. Kenya. Other Kenyan tribes with the highest population are Luo, Luhya, and Kalenjins.

Which tribe is the smallest in Kenya?

The smallest tribe in Kenya is the El Molo. It has a population of about 200 people and lives on the shores of Lake Turkana. They migrated from Ethiopia over 3000 years ago and speak the El Molo Language. After settling in Kenya, they abandoned farming and embraced fishing to make a living.

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