Form 1 History and Government Notes on Socio Economic and Political Organization of Kenyan Communities in the 19th Century

Grade/Class: Form 1

Subject: History and Government

Term: Select Term

Document Type: PDF

    

Views: 63     Downloads: 0

Summary

SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL ORGANIZATION OF KENYAN COMMUNITIES IN THE 19TH CENTURY

THE BANTU
Social organization
-Almost all the Bantu communities were organized in clans made up of people with common descent.
-All the Bantu communities practiced circumcision. In some communities like the Akamba, Abaluhyia, only boys circumcised. Among the Abagusii and Agikuyu, both boys and girls were circumcised. The initiates were taught the values and customs of their community
-Circumcision marked an entry into an age set whose functions included defending the community from external attacks, building huts and advising junior age-sets on how to raid.
-All the Bantu communities believed in the existence of a supernatural power that controlled their destiny. The Abaluhyia, for example called their God Were or Nyasaye, the Agikuyu Ngai etc.
-The Bantu communities had diviners and medicine man. Among the Agikuyu community, a medicine person was called mundu mugo.
-The Bantu celebrated life both in song and dance. There were songs for initiations, childbirth, marriage, harvest and funeral. The mood and style of their song and dances varied depending on the occasion.

Political organization of the Bantu
-All the Bantu communities in Kenya, except the Wanga sub-group of the Luhyia, had decentralized forms of government.
-The clan formed the basic political unit for all the Bantu communities. Each clan was made up of related families. Leadership of the clan was in the hands of a council of elders who played a pivoted role in solving disputes, decided on inter-tribal marriages, maintaining law and order and making executive decisions affecting the community like declaring war.
-Among the Agikuyu and Ameru, the council was known as Kiama, Kambi among Mijikenda, Njama among Ataveta and Abagata ba gesaku among the Gusii.
-The Bantu had an age-set system that had some political significance. For example among the Agikuyu, the boys joined the age-set after initiation to provide warriors who defended the community from external attacks and raid other communities for cattle.
-Among the centralized Wanga government, the king was known as Nabongo. His office was hereditary. He was assisted by a chief minister and other officials with a council of elders.

Economic organization of the Bantu
-The Bantu kept Livestock like sheep, cattle and goats for milk, meat and skin. Dowry was paid in form of livestock. Some communities used livestock as a form of currency in barter trade.
-They traded among themselves and also with their neighbours such as the Luo, kalenjin and Maasai. They sold grains in exchange for baskets and fish from the Luo.
-They practiced iron-smelting, making implements such as knives, hoes arrow heads and spearheads. These sometimes also became trading items.
-The Bantu practiced crop growing. They grew grains like millet, sorghum and cassava among other crops mainly for food while the excess were sold to neighbours.
-They practiced craft making pots and weaving baskets.
-For the Bantu communities who lived along rivers and Lake Victoria, e.g. the Luhyia, they practiced fishing.
-Hunting and gathering was also done by some communities to supplement their food. E.g. the Akamba.
-Raiding other communities for cattle.

The Agikuyu.
By 19th century, the Agikuyu had a complex social, economic and political organization some of which were products of their interaction with other communities.

Social organization
-The family was the smallest social unit among the Agikuyu. It was headed by a father.
Several families that shared a common ancestry comprised a clan.
-The Agikuyu had rites of passage which included initiation of both boys and girls through circumcision/clitoridectomy.
-The initiated boys joined the age-set (riika or mariika) after being educated on the values and customs of the society. It was only after initiation that boys and girls were considered mature enough to get married.
-The Agikuyu believed in the existence of one God who controlled their destiny. They called their God Ngai. He was all powerful and as believed to dwell on Mt. Kirinyaga where they claim he created them.
-They also had diviners whose main work was to interpret God’s message to the people.
-The Agikuyu had medicine man. A medicine person was called mundu mugo. Their main work was to cure diseases. They learned their skills through apprenticeship.
-The Agikuyu had designated sacred places for prayers, worship and offerings (an example was the Mugumo tree for offering sacrifices).
-Marriage was an important institution among the Agikuyu.

The political organization of the Agikuyu
-The Agikuyu had a decentralized system of government. The basic political system was based on the family headed by a father.
-Several families made up a clan (Mbari). Each clan was ruled by a council of elders. (kiama).
A senior elder (Muramati) coordinated the activities of the clan.
-Several elders(aramati)formed a higher council of elders (kiama kia athamaki)
-The functions of the higher council of elders included settling disputes, deliberating on day to day activities, administering justice and handled disputes, inheritance disputes and acted as a final court of appeal.
-They had warriors drawn from the age-set system, who defended the community from external aggression.

