Given the recent spotlight on Kenya for winning several marathons and breaking records, the Kalenjin tribe deserves to be celebrated. One of the 43 tribes of Kenya, the Kalenjin inhabit most parts of the North Rift Valley including Kericho, Eldoret, Marakwet and Nandi. Here are some fascinating facts about the outstanding community.
3rd Largest Ethnic Group
With about 5 million individuals, the Kalenjin community comes in as the second largest Kenyan tribe after the Kikuyu and Luhya respectively.
The Kalenjin tribe is made up of 10 related sub tribes namely the Tugen Kipsigis, Nandi, Sabaot, Pokot, Keiyo, Ogiek, Terik, Lembus and Marakwet.
The Kalenjin have been known as great mixed farmers. They keep cattle and plant crops such as maize, sorghum, and millet. Recently, some Kalenjin have ventured into the business world especially in real estate. In the past years the Kalenjin were known as a self-sufficient tribe, only looking outside their community for items they could not produce themselves such as iron.
Most Kalenjin are part of a religious group. Almost 90% subscribe to Christianity with the rest following Islam or traditional faiths.
A large number of the Kenyan athletes stem from the Kalenjin tribe. Most of these runners have won dozens of marathons and broken world records. A good example is Eliud Kipchoge who made history as the only man to run a 42kilometer race in under 2 hours. Other notable figures are Kipchoge Keino, David Rudisha, Abraham Kemboi, Gladys Chebet among others.
When the British came into Kenya and started on the Kenya-Uganda Railway, the Kalenjin tribes were among those that fought the most to stop it. In fact, under the lead of Koitalel arap Samoei, the Kalenjin fought an 11-year long resistance that ended when Koitalel was assassinated. Currently, the Sabaot are also feared in the Mt. Elgon region as they continue to fight over cattle and land with their neighbours.
Rich in Knowledge
Even before the coming of the white man in Kenya, the Kalenjin tribe was adequately equipped in medicinal and other scientific knowledge. The Kalenjin doctors used both traditional and technical knowledge to treat ailing people. Some of the services offered included childbirth, minor operations, bone resetting, among others. The Terik especially were known as the medical tribe. Literature on traditional Kenya also shows clear evidence of the understanding of the stars and climatic seasons before colonisation.
When a barren Kalenjin woman got married, she was allowed to take in another woman as a second wife for her and her husband. This addition was supposed to bear children for the first wife and her husband and as a result, she would get a home, food, and entitlement to inheritance. The first wife did the marriage and not the husband.
The Kalenjin are known as avid lovers of milk with Mursik being a sour and sweet example of their rich cuisine. This fermented milk is usually drank with Ugali, Kenya’s staple food or just by itself. The Kalenjin also enjoy traditional vegetables and meat in their daily meals.
The Kalenjin are aggressive when it comes to Kenyan Politics with the second president of Kenya coming from the tribe. Our current Vice-President, William Ruto is also from the Kalenjin community.