Bantus in Kenya
The Bantus in Kenya migrated from Central Africa at about 2000 BC. A sedentary agricultural life pressurised them to move in search of more fertile lands.
The word ‘Bantu’ simply means ‘human beings’. They migrated from Central Africa at about 2000 BC. A sedentary agricultural life pressurised them to move in search of more fertile lands.
The Bantus are divided into three sub-categories: Highland, Inter-lacustrine and North-East Coast grouos. The Bantus are industrious farmers.
Bantu speakers account for nearly two-thirds of the population although they traditionally occuppy less than a third of the national terriotory. Their land, however is among the most fertile, and supports agricultural and animal husbandry.
Bantus in Kenya – North, East Coast Bantu
They include those who live near the coast and in the plains: Pokomo, Taita, Makonde, Taveta and the ‘nine tribes’ of the mijikenda(Digo, Chonyi, Kambe, Duruma, Kauma, Ribe, Jibana and Giriama).
Bantus in Kenya – Highland Bantu
They live in the central highlands near Mt Kenya and the Nyandarua (Aberdares) Range: Chuka, Aembu, Mbeere, Kamba, Agikuyu and Ameru.
Bantus in Kenya – Inter-clusterine Bantu
They live in and on the lake Victoria basin in the west: Abagusii, Guba, Kuria and Abaluhya.
Although each of the communities shares theroot language, their own languages, dialects and variations are not necessarily mutually intelligble.
The Agikuyu are the largest single group in Kenya. The Luhya are the second largest Bantu speakers. ‘Luhya’ refers to both the people and the languages, and the group has 16 sub-tribes. The dominant are the Maragoli, Abanyore, Isukha, Abakhayo and Abanyala in Busia and Kakamega, and Bukusu in Bungoma. Others are Abamarachi, Abatsotso, Abasamia, tiriki, Wanga, Marama, Idakho, Kisa and Abatachoni.
The luhya are farmers who grow cassava, tea, maize, wheat, rice and sugarcane. The Bukusu and the Wanga are mainly cash crop farmers and the Saamia fishermen and traders.
The linguistic groupings form the rich cultural diversity that is the basis of Kenya’s development, social cohesion and peace.
The diversity is a national driving force lingustically, economically and politically. Groups share many similarities and differences within and among themselves.
Reasons for the Migration of the Bantus from their Original Homeland to Kenya
- Growing population and need for more space.
- The need for more land for cultivation.
- Search for additional pastures.
- Internal quarrels arising especially from population pressure.
- Attacks from neighbobouring communities
- Prevalence of diseases
- The spirit of adventure