Economic organization of the Agikuyu
The Agikuyu engaged in various economic activities;
-The Agikuyu kept Livestock like sheep, cattle and goats for milk, meat and skin. Dowry was paid inform of livestock.
-They traded among themselves and with their neighbours such as the Akamba and Maasai.
They sold grains and iron implements in exchange for livestock products like skins and beads (Maasai) and imported goods like clothes(Akamba).
-They practiced iron-smelting, making implements such as knives, hoes which enhanced their farming activities and trade. They borrowed this art from the Gumba.
-They practiced crop growing. They grew grains like millet, yams, sweet potatoes,
arrowroots, sorghum and cassava among other crops mainly for food while the excess were sold to neighbours.
-They practiced craft making pots and weaving baskets.
-Hunting and gathering was also done by Agikuyu to supplement their food.

The Ameru
The Ameru had a system of government which ensured high standards of morality and stability. This system evolved as they migrated and interacted with other communities.

Social organization of the Ameru
The Ameru was a system characterized by the existence of various councils from the council of children to the supreme council of Njuri Ncheke. This was meant to ensure the highest moral standards in the community. The Njuri Ncheke acted as parliament and had the following functions;
-It presided over religious ceremonies.
-It solved disputes in the community. It also mediated in disputes involving the Meru and their neighbors
-It ensured the custody of the community’s history, traditions and values/heritage
-It sanctioned wars
-Acted as ritual leaders. They provided Guidance and counseling community members.
-It set the moral code to be adhered to by all members of the community. If one went against the moral code, he/she would be punished. A member of the Njuri Ncheke who offended another was fined a bundle of miraa. A warrior who violated the code was fined a bull, an elder who violated the code was fined a bull or a goat, a woman who broke the code was fined a big pot of cowpeas.Marriage was regarded highly among the Ameru and a married woman would be assigned to an elderly woman (midwife) whom she must give gifts like millet, peas and black beans in exchange for midwifery. Any spouse who involved in adultery or any girl who was not a virgin at the time of marriage was stoned to death by a stoning council made up of male initiates. Marriage was exogamous (no one was allowed to marry from their clan) Before a male child was considered mature, he underwent several stages including circumcision. Before circumcision of both boys and girls, two ceremonies were performed after which they became full members of the community.
-The time of making spots where the ear-hole perforation would be done.
-The time of actual perforation of the ears.
The Ameru believed in the existence of a supreme being called Baaba Weetu who was a loving father and took care of all. He was omnipresent.
The Ameru also believed in the existence of spirits which either brought happiness or tears depending on how one lived on earth.
They believed in life after death with good people going where rains come from when they die. Libations were offered to ancestors to quench their thirst and relieve their hunger
Building houses in the Ameru community was the work of women while men defended the community.

Economic organization of the Ameru
-The Ameru cultivated grain crops like millet, peas, black beans, cowpeas and miraa among other crops mainly for food while the excess were sold to neighbours.
-The Ameru kept Livestock like sheep. Goats and cattle for dowry payment and rituals and also for milk, meat and skin.
-They traded among themselves and with their neighbours. When the coastal traders penetrated the interior, they exchanged goods with them
-They practiced iron-smelting, making implements such as knives, spears and hoes which enhanced their farming activities and trade.
-They practiced craft making pots and weaving baskets.
- Hunting and gathering was also done by Ameru to supplement their food.

Political organization of the Ameru
-The basic political system was based on the family headed by a father.
-The basic political unit was the clan. Several families made up a clan headed by a clan elder.
-The Ameru had a system of councils and age groups which oversaw the administration of the community. Every Meru belonged to the relevant council. E.g. the children’s council, council of elders’ council of warriors. The supreme council was known as Njuri Ncheke.
-The functions of the supreme council of elders included settling disputes, deliberating on day to day activities, administering justice and handled disputes, inheritance disputes and acted as a final court of appeal. It also officiated over religious ceremonies
-The age set system provided the community with warriors who defended the community from external aggression.
-Religions leaders like prophets influenced the political administration for the Ameru.
-Their system of government alternated between two organizations namely, Kiruga and Ntiba every fourteen years and each had its own army regiment.

The Akamba
The Akamba are of the eastern Bantus who settled in Chyulu hills, Mbooni, Kitui and Machakos.

Social organization
-Like other Bantus, the Akamba were organized into clans whose members claimed common descent.
-The Akamba practiced exogamous marriages. However their tradition allowed the adoption of an outsider into a clan
-Wrongdoers among the Akamba were banished from the community if they refused to compensate for the wrong did.
-There existed no institutional age sets among the Akamba though boys and girls were circumcised before reaching puberty. The initiates were then taught community secrets after two years from circumcision (at 14 years)
-At puberty, both men and women were allowed to marry and bear children with the father of a young family automatically becoming a junior elder until his children were ready to be circumcised.
-He then moved to the next grade only after paying a bullock and several goats.
-The top two grades formed the administrative council of the community mainly dealing with the ritual ceremonies.
-The Akamba believed in the existence of a creator called Ngai or Mulungu whom they prayed to through ancestral spirits.
-The Akamba had ritual experts who included medicine people that guided them in their rituals.
-Shrines also existed where offerings and sacrifices were made by the elders called Atumia ma ithembo. (Mostly found at a place with two large fig trees.)
~ The Akamba had many social ceremonies which were accompanied with festivity dance and music. For example, during harvest, weddings, deaths and birth.

