The Rendille are a Cushitic tribe that inhabits the climatically harsh region between Marsabit hills and Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya. In this area, they neighbor the Borana, Gabbra, Samburu and Turkana tribes. Rendille are semi-nomadic pastoralists whose most important animal is the camel.
The original home of the Rendille people was in Ethiopia. They were forced to migrate southwards into Kenya due to frequent conflicts with the Oromo tribe over pasture and water for their animals.
Because their land was a desert with unfavorable climatic conditions, the British colonialists were not interested in it, thus the Rendille tribe were not affected much by colonial rule in Kenya.
Culture & Lifestyle
Being pastoralists, the lifestyle of the Rendille revolves around their livestock. In the northerly areas, camels are their main source of livelihood. This is because camels are best adapted to the desert conditions that prevail in the northern Kenya. The camels are an important source of milk and meat for the Rendille people. When migrating to new pastures, the camels are also used to carry all the family possessions in a specially designed saddle.
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The Rendille people living in the southern and less dry part of their region have had a good relationship with their Samburu neighbors, so much that they have adopted many of the customs and practices of the Samburu. Here the Rendille rear other animals like cattle, sheep and goats. Intermarriage with the Samburu has led to the emergence of a hybrid culture.
Rendille Age-Sets & Gender Roles
Among the Rendille, a person’s role in society depends on their age-set and gender. The Rendille have a well defined age-set system, with a number of rituals taking place every 7 to 14 years to initiate people into different age-sets.
For men, circumcision is one of the most important rituals as it initiates one into the warrior-hood. The men are in charge of herding the livestock and protecting them from predators and rustlers from other tribes.
Rendille women are charged with household duties and taking care of the children. Age sets among women are less defined since a woman is either married or unmarried.
It is a taboo for a Rendille man to marry from within his clan. Since many young Rendille people have very little contact with other clans, the parents always arrange marriages for them, conducting all marriage negotiations including the bride price. Until one is married, a young Rendille man cannot have a house of his own.
Unlike other Kenya nomadic tribes, the Rendille set up large settlements. Entire clans often live together in big villages whose populations may number in the hundreds. When time for migrating comes, the Rendille have a system to ensure that all clans have equal access to water and pasture for their animals.
Faith & Religion
Unlike other Kenya cushites, the Rendille have a very small Islamic following. Most Rendille still adhere to their traditional religion, where they worship their god, wakh or ngai.