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Census: Minority communities that you did not know

By Everlyne Kwamboka | February 22nd 2020

A man wears a mask with the national flag colour at a past protest in Nairobi. KNBS yesterday released a breakdown of 2019 census results. [File, Standard]

From fishermen to hunters and gatherers, most of the indigenous communities whose culture and identity forms part of the country’s rich history is on the brink of extinction.

With the majority living along the coastal and northern parts of the country, the numbers released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics show a major decrease in their population.

It is some of these communities that have been endorsed by the African Commission on Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights whose statistics will also assist the government in planning and budgeting.

For instance, the Dahalo community, whose culture and identity is on the brink of disappearing, now stands at 575 from 2,400 recorded in 2009. They are former elephant hunters who speak the dahalo dialect.

The El-Molo ethnic group in Eastern region who were 3,000 has reduced to 1,104 and most of them speak Samburu, a dialect that is away from their El Molo mother tongue. The community depends on fishing in Lake Turkana.

Dorobo known for hunting and gathering have also reduced from 35,000 to 23,171, a situation that is similar to the Awer/Waata ethnic group who are also found in southern Somalia. The Awer have reduced from 20,182 to 20,103.

The Awer/Waata community has more than 11 villages in forests bordering Lamu and Tana River counties. The villages are spread across Boni and Dodori Forest Reserves.

The community builds roundhouses using grass and sticks and have always refused to be identified as Wasanye (Swahili term for gathering).

The case is the same with Maa speaking community living around Lake Baringo, Njemps/Ilchamus, that has decreased from 32,949to2,300.

Konso also known as Xonsita found in parts of northern Kenya, with the majority in Ethiopia are 1,299 in the country. They are cushites of Afro-Asianic family and mainly depend on growing sorghum, cotton and keeping livestock.

The 2019 census results show that the Gosha community is made up of 685 people and Dasenach who are also known as Merille or Geleba's population stands at 19,337.

However, some communities have increased in the last 10 years. They include the Burji that was 15,000 and now 36,938 plus the Bajuni 15,000 to 91,422.

Communities that joined the list of those in Kenya captured in the 2019 census include the Makonde (3,764) and Wayyu (3,761).

The Makonde, originally from Mozambique, visited State House on October 13, 2016 after being in the country as stateless people for decades, a visit that saw President Uhuru Kenyatta issue orders that they be given identity cards.

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