Political organization
~ The smallest political unit among the Akamba was the homestead, (Musyi) comprising three to four generations of extended family with a stockade round the home of each married man. Outside the entrance of the homestead, there was an open space (thome), where men would sit and discuss political and other important matters.
-Several related families formed a wider territorial grouping or clan with its own recreational ground, elder’s council (made of all the male elders), war leader and palace for worship
-The clan was the main political unit for the Akamba.
-There was also a larger territorial grouping above the clan called Kivalo that constituted a fighting unit. There was however no single central authority that united the Akamba. The Kivalo was always disbanded after war.
-Age grades and age sets were common to all in the community and acted as a unifying factor.
-The elders in the community were ranked according to seniority.
-Junior elders defended their community. Medium elders (Nthele) assisted in the administration of the community. The full elders (Atumia ma Kivalo) participated in delivering judgment. The senior most elders (Atumia ma Ithembo) were involved in religious activities.
-By 19th century, due to participation and gaining from trade, a number of people had gained prestige and followers to be regarded as Akamba chiefs or leaders. For example, chief Kivoi.

Economic organization
-Due to variation in the environment, the Akamba participated in varied economic activities.
-Those who lived around the fertile Mbooni, Ulu and Iveti hills practiced farming. They planted sorghum, millet, yams, potatoes, sugarcane and beans.
-Those who lived in the drier areas like Kitui practiced livestock farming and mainly transhumance during the drier period.
-The Akamba were also hunters hunting for elephants, leopards, antelopes and Rhinos. They were gatherers who collected fruits, roots etc.
-They practiced trading activities e.g. they sold Ivory, feathers, shells hides, arrows, spearheads, to neighbours and the Arabs, Swahili traders.
-The Akamba were skilled Iron –workers produced spears, arrow heads, hoes, knives.
-The Akamba Practiced woodcarving making tools and shields.
-They engaged in pottery, making pots, mats etc.
- They were bee-keepers for honey which they sold.
-The Akamba acted as middlemen during the long distance trade.

The Abagusii
They originated in the Congo Forest like other Bantus and settled in the fertile highlands of Kisii, Gucha and Nyamira Districts of Nyanza Province.

Political Organization
The clan formed the basic political unit for Gusii communities. Each clan was made up of related families. Leadership of the clan was in the hands of a council of elders who played a pivoted role in solving disputes, decided on inter-tribal marriages, maintaining law and order and making executive decisions affecting the community like declaring war. The council was known Abagata ba gesaku. The Abagusii also had chiefdoms made up of several clans, which United to counter-attacks from their neighbours. Each chiefdom was headed by a chief (Omugambi), assisted by a council of clan elders.
The elders acted as ‘middlemen’ through whom people could communicate their wishes and grievances to the chief. The position of the chief was hereditary. The Omugambi presided over religious ceremonies. He led clan members in communal sacrifices and social activities such as the planting and harvesting of crops. He also performed political functions. After circumcision, the boys joined the age-set which acted as a military wing responsible for the defence of the community. The Kisii still practice most of the political features discussed above.



Social organization
The Abagusii lived in family unit, headed by a family member, called the family head. Several related families formed a clan, headed by clan elders who formed a council. The role of the council of elders was to settle disputes between families. A number of clans formed sub-communities headed by clan elders. Circumcision of boys and girls formed part of the initiation rites for the Abagusii. The initiates were taught the values and customs of the society after which they were considered adults. The initiated boys were organized into age groups and age-grades. An age-grade was made up of people who were circumcised together. Members of the same age-grade treated one another as real brothers and helped each other in times of need. They believed in the existence of a supreme god, ‘engoro’ who was the creator of everything. They offered sacrifices to him during special occasions like initiation ceremonies and religions festivals and when there were problems like illness and draught. They worshipped him through their ancestral spirits. Diviners and seers among the Kisii were special people and were called Omoragori.

