It’s the largest of the 3 linguistic groups  in Kenya, by 1900 AD most  of them had settled in the regions they currently occupies among them are; abaluhya, abagusii, abakuria of western as well as the mijikenda, pokomo, akamba, ameru and aembu.

Social organization of the Bantu.

  • Almost all the Bantu communities in Kenya in the 19th century were organised in clans.

Theses clans were made up of people believed to have descended from the same ancestor.

  • They carried out circumcision ceremony e.g. the abaluhya and the akamba circumcised boys where as other communities circumcised both boys and girls.
  • They believe in one God e.g. luhya- were rachari hakava, kikuyu –ngai.
  • Carried out sacrifices for the God’s.
  • They worshiped in sacred places e.g. in shrines.
  • Believed in ancestral spirits who guided their lives.
  • Intermarriages with other communities such as luo’s.
  • They carried out libation a practise believed to bring them closer with their ancestors.
  •  Believed in the life after death.
  • Celebrated together using songs and dances.
  • Had sporting activities.

Political organization.

  • Had decentralized system of government, except the wanga who had a centralized government.
  • Were divided into clans.
  • Clans were govern by council of elders whose functions include;
  • Settling disputes.
  • Presided over religious ceremonies.
  • Declared war when fighting broke out.
  • Sound a warning when an epidemic broke out so that the whole community will be alerted.
  • Responsible for ensuring good relationships with neighbouring communities.
  • Often did solve and decided on matters of intertribal marriages.
  • The age-set system among the Bantu played a very important role in their political organization.
  • Provided warriors who defended the community from external attacks, this worriers also raided other communities cattle.
  • They age-set worked closely with the council of elders in matters of administration in the community.

In the wanga section of the luyha the king who was known as nabongo was the ovarol ruler of the kingdom.

Economic organization.

The Bantu of Kenya participated in various economic activities in the 19th century this includes;

  • Trade with neighbours in that they exchanged goods.
  • They cultivated crops like millet, sorghum and cassava among other crops.
  • They kept livestock such as cattle, sheep and goats.
  • They participated in fishing for those Bantu communities who lived along the rivers.
  • They practised pottery and basketry especially the abaluhya and the abagusii.
  • They participate in iron making e.g. knives.
  • Participated in hunting and gather which was meant to supplement their food.
  • Practised cattle raiding where many Bantu communities would raid their neighbours for cattle.

The agikuyu

Social organisation.

  • They believed in one supreme God who was called Ngai who lived in mt. kirinyaga.
  • Had strong believed in ancestral spirits and used them as intermediaries between themselves and God.
  • Also had diviners whose main work was to interpret Gods massage to the people.
  • They had medicine that was known as mundu-mugo. Their work of the mundu-mugo in plural was to cure diseases.
  • Agikuyu had designated sacred places for worship, prayer and offerings. E.g mugumo tree where they offered sacrifices.
  • Marriage was an important institutional s it ensured the continuity of family and clan.
  • Among the agikuyu the family was very important institution.
  • Next to the family was the clan which was made up of several families that had a common ancestor.
  • Their rites of passage include. Initiation of boys and girls, after which they joined the age –set(rika or matika) they were educated on the values and customs of the society and how to be responsible people.

Economic organization.

  • Grew a variety of food crops such as sorghum, millet and maize.
  • Kept animals such as cattle, goats, chickens and sheep.
  • They carried out batter trade among themselves and other communities e.g. spears, grains, tobacco and red ochre for the lives animal products from the maasai.
  • Some sections of the agikuyu specialised in iron working, black smiths made iron implements including spears, knives , cowbells, swords, earrings, rings, anklets and arrow heads.
  • They were some clans that specialized in pottery, they made other made baskets and mats.
  • Hunted wild animals for meat and collected fruits roots and vegetables. Honey was called to and used for making beer.

Political organization.

  • They were decentralised.
  • The smallest unit was family headed by the father.
  • Several families made up a clan.
  • They occupied a local territorial unit ( mbari).
  • The clan was ruled by council of elders (kiama). Whose chairman (muramati) was highly respected.
  • There was a senior elder (kiama kia ndundu) was selected from a number of councils and served as a court of appeal.

The ameru.

They are among the eastern Bantu.

Political organization.

  • Based on the clan. Had a system of council and age-groups which oversaw their administration of the community affairs.
  • Every man belonged to a relevant council. There was a council of children, the council of warriors; the council of the njuri ncheke which was the supreme councils that set the moral code to be followed, the council was responsible.
  • Settling disputes.
  • Presided over religious ceremonies.
  • Officiated over social functions such as initiation.
  • When fighting broke out they declared war with the neighbouring communities.
  • Age set system was present. Young boys joined age-set system after initiation.
  • Age-set provided the community with warriors for defence against other communities.
  • Religious leaders influenced political leadership of the administration.

