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Embu people

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Embu
Total population
608,599[1]
Regions with significant populations
Kenya
Languages
Kiembu
Religion
Christianity, African Traditional Religion
Related ethnic groups
Kikuyu, Meru, Mbeere, Kamba and Sonjo

The Embu are a Bantu people inhabiting Embu county in Kenya. They speak the Embu language as a mother tongue. To the south of Embu are to be found their cousins, the Mbeere people. In essence Embu county encompasses the ethnic Kîembu dialect (Embu proper), from whom the Embu county's name derives, and the Kimbere dialect spoken by their Mbeere counterparts who inhabit the lower reaches of the county. Historically, both were just referred to as the Embu people. To the west, Embu neighbours are the closely related Kikuyu in Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Kiambu, Muranga and Nyandarua counties. The Meru people border the Embu to the East.

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Bantu peoples

Bantu peoples

The Bantu peoples, or Bantu, are an ethnolinguistic grouping of approximately 400 distinct ethnic groups who speak Bantu languages. They are native to 24 countries spread over a vast area from Central Africa to Southeast Africa and into Southern Africa. There are several hundred Bantu languages. Depending on the definition of "language" or "dialect", it is estimated that there are between 440 and 680 distinct languages. The total number of speakers is in the hundreds of millions, ranging at roughly 350 million in the mid-2010s. About 60 million speakers (2015), divided into some 200 ethnic or tribal groups, are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone.

Embu County

Embu County

Embu County is a county of Kenya. The capital of Embu County and the former Eastern province headquarters, Embu is a large and largely metropolitan area with a population of 608,599 persons. The county borders Kirinyaga to the west, Kitui to the east, Tharaka Nithi to the north, Machakos to the south. The county occupies an area of 2,821 km2.

Kenya

Kenya

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa. At 580,367 square kilometres (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by area. With a population of more than 47.6 million in the 2019 census, Kenya is the 29th most populous country in the world. Kenya's capital and largest city is Nairobi, while its oldest, currently second largest city, and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu City is the third-largest city and also an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centres include Nakuru and Eldoret. As of 2020, Kenya is the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and South Africa. Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Its geography, climate and population vary widely, ranging from cold snow-capped mountaintops with vast surrounding forests, wildlife and fertile agricultural regions to temperate climates in western and rift valley counties and dry less fertile arid and semi-arid areas and absolute deserts.

Embu language

Embu language

Embu, also known as Kîembu, is a Bantu language of Kenya. It is spoken by the Embu people, also known as the Aembu. Speakers of the Embu language can also be found in neighboring districts/counties and in the diaspora.

Kikuyu people

Kikuyu people

The Kikuyu are a Bantu ethnic group native to Central Kenya. At a population of 8,148,668 as of 2019, they account for 17.13% of the total population of Kenya, making them the largest ethnic group in Kenya.

Origin[2]

The Embu are of Bantu origin.[3] They inhabit the southern windward slopes and farmlands of Mount Kenya. Along with their closely related Eastern Bantu neighbors the Kikuyu, Mĩĩrũ, Mbeere and Kamba the Embu are believed to have entered their present habitat from the coast of East Africa, where they had settled early on after the initial Bantu expansion from Cameroon.[3]

The migration to Mount Kenya was occasioned by intertribal conflicts with the coastal Swahili and Mijikenda communities. Linguistic evidence suggests their migration from as far as the Kenyan Coast, since the Mĩĩrũ elders refer to Mpwa (Pwani or Coast,) as their origin, Felix Chami says "Pwani" is the Punt of ancient the Egyptians. These conflicts forced them to retreat northwest to the interior of Kenya, and they settled by the slopes of Mount Kenya. They were to refer to this location as the place of the Lord, the owner of the snow ("Nyaga") or ("Njerũ" meaning white) – hence the name "Mwenenyaga" or "Mwenenjerũ".

