CHANGES IN BIG FIVE NUMBERS

Kikuyu, Luo, Kamba numbers down while Somalis, Maasai and Kalenjin up

Ethnicity relates to a shared understanding of culture, language, history or territorial origins of an ethnic group or community.

In Summary

• Between 1969 and 2019, obvious variations of share are noted within the big five — the Kikuyus (from 20.29% to 17.13%), the Luos (from 14.03% to 10.65%), the Luhyas (from 13.39% to 14.35%), the Kambas (from 11.04% to 9.81%) and the Kalenjins (from 10.97% to 13.37%).

• Three groups that have lost their grip are the Luo (by 3.37%), the Kikuyus (by 3.16%) and the Kambas (by 1.23%).

Kenya National Bureau of Statistics director general Zachary Mwangi addresses Imara Daima residents on August 24, 2018, during the launch of the pilot census.
TRUTH IN NUMBERS: Kenya National Bureau of Statistics director general Zachary Mwangi addresses Imara Daima residents on August 24, 2018, during the launch of the pilot census.
Image: MAUREEN KINYANJUI

The National Bureau of Statistics has released detailed 2019 Census analysis showing drops in Kikuyu, Luo and Kamba numbers, increases in Maasai, Somali and Kalenjin.

The growth rate is the rate at which a population is growing and reflects the effects of the three demographic events, births, deaths and migration.

In 1969 Kenya’s population stood at 10.8 million, with five major communities — the Kikuyu, the Luo, the Luhya, the Kalenjin and the Kamba — constituting 69.7 per cent of the total population. 

 
 

Today, with a population of 47.6 million, these major ethnic groups have displayed a 4.4 per cent drop and contribute to 65.3 per cent of the Kenyan population.

Interestingly, this drop in the major ethnic groups is usurped by the minor ethnic groups such as the Maasai, the Turkana and Kenya Somalis.

Between 1969 and 2019, obvious variations of share are noted within the big five — the Kikuyus (from 20.29% to 17.13%), the Luo (from 14.03% to 10.65%), the Luhya (from 13.39% to 14.35%), the Kambas (from 11.04% to 9.81%) and the Kalenjins (from 10.97% to 13.37%).

Three groups that have lost their grip are the Luo (by 3.37%), the Kikuyus (by 3.16%) and the Kambas (by 1.23%). The explanation for the drop among the Kikuyus is attributed to fertility decline due to uptake of family planning services, alcoholism with narratives of women complaining about their weak men and acceptance of the western lifestyle.

Among the Luo, mortality is the major cause of the decline with reported cases of high HIV prevalence in Nyanza. Those that have gained are the Kalenjin (2.40%) and the Luhya (0.96%). There has, however, been no explanation for the significant changes noticeable among the Kalenjin (for increase) and Kamba (for decline).

Among the small ethnic communities, exponential population growth for Kenya Somali and Maasai requires thoughtful consideration and open debate. For instance, in 1969, the Maasai were reported to be 154, 906, representing 1.43 per cent of the total population.

By 2019, the official count skyrocketed to 1,189,522, which is about seven times its initial population, accounting for 2.5 per cent of the population. Although there are always issues with the quality of data regarding the Kenya Somali count, the official data provides a shocking revelation.

 
 

With a paltry 253,040 (2.33%) in 1969, the number shot up 10 times to a recorded 2,780,502 which represents 5.85 per cent of the Kenyans.

With the fact that Kenya hosts most of the refugees of Somali origin, could migration explain the growth pattern? The government needs to interrogate this data and consider exploring other sources as a basis for providing clear explanations for such an abnormal growth rate.

Notably, while Kenya Somali, the Maasai and the Kalenjin communities display the highest growth rate in the last 50 years — 1.82%, 1.74% and 1.63% respectively — the Luo (1.40%) Meru (1.44% and Kikuyu (1.46%) have shown the lowest growth rates.

What is clear though, is that communities experiencing the lowest growth rate will be losing their share relative to the national count in the next five decades. 

This data will ensure minorities and marginalised Kenyans (a) participate and are represented in governance and other spheres of life; (b) are provided special opportunities in education and economic fields; (c) are provided special access to employment; (d) develop their cultural values, languages and practices; and (e) have reasonable access to water, health services and infrastructure.

Ethnicity relates to a shared understanding of culture, language, history or territorial origins of an ethnic group or community. Ethnicity, language, religion and place of birth are often used to express identity and cultural affiliation. 

Data on ethnicity, therefore, provides information on the diversity and identifies the subgroups of a population. Demographers and statisticians rely on the data to analyse not only its distribution, but also patterns and trends on age, sex, employment levels, income levels, educational levels, migration, family composition and structure, social support networks, and health conditions.

PhD Student at the Population Studies and Research Institute, [email protected]