Kalenjin People

The Kalenjin people are a Nilotic group inhabiting most parts of Rift Valley province. The Kalenjin people are estimated to number a little over 4.9 million individuals as per the Kenyan 2009 census. Kalenjin in Kenya is divided into the Kipsigis, Nandi, Keiyo, Marakwet, Sabaot, Pokots, Tugen, Terik and Ogiek/Dorobo. They are an ethnic group with linguistic and cultural similarities.

Kalenjin Traditional Way Of Life

Kalenjin people are semi-nomadic pastoralists. They raise cattle, sheep, and goats. They also practice farming where they cultivate sorghum, maize and pearl millet of Kalenjin.

Of these geographic classifications, the Kokwet(village) was the most significant political and judicial unit among the Kalenjin. The governing body of each kokwet was its kokwet council; the word kokwet was in fact variously used to mean the whole neighbourhood, its council and the place where the council met.

Kalenjintranslates roughly as “I tell you.” The name has played a crucial role in the construction of this relatively new ethnic identity among formerly independent, but culturally and linguistically similar tribes. The origin of the name Kalenjin and the Kalenjin ethnic identity can be traced to the 1940s. It represents a clear desire to draw political strength from greater numbers.

The Kalenjin movement was not simply the development of a people’s identity. The British colonial government supported the Kalenjin movement and sponsored theKalenjinmonthly magazine out of a desire to foster anti-Gikuyu sentiments during the Mau Mau emergency. The Mau Mau movement was a mostly Gikuyu-led revolt against British colonialism that provoked an official state of emergency lasting from October 1952 to January 1960. Gikuyu conflicts both with the British and with non-Gikuyu tribes (including the Kalenjin) factored in the creation of Kalenjin solidarity and unity.

Kalenjin Age set (Ipinda)

Kalenjin social system divides male sex into boys, warriors, and elders with the female sex divided into girls and married women. The first stage begins at birth and continued until initiation. All boys who are circumcised together were to belong to the same ipinda. Age sets(ibinwek) were used to record time. Young men of the same ipinda were tasked with protecting the community and their land when they come of age.

There were eight age sets generally though it varied between sections as an age set would be temporarily dropped from use if the disastrous incident or a bad omen occurred to at the same age of the ipinda.

In the early-1900s, the central Kalenjin groups initiated the same age-set concurrently while the outlying groups were one or at most two steps out of phase. It has been suggested that such synchronization suggests that most or all Kalenjin groups constituted not merely an ethnolinguistic category but a single information sharing system.[

Age set Names.

Sebei Maina Chumo Sowe Koronkoro Kwoimet Kaplelaich Nyikeao Nyonki
Sabaot Sawe Maina Gabaiyak Korongoro ?* Gamnenac Gamnyikewa Nyongiik
Nandi Maina Chumo Sawe Kipkoiimet Kaplelach Kimnyigei Nyongi
Kipsigis Maina Chumo Sawe Kipkoiimet Kaplelach Kipnyigei Nyongi
Keiyo Maina Chumo Sowe Korongoro Kipkoimet Kaplelach Kimnyegeu Nyongi
Marakwet Maina Chumo Sowe Korongoro/ Kipkoimet Kaberur Kaplelach Kimnyigeu Nyongi
Lembus/Pokor/Arror/Keben/Kakimor/Endorois/Samor Chumo Sowe Korongoro Kipkoimet Kaplelach Kimnikeu Nyongi
Pokot Maina Juma Sowe Korongoro Kipkoimet Kaplelach Merkutua Nyongu[18

Cultural Heritage.

Music and dances served many functions and occasions. Music rhymed well with many activities including herding livestock and digging in the fields for men and with women grinding corn, washing clothes and for lullabies.

Music was integrated as part of ceremonial occasions such as birth, initiation, and weddings. Dances were performed accompanied by traditional instruments and ankle bells which were specifically for women.

See also: Kalenjin Got Talent


Ugali(kimyet) is a staple food among Kalenjin communities. Ugali is a starchy food made from cornmeal mixed with boiling water and stirred continuously while cooking. Its often served hot and served with cooked green vegetables and less frequently with beef or chicken.

The most popular beverage among Kalenjin is mursik which consist of fermented whole milk that is stored in a special gourd (sotet) cleaned using a burning sick and sokororek. The result is a super-powerful sour milk with tiny bits of charcoal (wosek) infused.

Lunch and dinner are the main meals of the day. Breakfast usually consists of tea (with chego ak sukaruk) and leftovers from the previous night’s meal (mokoriet), or perhaps some store-bought bread. Meal times, as well as the habit of tea-drinking, was adopted from the British colonial period.

Kalenjin Mum


One thought on “Kalenjin People

  1. Pingback: Five Things You Can’t Miss In A Kalenjin Home. – KALENJINSIDE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.