Embu mythology claims that the Embu people originated from the current Mwenendega grove in the interior of Embu, close to Rũnyenje's town. The mythology claims that God (Ngai) created Mwenendega and gave him a beautiful wife at Gogo River Salt Lick, in Mukuuri, hence her name "Ciũrũnjĩ" or "Nthara". Gogo River separates Mukuuri Location and Gitare localities at the edge of a ridge called Mûrurîrî.

Eminent historian Prof Mwaniki Kabeca (in his 2005 book Mbeere Historical Texts, page 105[4]) narrates that Mwenendega took his cattle to drink at the Gogo Salt Lick and found a girl who refused to talk to him at first. After much cajoling, she spoke with him and made him swear never to tell her negative things or abuse her, as there would be consequences.

The woman's parents were not known, and it was, therefore, believed she was sent by God.

Then one day the two, now man and wife, had a ceremony, where Ndega broke his promise and reproached his wife. It rained heavily, and the floods drowned the old couple.

Their children survived and their descendants filled the land of Embu.

The couple was blessed with wealth, and their descendants populated the rest of Embu.

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Bantu peoples

Bantu peoples

The Bantu peoples, or Bantu, are an ethnolinguistic grouping of approximately 400 distinct ethnic groups who speak Bantu languages. They are native to 24 countries spread over a vast area from Central Africa to Southeast Africa and into Southern Africa. There are several hundred Bantu languages. Depending on the definition of "language" or "dialect", it is estimated that there are between 440 and 680 distinct languages. The total number of speakers is in the hundreds of millions, ranging at roughly 350 million in the mid-2010s. About 60 million speakers (2015), divided into some 200 ethnic or tribal groups, are found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone.

Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. The highest peaks of the mountain are Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana. Mount Kenya is located in the former Eastern and Central provinces of Kenya; its peak is now the intersection of Meru, Embu, Laikipia, Kirinyaga, Nyeri and Tharaka Nithi counties, about 16.5 kilometres south of the equator, around 150 km (90 mi) north-northeast of the capital Nairobi. Mount Kenya is the source of the name of the Republic of Kenya.

Kikuyu people

Kikuyu people

The Kikuyu are a Bantu ethnic group native to Central Kenya. At a population of 8,148,668 as of 2019, they account for 17.13% of the total population of Kenya, making them the largest ethnic group in Kenya.

Mbeere people

Mbeere people

The Mbeere or Ambeere people are a Bantu ethnic group inhabiting the former Mbeere District in the now-defunct Eastern Province of Kenya. According to the 2019 Kenya National census, there are 195,250 Ambeere who inhabit an area of 2,093 km². They speak Kīmbeere language, which is a dialect very similar to the one spoken by their neighbours, the Kamba, Embu and Kikuyu.

Kamba people

Kamba people

The Kamba or Akamba people are a Bantu ethnic group who predominantly live in the area of Kenya stretching from Nairobi to Tsavo and north to Embu, in the southern part of the former Eastern Province. This land is called Ukambani and constitutes Makueni County, Kitui County and Machakos County. They also form the second largest ethnic group in 8 counties including Nairobi and Mombasa counties.

Bantu expansion

Bantu expansion

The Bantu expansion is a hypothesis of major series of migrations of the original Proto-Bantu-speaking group, which spread from an original nucleus around Central Africa across much of sub-Saharan Africa. In the process, the Proto-Bantu-speaking settlers displaced or absorbed pre-existing hunter-gatherer and pastoralist groups that they encountered.

Cameroon

Cameroon

Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon, is a country in west-central Africa. It is bordered by Nigeria to the west and north; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Its coastline lies on the Bight of Biafra, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. Due to its strategic position at the crossroads between West Africa and Central Africa, it has been categorized as being in both camps. Its nearly 27 million people speak 250 native languages.

Ngai

Ngai

Ngai is the monolithic Supreme God in the spirituality of the Kikuyu and the closely related Embu, Meru and Kamba groups of Kenya, and the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania. Ngai is creator of the universe and all in it. Regarded as the omnipotent God, the Kikuyu, Embu, Meru, Kamba and the Maasai of Kenya worshiped Ngai facing the Mt. Kirinyaga while prayers and goat sacrificial rituals were performed under the sacred Mugumo tree. Occasions which may warrant sacrifice or libation include times of drought; epidemics; during planting and harvesting; and human life stages such as birth, marriage and death.

