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Kenya communities – The Embu

  Home      Kenya communities – The Embu

It is a small tribe closely related to the Kikuyu and Meru tribes. The Embu tribe lives on the south-eastern side of Mount Kenya, and is very closely related to a nearby tribe called the Mbeere. They are approximately half a million in population. The Embu and the Mbeere live together quite peacefully, but the two tribes were split apart by a conflict many years ago. The two groups were holding a training fight of some kind, and one side (likely the Embu) used real swords instead of sticks, and forced the Mbeere onto the less fertile lands down the mountain. Even with such a hostile split, the two tribes are close today.

They are believed to be hot tempered but they are peaceful. They have similar culture and traditions with the Meru. The Embu are traditionally agriculturalists and farmers, since the mountain slopes are not really suitable for large-scale animal herding. They grow food crops such as maize, millet, cassava, beans and many more for their own use, as well as cash crops such as coffee, tea and macadamia among others.

Embu families are not as large or extended as seen in other tribes. Married sons did not continue to live with their fathers, but built their own homes for their families. Both boys and girls are circumcised to become adults, but Embu society is not made up of multiple age-sets. Each alternating generation is marked with a name, so an entire generation was part of the same age-set. This was a way of marking who belonged to the generation of elders, who were the leaders of the tribe.

Like the Kikuyu, the Embu people traditionally worshiped the god Ngai, who they believe lived at the peak of Mount Kenya. However, most Embu’s are now Christians following missionaries by Western churches. The Embu call Mount Kenya Kirenia’, which translates to ‘mountain of whiteness’, a reference to its snow covered peak.