Economic organization
-The Abagusii practiced crop farming. They grew many food crops including maize, sorghum, yams, peas, beans, millet, cassava, bananas and sweet potatoes.
-They also kept livestock, cattle, goats and sheep were kept for meat and milk. They also kept poultry.
-Trading was also a main economic activity among the Abagusii. They traded with their neighbours especially the Luo and the Abaluhyia. The Luo supplied them with livestock, cattle, salt, hides, fish, drums, and poison for arrows, spears and potatoes. In return, the Abagusii supplied the Luo with grain, hoes, axes, spears, arrowheads, razors, soapstone, soapstone dust, baboon skins, pipes, bowls and carvings of animals and birds.
- The Abagusii were also involved in iron-working, which they kept secret to avoid competition from their neighbours. They made iron implements such as hoes, spears, axes and arrow heads. They also made ornaments.
-They mined soapstone on the hilltops. They used is dust to decorate their faces during ceremonies. Some was sold to the Luos who used to decorate faces of their heroes. It was used for making pots, pipes, bowls and carvings.
-They also depended on hunting and gathering to supplement the other economies. They hunted wild game for meat and skins. They also collected wild fruit roots and vegetables.
-The Abagusii raided their neighbours for livestock. To date, they still raid the Maasai and Kipsigis for livestock.

The Mijikenda
The Mijikenda comprise of nine groups that had similar social, economic and political structures. They are believed to have arrived in their current settlement from Shungwaya.

Social organization of the Mijikenda
The Mijikenda were organized in clans comprising of related families.
-The Mijikenda practiced circumcision. Only boys circumcised. Circumcision marked an entry into an age set whose functions included building huts and advising junior age -sets on how to raid.
-They believed in the existence of a supernatural power that controlled their destiny. They called their God Mulungu.
- The Mijikenda worshipped ancestral spirits. Prophets among the Mijikenda were called wafisi.
-Marriage among the Mijikenda was exogamous (no one was allowed to marry from their clan). They practiced polygamy
- There was division of labour among the Mijikenda. Children looked after livestock, young men built houses, cattle sheds, hunted and cleared bushes for cultivation.

-The Mijikenda celebrated social ceremonies in song and dance. There were songs for initiations, childbirth, marriage, harvest and funeral.

Political organization
- The Mijikenda had a strong clan system. Administration was based on a strong clan system. 4-6 clans lived in a fortified village known as kaya.
-The existence of a council of elders (Kambi) at clan level to settle disputes and the general administration of the clan
-An age set (riika) system formed by young men after circumcision and which provided the base from which warriors were obtained.
-Social and political unity was strengthened through intermarriage between different clans.
-Judicial matters were handled by the elders’ council which was final court of appeal.
-The council of elders declared war on warring neighbors.

Economic organization
-The Mijikenda kept Livestock like sheep, cattle and goats for milk, meat and skin. Hunting and gathering was also done to supplement their food
-They traded in the coastal trade with the Arabs and with the Akamba from interior.
-The Mijikenda practiced salt mining which the used as a trading item.
-The Mijikenda engaged in fishing along the coast as well as on rivers.
-They practiced crop growing. They grew grains like millet, yams, sweet potatoes, arrowroots, sorghum, coconut and cassava among other crops mainly for food while the excess were sold to neighbours.
-They practiced craft making pots and weaving baskets using coconut leaves.

NILOTES
The second largest group in Kenya.


Social organization
-There were slight variations in the social organizations of the various Nilotic groups in Kenya. However they shared institutions such as the clan-based organization, belief in one God, veneration of ancestral spirits, age-set system, social ceremonies and existence of religious leaders.
-The family was the basic social unit in many communities. Several related families grouped together to form clans among the Luo, Maasai and Nandi.
-They believed in one supernatural being. The Maasai referred to him as Engai while the Luo called Him Nyasaye.
-The communities believed in the existence of ancestral spirits, to whom sacrifices and libations were made to ensure they remained happy.
-There was the existence of religious leaders whose work was to lead the communities during religious functions and rituals. Some of the religious leaders had assumed political power by 19th c. For example the Orkoiyot among the Nandi and Oloibon among the Maasai.
-The Maasai and other Nilotic groups had rain makers and diviners.
-The age-set system was another common social institution. The age sets were formed by those who were initiated at the same time. The institution created a bond among the initiates that cut across the families and clans thus uniting the whole community.
-There were social ceremonies that accompanied the rites of passage like circumcision, marriage and death.
-The Luo as their form of initiation extracted six lower teeth. The other groups practiced circumcision. In all the groups, the initiates were taught the community values.

The economic organization
-The nilotes were nomadic pastoralists who kept Livestock like sheep, cattle and goats for milk, meat and blood.
-They traded among themselves and also with their neighbours. The kalenjin traded with the Maasai and with the Luo and neighbouring Bantu communities like the Abaluhyia. They sold animal products and red ochre in exchange for grains from the Bantu.
-They practiced iron-smelting, making implements such as arrow heads and spearheads. This skilled was borrowed from the Bantu.
-The Maasai also practiced mining e.g. mined iron, salt and red ochre which they used for decoration and as a commodity for trade.
-There existed variation in the economic activities within a single community like the Maasai. Some sections of the Maasai e.g. the Kwavi practiced crop growing i.e. growing grains and vegetables. The Purko were purely pastoralists
-They practiced craft e.g. made pots, weaved baskets and leather belts.
-Raiding other communities for cattle was also a common economic practice.
-The Luo who lived near Lake Victoria practiced fishing. The Turkana also engaged in fishing on Lake Turkana.