Gogo Salt Lick, Kenya

Gogo Salt Lick, Kenya

Gogo Salt Lick is a salt lick located in Kenya.

Mukuuri

Mukuuri

Mûkûûrî is an administrative Location and township in Runyenjes Division, in Embu County, Kenya, with a population of about 15,000 people. It lies on the green, rolling hills of the Mount Kenya slopes. It is home to four public primary schools, including Kubu Kubu Memorial Boarding School and Muragari School, which is among the oldest schools in Embu and Kîrînyaga districts.

Gitare

Gitare

Gitare is a settlement in Kenya's Eastern Province.

History

The Embu are cash crop and subsistence farmers who also rear cows, goats and sheep. A man's riches were formerly judged by how many wives and children he had. For example, Senior Chief Muruatetu, probably one of the most famous of the Aembu people, not only had sixteen wives and many children, but he was also a respected administration officer for the colonial government and independent Kenya. An entire village bears his name, and a school is named after him.

The Embu were fierce warriors who, although rarely raiding other tribes, always stood firm in defense of their territory and people. Many occasions are on record where the Embu had to fiercely repulse Kamba and even the dreaded Maasai invasions. They also rose against the British in the Mau Mau fight for Kenya's independence. The fact that the tribe was and continues to be considerably small explains their relatively small impact on the history of Kenya.

A captivating photo of Embu warriors hangs at the Izaak Walton Inn in Embu, named after Izaak Walton, an English gentleman who was enraptured by the fresh trout available in the fresh rivers flowing through Embu. The Ruvingacĩ and Kavingacĩ 013 Rivers border Embu town to the west and the east respectively and are a key source of domestic water to many Embu families.

Embu region has for long been known as having very conducive altitude and climate that produce highly superior human body system. There has however been very little or no efforts in engaging young people from this area in sporting activities to tap this advantage. However, the country's athletic team has immensely utilized the altitude and climate advantage of Embu through doing practices especially at Kigari teachers college and its environs, area that is at the slope of Mt. Kenya. These have gone on to win prestigious awards in the Olympics and competitive world marathons.

Clans And Lineages

MUTURI IRUMA KINA IGANDU MUTURI GICUKU MATAU NGAI KITHAMI NJUKI GICUKU MATAU KITHAMI
Muriria Muyathitha Kamau Getanguthi Gitangaruri Ndwiga Nginyane Mutambuki Njuranio Kamwocere Nginyirua Mbogo Kabogo Kibariki
Ruciria Njau Muthanu Mutundu Kivunga Gataara Makururu Kariungi Muturi Nthiga Kabugua Kamwea Gacigua Kamwea
Kathunga Mugo Kariru Mugo Ngai Murenji Murinda Gacaria Nyaga Kuyina Ireri Njue Karico Munyiri
Icaria Mbogo Kauru Nguruma Murimi Gutaria Kirai Ngure Ithiga Mirori Ndethia Murega Kanyaari Njeru
Njue Kiriti Njeru Nyaga Nguma Ireri Mbogo Mutua Nthiga Gakuru Muruanguu Mbogo Njagi
Icaria Murira Gikorwe Ndaru Njeru Gakuu Mirori Njuki Mutuamigui Mbui Migui
Nvuria Njau Mugwarunjiri Mbii Kivuti Karumi Kithami Namu Nguru Nyaga
Kirumba Muturi Igamwaniki Mukuria Nyaga Ireri Ireri
Ngari Njagi Migui Ngomi Njagi Kiura Marema
Mikui Ndwiga Ndumara Embu Nvungu Kithami
Njeru Nthiga Ngae Nyaga
Nthugi Kagatu
Muvingo Kaviu
Kathiiri

Economic activities

Embu lies on the windward slopes of Mount Kenya.[5] It remarkably occupies the most prime fertile lands of the Kenya highlands. Two seasons are enjoyed each year, and the weather is favourable for diverse agricultural activities. The main food crops grown are maize, beans, yams, cassava, millet, sorghum, bananas and arrowroot, among others. This, alongside the domestic livestock of cows, goats, sheep and chicken, keeps the people well fed throughout the year. Instances of drought or famine are extremely rare. Embu county has repeatedly been ranked among the richest counties in Kenya and recent demographic surveys have ranked it among counties with longest life expectancy.

