Five tribes retain hold at apex of population as numbers increase

Five “big communities” sit at the apex of Kenya’s numbers that determine political and economic trajectories the country takes.

One more community, previously considered marginalised, is raring to break into this small club whose total population- at 30.8 million, constitutes 65 per cent of Kenya’s population.

The 2019 population census results released yesterday show that the big five- the Kikuyu, Luyha, Kalenjin, Luo and Kamba have maintained their dominating grip on the rest of the country.

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The results are the first census results since the introduction of the “tyranny of numbers” concept that revolves around the assembling of tribal numbers for purposes of presidential election. 

In what is likely to shape the political discussion in the coming weeks, and possible re-alignments as the country inches closer to the 2022 elections, the 2019 census showed that there were 8.1 million Kikuyu in 2019, up from 6.6 million ten years ago.

This means that for every five Kenyans, one is a Kikuyu.

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Political players

At the second spot are the Luhya with a population of 6.8 million up from 5.3 million in 2009, according to the second batch of census results that were unveiled yesterday by the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.

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The third largest community is the Kalenjin with a population of 6.3 million, an increase from 4.9 million people in 2009. Fourth in line are the Luos who capped the 5-million mark up from 4 million ten years ago.

The Kamba closed the top five with a population of 4.6 million. They were 3.9 million ten years ago. The five ethnic communities produce the country’s top most political players and have produced four presidents.

Forty ethnic communities made up 35 per cent of the population, a situation that experts have noted has consigned them on the fringes of political power in a country where ethnicity shapes the course of the political process.

Anticipating the heat that will come out of these results, CS Yatani warned the media against being obsessed with the aspects of the report.

“I hope and it’s my belief that the Press will not only highlight about ethnicity. We believe in one country, one heritage, one heritage, one direction,” said Yatani, noting that Kenya had come of age.  

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However, with population being a key component of the revenue sharing formula, ethnicity is likely to generate a lot of interest. Already, some politicians and interest groups have accused the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics of suppressing their numbers and have moved to court.

One such community whose numbers have been a source of debate is the Kenyan Somali, with Ahmed Bashane, the MP of Tarbaj Constituency in Wajir County, writing to the national statistician arguing that the published data was doctored to deny the region revenue allocation under the devolved system.

There were 2.8 million Kenyans that described themselves as Kenyan Somali, sitting at the sixth spot. At the seventh place are the Kisii with a population of 2.7 million.

There were 2.48 million Kenyans that said they were Mijikenda, Meru (1.97million) and Maasai 1.19 million.

The five least populous ethnic affiliations were Dahalo, El Molo, Konso, Gosha and Wayyu.

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Almost all Kenyans are Christians. A third of them are Protestants followed by Catholics, 20.6 per cent and Evangelical Churches, 20.4 per cent.

Muslims accounted for 11 per cent of the population.

The report also showed that there are 918,270 people with disabilities, mostly physical and vision.

The census results also revealed a new Kenya that has been highly transformed,with people changing their homes, workplaces, what they eat, how they move from one place to another, communicate with each other, how they use their money, what they do with their free time, and how they interact with each other.

The number of Kenyans living in urban centres increased, with Nairobi city having 4.4 million, being the most populous.

Mombasa City was the second most populous urban centre with a population of 1.2 million, Nakuru, 590,674 and Ruiru, 490, 120 and Eldoret, 475,716.

Nine out of 10 people — 22.2 million — are reported to have done some work five days preceding the census. Another 2.7 million Kenyans were unemployed and actively looking for work.

According to the figures, youth unemployment stood at 39 per cent, with 5.2 million people aged between 18 and 34 years out of work.

An increasing number of Kenyans are using electricity for lighting; and LPG gas for cooking compared to 2009.

Also, almost half of people aged three years and above owned a mobile phone, while two out of ten used the internet.

Very few Kenyans, 4.3 per cent, bought or sold items online.

In terms of economic activities, Kenya remains largely an agricultural society half of the households engaged in crop farming, livestock rearing and aquaculture.

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