The Gabbra people are predominantly pastoralists in nature, the tribe occupies of Marsabit County in Northern Kenya along the great Chalbi desert.

The clans’ system is one of the important setups amongst the community since it symbolizes diversity and significance.

Gabbra society is organized according to patrilineal descent and its basic unit is clans (balbal). There are about forty clans in the Gabbra society, composing of five phratries (gos); Algana, Sharbana, Gar, Galbo, and Odola. Each of the clan has a different origin, with Borana, Rendile, and Somali contributing people to make up the clan in the past to make up each section.


The Gabbra and Rendille tribes share some of the cultural practices, Sorio is one of the rites that is widely treasured among the two tribes.
Clans are divided into of moiety; Lossa and Jiblo. For example, Disa clan belongs to Algana phratry as well as Lossa. Each half elect a leader called Hayu, so there are two Hayus for each clan. These men come from only a few senior clans, known as the bull clan. They must be of sound mind and body as well as exhibiting leadership qualities. The hayus act as judges and adjudicate in serious issues that affect their communities. They are therefore important decision-makers in Gabbra society. A Hayu from a phratry is respected by all the people in other phratries.

The Algana clan is the largest in Gabra tribe, Othola is one of the clans that are amongst Rendille and Gabra tribes in Northern Kenya.

Each clan in the Gabbra community consists of a minimum of one to seven lineages. All Gabbra can concretely trace his lineage up to the founder.


Normally, the descent of a clan can be traced back seven to eight generations, but some clans, such as the Rendil clan can be traced back just three generations. The founder of such “new” clans joined the Gabra from other ethnic groups, and these recruits are called galtu.

The aspect of kinship is important in Gabra daily life because each phratry has its own territory. Thus, most of the Gabra are in contact with the members of their phratry in the course of their daily life. Moreover, most of the marriages are observed within the phratry.

Each phratry makes a special settlement called olla ya’a which constitutes the religious and political centre of Gabra life. However, phratry does not occupy a certain area exclusively. Those people who belong to other phratries can reside and use the resources in an area which a different phratry occupies.

The clan is a very important element. A person confronting a difficult problem can expect the help from his milo/clan’s members. The reverse is also true. Everyone has to help his milo when they are experiencing difficulties because the problem which his milo has will ultimately affect him. A clan is also the unit of exogamy.

Thus, each individual of the Gabra are strongly involved with his clan.