Social organization of the ameru.

  • It was marked by the existence of the council of clan to the supreme council which was njuri ncheke which acted as.
  • As the parliament.
  • Set the moral codes that was adhered by  the communicate
  • Marriage was an important institution among the ameru.
  • In marriage any spouse who was involved in adultery was punished by being stoned to death. The same punishment was also to girls who were not virgin at the time of marriage.
  • Marriage was exogamous in the meru community, one was not allowed to marry from their clan because of their believe on common ancestors.

Economic organization.

  • They were hunters.
  • Collected  honey from beehives and wild fruits and roots.
  • They practised mixed farming.
  • There was crafts men like leather-working.
  • They participated in trade with other communities.

The akamba.

Settled in chyuli hills, mbooni, kitui and machakos between the 16th and 19th century.

Political organisation.

  • The akamba were a traditionally decentralised community.
  • The smallest unit was homestead (musyi).
  • Several related families were grouped into a wider territorial groups or clan who was the main political unit.
  • Each clan had his own recreation ground, elder’s council, war leaders, as well as a place of worship.
  • Age set and age grades were common to all in the community.
  • The leaders in the community were ranked according to seniority.
  • Junior elders defended their community while medium elders (nthele) assisted in the administration of the community.
  • The full elders (atumia ma kivalo) participated in delivering judgements while the senior most elders (atumia ma ithembo) were involved in religious activities as they were regarded to be ritually clean.

Social organisation.

  • Were organised into clans each claiming its descent from common ancestor.
  • The akamba clan’s practised exogamy which means that marriage between members of the same clan was not allowed.
  • Boys and girls were circumcised before reaching puberty.
  • On reaching puberty both men and women were allowed to marry and bear children.
  • The akamba believed in a creator God whom they called mulungu.
  • Prayed to God through ancestor spirit.
  • The akamba had ritual experts who included medicine people who guided them in their rituals.
  • Shrines excited where offering and sacrifices were made by their elders called atumia ma ithembo.
  • They had many social ceremonies during which there was a lot of festivity especially music and dancing.

Ecominic organization.                    

  • They kept large herds of cattle, sheep and goats.
  • They traded with other community.
  • They were also skilled in crafts, which range from hut construction to granaries.
  • They also kept bees as an economic activity.

The mijikenda.

They consisted of the following.

Each of them believed in fortified villages called kaya.

Kaya was the basic unity of social organization consisting of several united tribes.

Kaya was surrounded with thorns for defence.

Boys were circumcised and late joined the age-set system.

 Parents selected a bride for their boys.

They believed in a supreme being called mulungu.

They had shrines MIZIMU under baobab tree or special huts.

 They prayed through ancestral spirits.

They had prophets called WAFISI.

They buried medicine (fingo) within the kaya for protection against evil spirits.

They offered sacrifice to God.

Political organization.

  • Were organized into clans.
  • Had a council of elders (kambi) made up of senior age- sets.
  • The council dealt with settling disputes, heard cases and imposed fines on law breakers.
  • The age-set system provided the community with warriors for defence.

Economic organization.

  • Practised crop farming where they grew millet, sorghum and coconut.
  • They kept cattle, sheep and goats.
  • They engage in craft work i.e. basketry, pottery and iron working.
  • Traded with the Swahili, Arabs, akamba and agikuyu.
  • Hunted wild pigs, antelopes and also fruits and vegetable.
  • Fishing was done in the Indian Ocean and the rivers.

Social organization.

  • They lived in fortified villages(kaya).
  • They believed  in one supreme God (mulungu).
  • They had shrines(mizimu) existed under boabob trees and caves.
  • They did initiation.
  • They had age-set.
  • They paid dowry.


The luo.

Social organization.

  • Believed in a supreme God whom they called NYASAYE.
  • Believed in ancestral spirits and in the existence of good and bad spirits which influenced their lives.
  • Had diviners who interpreted God message.
  • They had sacred shrines where they worship their God.
  • Participated in initiation which involved the removal of the 6 lower teeth.
  • They had ceremonies which were carried out during birth, marriage, death, harvest and during games.
  • Lived in villages called GWENG>

Political organization.

  • They lived in clans which formed the basis of their political organization.
  • A number of clans grouped together formed sub clans called OGANDA.
  • Each sub tribe had an autonomous (independent) political and territorial unit called GWENG headed by a council of elders called BUCH PINY.
  • Below the buch piny there was a village council called JADONY and clan council called DOHO.
  • The council of elders was headed by a chief called RUOTH and the work of the council was to settle disputes, administer justice, declare wars and presiding over religious functions.

Economic organization.