With the advent of colonialism, many cash crops were introduced. For long these have offered a lucrative alternative source of livelihood for the people. The most widespread cash crops to date are coffee, tea, miraa(khat) and macadamia nuts. These are mainly grown for sale with little being processed for domestic consumption. Embu district is the richest District in Kenya

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Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya

Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. The highest peaks of the mountain are Batian, Nelion and Point Lenana. Mount Kenya is located in the former Eastern and Central provinces of Kenya; its peak is now the intersection of Meru, Embu, Laikipia, Kirinyaga, Nyeri and Tharaka Nithi counties, about 16.5 kilometres south of the equator, around 150 km (90 mi) north-northeast of the capital Nairobi. Mount Kenya is the source of the name of the Republic of Kenya.

Bean

Bean

A bean is the seed of several plants in the family Fabaceae, which are used as vegetables for human or animal food. They can be cooked in many different ways, including boiling, frying, and baking, and are used in many traditional dishes throughout the world.

Yam (vegetable)

Yam (vegetable)

Yam is the common name for some plant species in the genus Dioscorea that form edible tubers. Yams are perennial herbaceous vines cultivated for the consumption of their starchy tubers in many temperate and tropical regions, especially in West Africa, South America and the Caribbean, Asia, and Oceania. The tubers themselves, also called "yams", come in a variety of forms owing to numerous cultivars and related species.

Cassava

Cassava

Manihot esculenta, commonly called cassava, manioc, or yuca, is a woody shrub of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae, native to South America. Although a perennial plant, cassava is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. Though it is often called yuca in parts of Spanish America and in the United States, it is not related to yucca, a shrub in the family Asparagaceae. Cassava is predominantly consumed in boiled form, but substantial quantities are used to extract cassava starch, called tapioca, which is used for food, animal feed, and industrial purposes. The Brazilian farinha, and the related garri of West Africa, is an edible coarse flour obtained by grating cassava roots, pressing moisture off the obtained grated pulp, and finally drying it.

Millet

Millet

Millets are a highly varied group of small-seeded grasses, widely grown around the world as cereal crops or grains for fodder and human food. Most species generally referred to as millets belong to the tribe Paniceae, but some millets also belong to various other taxa.

Sorghum

Sorghum

Sorghum is a genus of about 25 species of flowering plants in the grass family (Poaceae). Some of these species are grown as cereals for human consumption and some in pastures for animals. One species is grown for grain, while many others are used as fodder plants, either cultivated in warm climates worldwide or naturalized in pasture lands.

Arrowroot

Arrowroot

Arrowroot is a starch obtained from the rhizomes (rootstock) of several tropical plants, traditionally Maranta arundinacea, but also Florida arrowroot from Zamia integrifolia, and tapioca from cassava, which is often labelled as arrowroot. Polynesian arrowroot or pia, and Japanese arrowroot, also called kudzu, are used in similar ways.

Livestock

Livestock

Livestock are the domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to provide labor and produce commodities such as meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool. The term is sometimes used to refer solely to animals who are raised for consumption, and sometimes used to refer solely to farmed ruminants, such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Horses are considered livestock in the United States. The USDA classifies pork, veal, beef, and lamb (mutton) as livestock, and all livestock as red meat. Poultry and fish are not included in the category.

Cattle

Cattle

Cattle are large, domesticated, cloven-hooved, herbivores. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae and the most widespread species of the genus Bos. Adult females are referred to as cows and adult males are referred to as bulls.

