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The Kikuyu are Kenya’s largest ethnic group. The Kikuyu (otherwise spelled Gikuyu) tribe settled on the fertile central highlands, which they farm. These areas include the modern day Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Kiambu, Muranga and Thika towns.

The Kikuyu were the most active tribe during the fight for Kenya’s independence. The famous Mau Mau rebellion was mainly composed of Kikuyus. The Mau Mau were lead by Dedan Kimathi who was credited for helping organize resistance which led to defeat of the colonial government. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, was a Kikuyu, giving the tribe a major boost politically and economically.

The Kikuyu are Bantu and actually came into Kenya during the famous Bantu migration. After settling down, the Kikuyu people spread rapidly throughout the Central Province and Kenya. They are considered distant relatives of several people groups like the Meru, the Embu and the Chuka. The Kikuyu tribe is believed to have been founded by a man named Gikuyu and his wife mumbi. Kikuyu history says Ngai (God) took Gikuyu to the top of Kirinyaga and told him to stay and build his home there. He was also given his wife, Mumbi. Together, Mumbi and Gikuyu had nine daughters. Achera, Agachiku, Airimu, Ambui, Angare, Anjiru, Angui, Aithaga, and Aitherandu. These daughters later founded the nine Kikuyu clans. Gikuyu and Mumbi are therefore regarded as the Adam and Eve of the Kikuyus.

Kikuyus main economic activity is Agriculture. They engage in both small scale and large scale farming. Cash crops and horticultural produce is their main farming activity. They grow coffee tea, maize, beans, bananas, sugarcane, yams, millet, and a variety of other vegetables. They also raise cattle, sheep, and goats. They use the hides from the cattle to make bedding, sandals, and carrying straps and they raise the goats and sheep to use for religious sacrifices and purification.

In the Kikuyu naming is done after the child’s grandparents. The father’s parents first then the mother’s parents. After that the parents siblings can be named starting with the oldest depending on how many children are born. The father’s side is always given priority.

The Kikuyus are thought to be very business minded. They form the majority population in major towns like Nairobi and Nakuru. A good number of very successful rich businessmen and women are from the Kikuyu tribe. The fact that the first president was a Kikuyu probably gave them a boost as they were able to acquire property in the now lucrative business centre. They are said to love money and there is a joke that if you want to know whether a Kikuyu is dead all you need to do is drop a coin!


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