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Kenya Communities: The Gabbra

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The Gabbra are an Eastern Cushitic people related to the Somali-Rendille in their historical background having originated in the southern Ethiopian highlands about 1000AD. The Gabbra are closely related both historically and culturally with the Sakuye people. They moved into Kenya as refugees fleeing from Ethiopian Emperor Menelik’s armies in Ethiopia in the late 1800s and now speak the Borana language. They are primarily pastoralists but their culture is more entwined with their care of camels. Their basic diet is milk and meat.

Polygamy is accepted but rare. The family is the foundation of society and it consist ten to 15 families to make a village. One elder is appointed as abba-alla (father of the village) and is obeyed because of his personal competence, respected by those who democratically chose him.

Animals belong to the head of each family, but no individual can own land–it belongs to the whole tribe. Their basic diet was milk and meat. The Gabbra mostly follow the traditional religion and heritage of their ancestors their beliefs are inseparably linked to their herds. They traditionally believe in one God, whom they call Waka but the Muslim influence is stronger in some areas than others.