  • Practised fishing on l. Victoria.
  • Practised pastoralist.
  • They were agriculturalists.
  • Hunted wild animals and gathered roots, honey and vegetables.
  • They traded with the nandi, kipsigis.
  • They had craftsmen who made baskets, pots, fishing traps.
  • They were iron workers.
  • There existed a canoe building industry which boosted fishing work.

The nandi.

Social organization.

  • Had a well organized age-set system after circumcision of both boys and girls.
  • Had an age-set system and each performed leadership role one at a time like marna, chums, sawe, korongoro, kipkoimet, kiplelach, kimyile and nyogi.
  • Had both junior and senior warriors.
  • Believed in God called Asis.
  • Made sacrifices and worshiped God through the ancestral spirits.
  • Had important religious leaders who included medicine people, diviners and rain makers.
  • Orkoiyit was a single religious and prophetic leader for the whole community.
  • The family was an important institution in the community.
  • Several related families made up a clan.

Economic organization.

  • Were hunters and gatherouse.
  • Were pastoralist.
  • They were farmers.
  • They were iron workers.
  • Were crafts men made baskets and pots.
  • Raided other communities for cattyle.
  • Traded with neighbours like luo, maasai and luhya.
  • They kept bees and honey and wax.

Political organization.

  • The basis unit was family under the father.
  • Organised on clan basis.
  • Above the family was the council of elders known as KOKWET who dealt with matters above the family e.g. maintaining law and order, settling disputes among others.
  • Kokwet controlled semi-independent territory called BORORIEK which was the highest politiv\cal unit among the nandi.
  • Orkoiyot was a respected leader among the nandi whose functions included
  • Chief medicine man.
  • Rain maker.
  • Prophet.
  • Preceded over religious functions and offered sacrifices.
  • Blessed warriors and advice them before going to war or raid.
  • Always consulted in times of calamities.
  • Solved disputes between clan and council of elders.
  • Advised council of elders on matters affecting the clan.
  • Was symbol of unity amongst the nandi.

Plain nilotes.


Social organization.

  • Are divide into purko maasai (pastoralist) and kwavi/oloikop(agriculturalist)
  • Were organized into clans each associated with a particular type of cattle.
  • They circumcised both male and female at puberty hence the age-set system.
  • The initiated boys became warriors (morans).
  • The warriors defended the community and raided other community.
  • Stayed in separate manyatta for about 10 years(the warriors)
  • Believed in a supreme being called enkai.
  • Offered sacrifices and prayed at the shrine.
  • They had religious leaders who included diviners, medicine men among others.
  • Oloibon was respected religious leader and custodian of religious rituals.
  • Had ceremonies during birth, initiation and death.
  • Women and children were the lowest in the society rank.

Economic organization.

  • They practised hunting and gathering.
  • They were basically nomadic pastoralists.
  • They raided other communities for cattle.
  • The kwavi practised agriculture.
  • They traded with their neighbours.
  • They engaged in craft work and iron making.

Political organization.

  • They were ruled by council of elders who performed the following duties
  • Maintained law and order.
  • Settled disputes.
  • Declared war and peace.
  • Presided over ceremonies.
  • Had the age-set system e.g. the junior warriors (morans) defended their communities against attack.
  • They raided their neighbours for cattle and gave instructions to the warriors.
  • Oloibon was a religious and ritual expat to perform the fallowing.
  • Was the unifying factor among the maasai.
  • Advised the council of elders.
  • Blessed and advised warriors when going to war.
  • He foretold the future.

The Somali.

Social organization.

  • Divided into clans.
  • Had age-set system in which circumcised boys belonged.
  • Believed in the existence of God called WAK( waq)
  • Men took care of animals.

Economic organization.

  • Hunters and gatherers.
  • Were nomadic pastoralists.
  • Traded with neighbours.
  • Some practised iron working and craftsmanship e.g. pottery, basketry and others.

Political organization.

  • Based on clans.
  • Headed by council of elders who performed roles like
  • Settling of disputes.
  • Maintaining law and order.
  • Made decisions of community.
  • Had a military organization.


Social organization

  • Divided into clans led by elders.
  • They resided in a place called the CAMP.
  • Had an age-set system called GADA.
  • Worshiped a super natural being whom they believed to be powerful.
  • Had religious leaders who they called QAALU.

Economic organization.

  • Were nomadic pastoralist who kept cattle, sheep, goats and donkey.
  • Traded with neighbours to acquire what they lacked.
  • Were hunters and gatherers.
  • Were cultivators i.e. planted maize along r. tana.
  • Were crafts men.

Political organization.

  • Organized into clans.
  • Had a council of elders who settled disputes, maintained law and order and also offered territorial defence.
  • Had an age-set called GADA which lasted 8 years from birth to death.
  • The age-set performed the following.
  • Mibelised people for community work.
  • Resolved minor conflicts.
  • Participated in organising of rituals and ceremonies.
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