Political organization
-The Nilotic communities had a decentralized system of administration with all the communities organized on clan basis.
-There existed councils of elders that administered and ensured maintenance of law and order, settled disputes between clans and other communities.
-The nilotes had a warlike tradition. Each community had Warriors who defended the community and raided other communities. The Luo referred to the warriors as Thuondi. The Maasai called them Moran.
-The age-set system determined political leadership since all those initiated together formed one age-set for life.
-The institution of religion influenced most of the political affairs of the Nilotic speakers. For example, the Orkoiyot among the Nandi and the Oloibon among the Maasai were primarily religious leaders who wielded political authority in the 19th century.

The Nandi
By 1900 AD, the Nandi had already established their social, economic and political institutions.

Social organization
-The family was the basic social unit. Several related families grouped together to form clans among Nandi. The family institution was very important in the community. It played an important role in the Kokwet (council of elders) and in the clan activities.
-The age-set system was an important social institution among the Nandi. Nandi boys and girls were initiated at puberty through circumcision. Circumcision marked entry into adulthood. The initiates were taught the deepest community values during the period.
-Age sets were formed by those who were initiated at the same time irrespective of the clans they belonged to. In total, there were eight age-sets among the Nandi namely Sawe, Maina, Chuma, Korongoro, Kipkoimet, Kaplelach, Kimnyinge and Nyongi.
-The Nandi boys became junior warriors after circumcision. They only promoted to senior warriors after the Saket apeito ceremony (slaughter of bullock) that was done after every fifteen years.
-Marriage within the same clan was prohibited among the Nandi. This was meant to create unity by encouraging intermarriages between different clans.
-They believed in one supernatural being whom they referred to him as Asis, who was believed to be the protector of the community.
-The Nandi believed in the existence of ancestral spirits, to whom sacrifices and libations were made to ensure they remained happy.
-The community also had important religious leaders whose work was to lead the
community during religious functions and rituals, diviners and rain makers.The institution of Orkoiyot among the Nandi was borrowed from that of Oloibon among the Maasai.

Religious functions did the Orkoiyot of the Nandi.
-He Mediated between God and the people/acting as a priest.
-He presided over Offering of sacrifices to God on behalf of the people.
-He advised and blessed the warriors before they went to war.
-Blessing people before they undertook special activities like planting and
harvesting.
-He foretold what was going to happen in the future. e.g. success or misfortune in the community.

Economic organization
-The Nandi were pastoralists who kept Livestock like sheep, cattle and goats for milk, meat, manure and blood. Cattle were a symbol of status among the Nandi and also a form of dowry settlement.
-The Nandi cultivated crops such as Millet and sorghum due the fertile soils and favourable climate in areas like Aldai.
-They also practiced hunting and gathering to supplement their food production.
-The Nandi raided other communities for cattle. They acquired large herds of cattle through raiding neighbouring communities such as the Maasai, Abaluhyia and Luo.
-They traded among themselves and also with their neighbours. The Nandi traded with the Maasai and with the Luo and neighbouring Bantu communities like the Abaluhyia. They sold animal products and red ochre in exchange for grains from the Bantu. The Nandi however were self sufficient in food.
-They practiced craft e.g. made pots, weaved baskets and leather belts.

Political organization
The family was the basic political unit. It was headed by a father who dealt with internal matters such as discipline, allocation of crops, land and cattle. In matters affecting the neighbourhood, he was assisted by the Kokwet (council of elders) which was made up of neighbourhood heads. Above the Kokwet was the clan organization whose council of elders tackled matters to do with grazing rights. Above the clan, there was a larger socio-political unit comprising different war groups located in the same geographical zone called a pororiet. This formed the highest political unit among the Nandi. The pororiet council of elders comprised representatives from different clans. Its functions included negotiating for peace and declaring war .The Nandi boys became junior warriors after circumcision. They only promoted to senior warriors after the Saket apeito ceremony (slaughter of bullock) that was done after every fifteen years.



The Maasai
Social organization
-The Maasai were divided into two groups; the pastoral Maasai(Purko) and the Agricultural Maasai(Kwavi or Iloikop).
-The Maasai were organized on clan basis with each clan associated with a particular type of cattle. In total, the Maasai had five clans spread over large areas and not necessarily staying together.
-Maasai boys and girls were initiated at puberty through circumcision. Circumcision marked entry into adulthood. The initiates were taught the deepest community values during the period.
-After circumcision, the boys entered an age set to which they belonged the rest of their life.
-The age set institution created a bond among the initiates that cut across the families and clans thus uniting the whole community.
-All the boys initiated together also formed a warrior class called Morans and lived in special homesteads called Manyattas away from the rest of the community for about ten years.
-They were not allowed to take milk from their mother’s house and were required to adhere to ritual and dietary restrictions.
-They believed in one supernatural being. The Maasai referred to him as Engai. Prayers and sacrifices were offered to him at the shrines.
-There was the existence of religious leaders whose work was to lead the communities during religious functions and rituals. They called their religious leader Oloibon.
Functions of Oloibon
-He presided over religious ceremonies. / He was consulted on all religious matters.
-He blessed warriors before they went to war.
-He advised the council of elders.
-He foretold the future events.
The Maasai and other Nilotic groups had rain makers and diviners.
There were several social ceremonies that accompanied the rites of passage like circumcision, marriage and death. The Eunoto ceremony marked the graduation of the Morans into junior elders. This ceremony is still practiced upto date.

