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Rendile

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People of Kenya: Rendile

The Rendille are a Cushitic tribe that inhabits the climatically harsh region between Marsabit hills and Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya where they neighbor the Borana, Gabbra, Samburu and Turkana tribes. They (Rendile) consist of nine clans and seven sub clans. They are culturally similar to the Gabbra, having adopted some Borana customs and being related to the Somali people to the east. Rendille are semi-nomadic pastoralists whose most important animal is the camel. The original home of the Rendille people was in Ethiopia.

They were forced to migrate southwards into Kenya due to frequent conflicts with the Oromo tribe over pasture and water for their animals. Being pastoralists, the lifestyle of the Rendille revolves around their livestock. In the northerly areas, camels are their main source of livelihood. This is because camels are best adapted to the desert conditions that prevail in the northern Kenya. The camels are an important source of milk and meat for the Rendille people. When migrating to new pastures, the camels are also used to carry all the family possessions in a specially designed saddle.

The Rendille people living in the southern and less dry part of their region have had a good relationship with their Samburu neighbors where intermarriage with the Samburu has led to the emergence of a hybrid culture. Their ceremonies are similar to the Old Testament Jewish traditions, providing a basis for discussion of Christ’s sacrifice and an opportune introduction to personal salvation.

Traditionally the Rendille are a very religious people, believing in one God, an omnipresent creator and provider who answers prayer and cares for the poor. They practice many magical rituals, involving their camels or sheep. For example, the way a certain bull camel approaches a proposed new settlement area is taken as a good or bad omen. A propitious camel may be placed outside the camp facing the direction of an expected enemy attack in order to prevent the attack. Age-sets are the main component of Rendille society.

Initiation rituals take place precisely every seven or fourteen years, creating a series of generational age-sets, each with its own role in society. In the common Kenyan practice, the first initiation is circumcision. Men have many stages of warrior-hood, but women are simply married or unmarried.

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