Kenya’s North Eastern Province is home to the Somali tribe of Kenya, a cushitic tribe found in larger numbers in the neighboring Somalia Republic and in Ethiopia.
Kenyan Somalis number about half a million, and constitute the biggest tribe among all Kenya Cushitic tribes.
Their territory, formerly known as the Northern Frontier Districts, has harsh dry climatic conditions with some areas which are full deserts.
Other Cushitic tribes in Kenya include the Borana, Rendile, Gabbra and the Galla.
History and origin of the Somali
All Somali people are believed to have their origin in the Ogaden region in Southern Ethiopia. Today, Somalis are the only tribe found in their homeland country of Somalia republic. Members of this tribe are also found in the country of Djibouti.
Somaliland was originally colonized by the French, British and the Italians. In 1960, a unified and independent Somalia was formed after Italy and Britain joined their territories. The French territory however remained separate and gained independence later in 1977 to form the country of Djibouti.
Since the 90’s tension and rivalry has remained high among the various clans in the Somali republic as they fight for land and herding areas. Lack of political systems that take care of all Somalis has led to civil war, conflicts and destruction of Mogadishu and most of the southern parts of Somalia. Up to this day, there’s no lasting peace in the republic of Somalia. However, the Somali tribe in Kenya has maintained close historical ties with their kin in Somaliland.
Religion & Culture
Islam has been the religion of the Somali people for such a long time that many Somali customs derive from this religion. Islamic influence is manifested in the Somali way of dressing, which is not very different from that of the Swahili people. But unlike the Swahili men who wear a small white cap on their head, the Somali men often wear a turban.
Polygamy is widely practiced among the Somali since Islamic laws allow a man to have as many as four wives. The women’s role is to take care of their homes and their husbands, while men watch over the camel flocks.
In their native North Eastern Province, Somalis practice a nomadic pastoralist way of life, keeping flocks of camels, some goats, sheep, and indigenous cow herds. Thus milk and meat are part of the Somali diet. Other food of the Somali people includes pasta, an acquired food from Somali’s colonial past by Italians.
The Somali tribe speaks Somali language, the only language spoken by the entire Somali people. However, variations and dialects of the Somali language are spoken by different clans living in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia as well as in Kenya. Among all Somali clans, linguistic skills including poetry and good speech are highly valued.
Lifestyle of Somali People in Kenya
Away from their native home in North Eastern Province, Somalis are today found in almost every major town in Kenya engaging in business. They are successful business entrepreneurs in major cities of Kenya.
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