Economic organization of the Maasai
-The Maasai were nomadic pastoralists who kept Livestock like sheep, cattle and goats for milk, meat and blood..
-They traded among themselves and also with their neighbours such as the Agikuyu, Kalenjin and Taita. They sold animal products and red ochre in exchange for grains from the Agikuyu.
- They practiced iron-smelting, making implements such as arrow heads and spearheads..
-They also practiced mining e.g. mined iron, salt and red ochre which
-They also practiced mining e.g. mined iron, salt and red ochre which they used for decoration and as a commodity for trade.
-Some sections of the Maasai e.g. the Kwavi practiced crop growing i.e. growing grains and vegetables.
-They practiced craft e.g. made pots, weaved baskets and leather belts.
-Raiding other communities for cattle.

Political organization of the Maasai
The largest political unit amongst Maasai was the tribal section, which was a geographically distinct entity which operated as a nation, especially during ceremonies.
Affairs involving inter-clan cooperation were dealt within ad hoc meetings comprising age set spokesmen
Before a Maasai young man became an adult, he underwent the following four stages.
Boyhood (ilaiyak)
The youths at this stage looked after family and clan livestock until they reached circumcision stage at about 15 years.

Warrior hood (Ilmuran)
The stage was joined by young men circumcised together and comprised of ages between 18 and 25 years. They defended the community and conducted raids to boost the clan and tribal flocks. They had a military leader known as Olaiguani.
The stayed in isolation in manyattas undergoing military training in order to graduate into senior warriors. After that they were permitted to marry.

Junior elders
This was the political authority that evaluated the day to day issues of the community.
It comprised heads of households. Aim responsibility was to maintain peace and instruct warriors on how to handle issues in the community. They were permitted to own livestock.

The senior elders
They comprise the senior most age-set. Membership was determined by age and experience. The group performed religious functions and also was responsible for and dealt with difficult judicial and political decisions. The Maasai adopted the institution of Oloibon or prophet that combined socio-religious functions and later own assumed political authority. There were several social ceremonies that accompanied the rites of passage like circumcision, marriage and death. The Eunoto ceremony marked the graduation of the Morans into junior elders. This ceremony is still practiced upto date.

The Luo
Social organization
The family was the basic social unit among the Luo. The Luo community valued large families and therefore practiced polygamy. Marriage among the Luo was exogamous (no one was allowed to marry from their clan).
Several related families grouped together to form clans among the Luo.
They believed in one supernatural being whom they called Nyasaye. They prayed to Nyasaye. The communities believed in the existence of ancestral spirits, to whom sacrifices and libations were made to ensure they remained happy. Sacred shrines and trees existed. He rocks, high hills and even the lakes were associated with supernatural power. There was the existence of religious leaders whose work was to lead the communities during religious functions and perform rituals. These included priests, medicine people, rain makers and diviners. For one to be a medicine person, a benevolent spirit called Juogi must possess him or her. The Luo youths as their form of initiation extracted six lower teeth. After that they were allowed to marry. The Luo had several social ceremonies that accompanied the rites of passage like marriage and death.

Economic organization
-The Luo were originally a pastoral and fishing community. They Practiced livestock keeping for prestige and cultural purposes e.g. dowry and for meat and milk.
-The carried out Fishing along water courses due to their proximity to the lake. Both men and women conducted fishing, which was a source of food as well as a trade commodity.
-The Luo Traded with their neighbors. They sold pots, baskets, cattle, fish and livestock for grains, spears, arrows and canoes from the Abaluhyia, Abagusii, Kipsigis and Nandi.
-They also Cultivated plants like millet, sorghum, etc
-Most of them practiced hunting and gathering to get additional meat and hides and to supplement the food they produced.
-They practiced craft. Women specialized in production of pottery products, baskets and clothes

Political organization of the Luo
The Luo were a decentralized community.
The family was the basic political unit among the Luo. The head of the family was referred to as Jaduong. Several related families made up a clan headed by a council of elders called Doho whose main responsibility was to settle inter-family disputes.
Below the Doho were lineage councils called Buch Dhoot that tackled domestic issues
Above the Doho was a grouping of clans called Oganda headed by a council of elders referred to as Buch piny and headed by a chief elder called Ruoth. The Buch piny comprised representatives from each clan. It was responsible for settling inter -clan conflicts, declaring war and punishing criminals such as murderers. Religious leaders among the Luo also influenced politics. E.g rainmakers and diviners. One of the members of the council of elders was given a responsibility of advising the council on military matters and was therefore a war leader (osumba Mrwayi). Under them was a special group of warriors referred to as Thuondi (bulls). Their work was to raid neighbouring communities like the Maasai, Nandi and Abagusii and other perceived enemies.

