Kenya Population and Language
About 40 people live in Kenya. Nearly two-thirds of the residents belong to one of the five largest: kikuyu, luhya, kalenjin, luo and kamba. Independent Kenya has long been spared serious ethnic conflicts, but contradictions have in recent years degenerated into violence. Half the population is under 19 years of age.
The residents are unevenly distributed over the country. The most densely populated are the central and western parts, where the most fertile soil is found, as well as the coast. The number of residents is increasing rapidly, although growth has slowed somewhat since the early 1990s, partly as a result of family planning campaigns. A census conducted in August 2019 shows that Kenya’s population has grown by nearly nine million since 2009.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Key populations estimated size and data of Kenya, including population density of how many people per square mile. Also included are facts for population and language.
No individual people clearly dominate in numbers. At a census in 2009, the largest group of kikuyu comprised 17 percent of the population and the next four groups between 10 and 14 percent each. Marriage across national borders is common. But tougher economic conditions, concerns in neighboring countries and populist politics have contributed to sharpened contradictions.
Violence between people groups
Kikuyu, a farming bantu who lives primarily on the central high plateau, has a dominant role in politics. Three out of four presidents since independence in 1963 have been kikuyer, including Uhuru Kenyatta who took office in 2013. The exception is Daniel arap Moi and during his presidency in 1978–2002, his political group, Kalenjin, strengthened both politically and economically. The violence after the 2007 elections took place largely between the two main candidates (Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga), the groups of kikuyu and luo. However, several other groups, not least Kalenjin, also turned to the Kikuys (see further Modern History).
Competition for agricultural land is often behind the outbreak of violence. This is especially true in the former Rift Valley province of western Kenya. There, Kikuyer acquired large farms in the 1960s and 1970s, partly by legal means and partly by connections with the president. This contributed to the dissatisfaction of other Kikuyas with other people’s groups, which was later exploited by politicians (see Modern History).
People of foreign origin make up only one percent of the population. The Asian group, which is often of Indian origin, more than halved in the 1970s when many emigrated to the United Kingdom. The descendants of the British colonizers and other Europeans belong to the upper class of the country. The Arab minority is concentrated on the coast.
In the pursuit of work, more and more Kenyans are looking for cities. Most Asians and Europeans live there, too. Outside these areas are several nomadic people: masai, samburu, borana, turquoise and indigenous Somalis who still largely live by traditional patterns. Clan contradictions in Somalia and Ethiopia sometimes lead to clashes even on the Kenyan side of the border.
The unrest in the country has created streams of internal refugees: after the unrest in 2007–2008, hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes, but by 2015 all had returned home. In the same year, however, there were around 650,000 refugees from neighboring countries in Kenya, most from Somalia. The number of Somali refugees has slowly begun to decline, while there are new refugees from South Sudan instead. In August 2019, the UNHCR estimated that there were approximately 479,000 refugees in Kenya, of whom just over 54 percent came from Somalia, just over 24 percent from South Sudan, just under 9 percent from Congo-Kinshasa and just under 6 percent from Ethiopia. In addition, smaller refugee groups from Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea, Burundi and Uganda were in the country.
Many Somali refugees have long been in Dadaab, called the world’s largest refugee community. Dadaab is a small town in the peninsula, ten miles from the border between the two countries. Here are what really are three camps, built in the 1990s. They were overcrowded even before the drought disaster on the Horn of Africa in 2011. The influx of new refugees, often severely emaciated, during the summer occasionally amounted to a thousand a day. The camps swelled to around 450,000 residents – five times more than they were built for. In total, there are estimated to be around one million Somalis in Kenya, of whom 600,000 registered as refugees. Following a settlement between Kenya, Somalia and UNHCR 2013, a process was started to get Somalis to move back to Somalia. In 2015, there were about 350,000 people in Dadaab.
In the spring of 2016, the Kenyan government announced that it intended to close the Dadaab refugee camp. According to the plan, Dadaab would be closed until November 2016. UN refugee commissioner Filippo Grandi said in June that the deadline had to be moved forward, due to the uncertain situation in parts of Somalia (see Calendar).
In June 2016, the Kenyan requirements seemed to be mitigated, and instead it was talked about that the number of Dadaab residents would be reduced by 150,000 by the end of the year and that it would mainly be done voluntarily, that non-Somali refugees would be relocated and deregistration of Kenyans who registered as refugees would see. By September 2016, some 75,000 refugees had left the camps, many of them fearing that they would otherwise be forced out or out of concern that they would otherwise lose the roughly $ 400 promised by the UNHCR (see also Somalia: Population and language).
The camp deadline was later extended to May 2017, but in February of that year, the High Court blocked the decision to close Dadaab, as the court considered it to be contrary to the Constitution.
In June 2017, media reported that at least 800 people who had voluntarily agreed to move home to Somalia had returned to Kenya because of the continuing turmoil in their home country. From December 2014 to April 2019, almost 84,000 Somali refugees had been helped by UNHCR to return to their homeland. In August 2019, the number of refugees in Dadaab had decreased to almost 213,000.
In Kenya, a large number of languages are spoken, divided into three main groups. Most speak Bantu languages, some speak Nilosaharian languages and smaller groups speak Cushitic languages. Most Kenyans also speak Swahili – or Kiswahili – which, along with English, is the official language. Swahili is a bantu language with elements of, among others, Arabic. Young people in Nairobi often speak sheng among themselves, which mixes slang in Swahili and English with local languages.
English continues to be important, not least in administration, teaching and literature.
FACTS – POPULATION AND LANGUAGE
kikuyu 17%, luhya 13.6%, kalenjin 12.6%, luo 10.3%, kamba 9.7%, others 36.7 (census 2009)
Number of residents
47 564 296 (2019) 1
Number of residents per square kilometer
Percentage of residents in the cities
26.6 percent (2017)
Nativity / birth
31.3 per 1000 residents (2016)
Mortality / mortality
5.7 per 1000 residents (2016)
2.5 percent (2017)
3.9 number of births per woman (2016)
Percentage of women
50.3 percent (2017)
67 years (2016)
Life expectancy for women
69 years (2016)
Life expectancy for men
65 years (2016)
Swahili (kiswahili) and English are official languages 2
- Census in August 2019
2. In addition, some 40 local languages are spokenSources
The Wakiki Commission wants a new tribunal to investigate election violence
The so-called Waki Commission, which investigated the violence after the election, proposes that a special tribunal be set up to bring the suspects to justice. If such a court fails to do so, the Commission recommends that the International Criminal Court (ICC) be approached . The names of the suspects are kept secret until further notice.
Record-breaking government takes office
On April 13, a new government is presented, following the February settlement. The government has over 40 ministers and just over 50 deputy ministers. Thus, almost half of the MPs sit in the government, at a soaring cost to the state.
Clear government sign
Kibaki and Odinga agree to form a unity government to stop the violence, following mediation by former UN chief Kofi Annan, among others. Kibaki remains president and Odinga gets a newly created post as prime minister.
Hundreds of dead in new riots
ODM-Kenya joins and Musyoka (see August 2007) becomes Vice President and Minister of the Interior. Continued unrest requires hundreds of lives and tens of thousands flee from their homes. The clashes occur largely between kikuyas on the one hand and luo and kalenjin on the other (see Population and Language) .
The election result is acknowledged to be premature
Just a few days after the election, the president of the Election Commission says he is not sure that Kibaki won, he had been pressured to speak in Kibaki’s favor.