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Rendille Tribe of Northern Kenya

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Holders of the stick of God

Everyone has heard of rendille community but few people know about this people and the harsh arid and semi-arid region of Marsabit County they occupy.  The local fauna has adapted to this harsh dry and hot fauna, it can be hard for some people to live in this environment but not for the natives.  The oral history from my grandmother Ngaitimi, the rendille people originated somewhere in the horn of Africa around Ethiopian plains, they then travelled along the Suez Canal to their present homeland. They descend from the same Cushitic backgrounds of the Somali people of Northern Kenya and Somalia. The Rendille people later separated from the Somali and settled in their present homeland around Marsabit Mountain. The rendille people refused to follow the Somali to Somaliland and were they were called rertit by the Somali’s. The word rertit in both Somali and rendille means rejected one.  The word rendille was coined as a colonial misconception of the word Rendille.

Their Present day location

The rendille people occupy the present day Marsabit County from Lake Turkana (Loyangalani) in the north to Merille River and sereolipi the Merille River in the south from Marsabit town in the east to Lontolio and Ngurnit in the west. The main Rendille towns include Kargi, Korr, Laisamis, Merille, Karare, Kamboi and Marsabit town which as urbanite Centre.

Language

The Rendille people of Kenya speak rendille language. Rendille language is more close to Somali language which make it easy for people from the two tribes to communicate in their respective languages without misinterpretation. The intermarriages between the Samburu (tribe in their south and west) and the Rendille have led to growth of a new Rendille people who can speak samburu. They are called Arielle Rendille. Most of the Arielle Rendilles lives along the great northern track.

Rendille Clans

rendille warriors & ladies dancing

The rendille people are group into nine sub clans including Rongumo, Saale, Matharba, Urowen, Dispahai, Tupsha, Galtheilan, Otola and the Lukumai (Nahgan). Every clan is needed by elders and chiefs.

Rendille Lifestyle

Rendille, Khondondo

The rendille people are traditionally pastoralist keeping goats, cows, donkeys and camels which is their main source of food and transport during migration. The nomadic live among the rendille people have become less prominent with the development of permanent settlements like schools and hospitals, drilling of boreholes near the Manyattas (villages) and centres that have allowed for permanent Existence.

The traditional dressing code for the Rendille people include beautiful beads connected with copper or aluminium metal worn by the women around the neck, beads wrist and ankle bangles, red Shukas with animal skin used as shirts. The children can often be seen without clothes or a small piece of cloth that is tired around the waist for mostly small girls. The Moran wear colourful Shukas, some beads on the neck (ngoroo), wrist bands made of rubber and beads, cock feathers across the head from forehead to back of the head and colour their hair with red soils mixed with animal fat. Men often wear a wrapped cloth around their waist rather than wearing a trouser. Western clothing is become more popular among the young generations and men than the women.

Like many African Societies Rendille community has several rite of passage that is from birth, circumcision, warriors, Lmuget (transition ceremony from circumcision to naming to marriage), marriage.

Every age-set is assigned a duty in the family and in the community. In Rendille community due to the harshness of their physical location boys and young men (Moran) live in the bush far away from the village taking care of the animals. Boys are given roles in looking after the young animals while the Moran provide security and other services such as fencing of the Manyattas and providing water for the animal.

Young boys of age 14-18 undergo circumcision. All boys usually undergo this ceremony at one time since circumcision is done ones in every 14 years. Warriors are allowed to marry after the last Lmuget ceremony which allows them to marry and start raising families for the next generation.

In rendille community young girls are usually booked for marriage at a very early age by warriors or old men but with the first civilization of the people and engagement of human rights organization that have criticized and rejected early marriages. During marriage ceremony girls learn skill of women and undergo female genital mutilation (FGM). Polygamy is part and parcel of rendille culture; men were allowed to marry as many as five wives.

Rendille people have a traditional religion that is revolved around the community beliefs. Some of these religious practices are prayer to the moon, existence of ancestral spirits and animal sacrifice. The name of god is Wakh.

Moon plays a very important role in rendille religion. Prayer to the moon is done during the new moon. During this time the firstborn son of each family blow a horn and the family members apply red and white paints on their forehead, and hair. Girls also apply paints on their ear. They burn incense from local trees in the fire. Prayers are then made to the god and the new moon at around 8pm. The prayer is usually performed in front of the homestead, the prayer

 

 

 

 

 

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