The Cushites
These were the smallest linguistic group in Kenya inhabiting the northern part of Kenya. They are a nomadic Sam speaking group. They comprise the Borana, Gabra, Galla (Oromo), Rendille and Burji. The communities developed complex social, economic and political institutions that were interrupted by the coming of the Muslims and Europeans.

Social organization of the Cushites
The Cushites had a patrilineal society, which means they traced their origins through the father. The Cushites believed in a common ancestor which makes their kinship system strong. All the Cushitic communities practiced circumcision of boys and clitoridectomy for girls as a form of initiation. This was a rite of passage into adulthood. After circumcision, the initiates were taught about their adult roles and their rights as members of the community. Circumcision marked an entry into an age set whose functions included defending the community from external attacks, building huts and advising junior age-sets on how to raid. Each age set had a leader with specific duties. They believed in the existence of a supreme god, who was the creator of everything. He was given different names. The Oromo referred to him as wak(waq).They also believed in spirits which inhabited natural objects like rocks and trees. The Cushites had shrines from which they prayed to their God. Later on, through interaction with their neighbours, all the Cushites became Muslims by the 16thc.The Cushitic speakers were polygamous and their marriage was exogamous in nature. Inheritance was from father to son among the Cushites. The elder son inherited the father’s property and shared it with his younger brothers. Girls had no right to inheritance. The Cushitic life was full of ceremonies. They celebrated life both in song and dance. There were songs for initiations, childbirth, marriage, harvest and funeral.

Economic organization
They had a diversified economic system that catered for their livelihood and supported their lifestyle. They basically practiced Pastoralism/livestock keeping in their semi-arid region – They kept cattle, goats, camel and donkeys. Camels and cattle provided milk and blood and were a sign of prestige. Goats and sheep provided meat. Some Cushites who lived along river valleys practiced substance agriculture where they grew grain crops, vegetables, dates, peas, pepper, tubers and bananas. They also practiced iron smelting and made iron tools e.g. swords, knives, bangles and arrow heads. They hunted wild game for food, ivory, skins (hides) for clothing, bedding and gathered fruits,roots and vegetables. They engaged in craft industry e.g. production of leather items such as handbags, belts etc. Some of them who lived near rivers and along the Indian Ocean practiced fishing. They traded with their neighbours e.g. the Pokomo and the Samburu.

Political organization of the Cushites
All the Cushitic communities like other groups in Kenya, had decentralized forms of government. The clan formed the basic political unit for all the Bantu communities. Each clan was made up of related families.
The social and political system of the Cushites was interwoven that the social divisions, age set system were also important aspects of the political system. Leadership of the clan was in the hands of a council of elders who played a pivoted role in solving disputes, acting as ritual experts, presiding over religious ceremonies, maintaining law and order and making executive decisions affecting the community like declaring war. Among the Cushites a clan was independent of others except when the wider community faced a common enemy or problem. The Cushites developed an age-set system that had some political significance. After circumcision, the boys joined the age-set after initiation to provide warriors who defended the community from external attacks and raid other communities for cattle. The age set system was based on about ten groups each with its own leader. At the end of an age cycle, a ceremony was performed and the senior age sets retired from public life and settled in different territories.

The Somali
The social organization of the Somali. Like cushites, they were organized into clans each comprising of families whose members claimed common descent. They also had an age set system. Circumcision marked an entry into an age set whose functions included defending the community from external attacks, building huts and advising junior agesets on how to raid. Each age set had a leader with specific duties. They believed in the existence of a supreme god, whom they referred to as wak (waq). He was the creator of everything. They had religious leaders who mediated between God and the people
Later on, through interaction with their neighbours, all the Somali became Muslims by the 16thc.The Somali valued marriage as an important institution. They were polygamous and their marriage was exogamous in nature.

Political organization of the Somali
The Somali had a decentralized political system of administration. The basic political unit was the clan made up of related families. The clan was headed by a council of elders in charge of day to day affairs of the clan e.g. making major decisions and settling disputes and presiding over religious ceremonies. The Somali had an age set system and all male members of the society belonged to an age set. Each age set performed specific roles/duties. From the age set system, there evolved a military organization for community defence. Initiates joined the age set system after circumcision. With the advent of Islamic religion political organization changed. They now had community leaders called sheikhs whose role was mainly advisory. The political system was now based on the Islamic sharia.