Colonialism

Colonialism

Colonialism is a practice or policy of control by one people or power over other people or areas, often by establishing colonies and generally with the aim of economic dominance. In the process of colonisation, colonisers may impose their religion, language, economics, and other cultural practices. The foreign administrators rule the territory in pursuit of their interests, seeking to benefit from the colonised region's people and resources. It is associated with but distinct from imperialism.

Kenya

Kenya

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa. At 580,367 square kilometres (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by area. With a population of more than 47.6 million in the 2019 census, Kenya is the 29th most populous country in the world. Kenya's capital and largest city is Nairobi, while its oldest, currently second largest city, and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu City is the third-largest city and also an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centres include Nakuru and Eldoret. As of 2020, Kenya is the third-largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa after Nigeria and South Africa. Kenya is bordered by South Sudan to the northwest, Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the east, Uganda to the west, Tanzania to the south, and the Indian Ocean to the southeast. Its geography, climate and population vary widely, ranging from cold snow-capped mountaintops with vast surrounding forests, wildlife and fertile agricultural regions to temperate climates in western and rift valley counties and dry less fertile arid and semi-arid areas and absolute deserts.

Tourist attractions

The district is home to Mount Kenya to the north. This is a tourism attraction with many foreigners and local people visiting its slopes. Numerous expeditions set out each year to scale the slopes to the mountain top. This climb is not easy and calls for great stamina and resilience. Legend has it that one man Munyao did scale the mountain to the peak and hoisted the national flag during the independence day on 12 December 1963.

Other attractions in the region are the huge Karue hill towering high along the Embu-Meru highway. Made of a huge crested rock, at the top of the hill are two unique eucalyptus trees. From the summit there are views of the far reaches of Embu. Nearby to this hill are two waterfalls close together which color the sky white as their waters fall down, then marry to form one big Ena river that then meanders downstream to encircle the Karue hill. The Kirimiri hill is also nearby. Though not open for tourism, it is home to a diverse array of wildlife. Embu is home to Mwea National Reserve. Best known for the diversity of bird species in the reserve. Ancient caves are also found in Embu, commonly referred to as 'Ngurunga ya Ngai' by the Embu natives.

Source: "Embu people", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2022, November 25th), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embu_people.

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Further reading
  • Henry Stanley Kabeca Mwaniki (1974). Embu Historical Texts. Kampala: East African Literature Bureau.
  • Ciarunji Chesaina (1 January 1997). Oral Literature of the Embu and Mbeere. East African Publishers. ISBN 978-9966-46-407-1.
  • Godfrey Mwakikagile (June 2010). Life in Kenya: The Land and the People, Modern and Traditional Ways. New Africa Press. ISBN 978-9987-9322-7-6.
  • Angelique Haugerud (13 May 1997). The Culture of Politics in Modern Kenya. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-59590-2.
References
  1. ^ "2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume IV: Distribution of Population by Socio-Economic Characteristics". Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  2. ^ Saberwal, Satish C. (1967). "Historical Notes on the Embu of Central Kenya". The Journal of African History. 8 (1): 29–38. doi:10.1017/S0021853700006812. ISSN 0021-8537. JSTOR 180050. S2CID 161706022.
  3. ^ a b Arnold Curtis, Kenya: a visitor's guide, (Evans Brothers: 1985), p.7.
  4. ^ Kabeca, Mwaniki (2005). Mbeere Historical Texts (1 ed.). Nairobi. p. 105. ISBN 9966-817-01-8. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  5. ^ Camberlin, Pierre; Boyard-Micheau, Joseph; Philippon, Nathalie; Baron, Christian; Leclerc, Christian; Mwongera, Caroline (June 2014). "Climatic gradients along the windward slopes of Mount Kenya and their implication for crop risks. Part 1: climate variability: CLIMATE VARIABILITY AT MT KENYA". International Journal of Climatology. 34 (7): 2136–2152. doi:10.1002/joc.3427. S2CID 129521392.

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