Economic organization
a) The Somali were hunters and gathers. They hunted wild game for food and gathered fruits and roots and vegetables.
b) They basically practiced nomadic Pastoralism. They kept cattle, goats, camel and sheep. Their diet was mainly milk, meat and blood.
c) They traded with their neighbours to get what they could not produce e.g. the Pokomo and the Mijikenda from whom they acquired grains.
d) A section of the Somali practiced iron smelting and made iron tools e.g. swords, knives, bangles and arrow heads. They also engaged in craft industry e.g. production of leather items such as handbags, belts etc.
e) Such craft activities were despised among the Somali and were associated with a group whom they referred to as Sab (outcasts).

The Borana
They are a branch of the Oromo or Galla people who came from Ethiopia.

Social organization
The Borana had a complex social organization. The society was divided into clans led by elders whose responsibility was to settle disputes and maintaining law and order. Each clan was made up of related families. The borana had a strong belief in the extended family. The Borana were nomadic. But they had a residential section called the camp that consisted of a few huts of related families. .In the camps, it was the most senior married and competent man who became the head of the camp (abba olla). He would have his wife’s hut built on the extreme left.The Borana had a complex age-set structure called Gada. Each Gada was headed by the most powerful individual among the group members (Abba boku). His duty would be to preside over village meetings, proclaim laws and preside over religious ceremonies. The community had two kinship groups that practiced exogamous marriage. A man from the Gona kinship would only marry from the Sabbo kinship. Polygamy was allowed. The family among the borana was headed by a man referred to as Abba warra with the wife as the female head of the household (Hatimana)
There was division of labour in the society. The men defended the camps, wells, herds and shrines. They dug wells and organized raiding parties. The men also elected leaders of camps, age sets and Gada class. The women performed household duties, wove baskets for carrying children, prepared leather and built houses. Boys herded sheep, goats and cattle. Elders presided over the court cases. The borana worshipped a powerful God, the creator whom they called Wak (waq). He was worshipped through religious leaders
They had a patrilineal society where inheritance was from the father to the son, and specifically the first son, angafa, who would then redistribute the inherited cattle to the younger brothers.Their culture was full of ceremonies. For example, there were ceremonies when a Gada class entered or left a Gada grade, there was war ceremony (butta) and a muda ceremony in honor of the kinship leader, kallu.

Economic organization
a) The borana were basically nomadic Pastoralists who kept cattle, goats and sheep. Cattle was slaughtered as part of their religious rituals and also provided raw materials for houses and other local industries.
b) They traded with their neighbours to get what they could not produce e.g. they exchanged their animals with the Mijikenda from whom they acquired grains.
c) The Borana were hunters and gatherers. They hunted wild game for food and gathered fruits and roots and vegetables.
d) Those who settled in the fertile region along the Tana valley grew crops like beans and pepper.
e) The Borana women engaged in craft industry e.g. production of leather items such as handbags, belts etc. men also made wooden tools, weapons and utensils.
f) The Borana also practiced fishing as they settled along river Tana.

Political organization of the borana
Their political system was based on the kinship system where the society was divided into clans comprising related families. There were two moieties (kinships) that were further divided into sub-moieties. The sub-moieties were further divided into clans.
Each moiety was headed by a hereditary leader known as kallu. The kallu of the Sabbo for example came from the dyallu clan of the karrayyu sub-moiety.The kallu’s camp was the spiritual and political centre of the group. His duties included leading in ritual ceremonies, providing judgment in major conflicts between clans.He was elected together with the council of the Gada leaders of each gad class when it prepared to enter a new grade.The kallu were not authorized to bear arms or defend themselves but were to move in company of other members of the society.The borana society was divided into clans led by a council of elders whose responsibility was to settle disputes and maintaining law and order. Each clan was made up of related families who lived in a residential section called the camp that consisted of a few huts of related families. .Powers were distributed equally between the two moieties at all levels such as in the Gada class, age-set and camp councils as well as in tribal ceremonies. The complex age set system mainly provided a military base for the society. The age sets, Hariyya, were recruited from boys of the same age. Gada class (Luba) was recruited genealogically. There were eleven grades through which the Gada classes passed from birth to death, with each grade lasting eight years. While age set members were of the same age, Gada members were of varied ages.
The age sets formed the age set council that recruited the warriors.Members of the Gada classes formed the Gada council (lallaba) which the responsibility of making decisions for their classes. They also resolved conflicts between non-relatives and mobilized economic activities such as digging wells, organizing societal rituals and ceremonies and directing relatives with their neighbours such as the Oromo and Somali. The councils contributed to the development of an effective political organization. The complexity of the borana institutions strengthened unity among them. However, the coming of the colonialists in the 20th century heavily impacted on these nomadic pastoral community.

 

More Notes