Who are the Akamba People of Kenya

The Akamaba PeopleThe Akamba people are part of the Central Bantu linguistic group found in Kangundo, Kibwezi, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni and Mwingi Districts in South Eastern Kenya. The area inhabited by the Akamba is called Ukamba. A large community of Akamba is also found in Mazeras near Mombasa and Kwale District of the Coast Province in Shiba Hills, having migrated there for economic reasons. Their common language is Kikamba.

Kamba traditional oral literature says that the Akamba originated from Kilimanjaro, a theory well supported by such renown ethnologists as Gerhard Linblom and John Middleton. This theory may be argued also by the fact that they share certain cultural aspect with the Wachagga of Kilimanjaro, for example one finds names that are common to both. That being the case, it is clear that the Akamba find themselves in Kitui and Machakos after centuries of migration through the plains, valleys and over mountains in search of food and security. One branch of the Akamba clan went East of Ulu, crossed the River Athi and separated themselves from the rest for generations. They settled in present day Kitui. Lindblom dates crossing of the River Athi and settlement in Kitui from Ulu in the first half of the eighteenth century. During the nineteenth century they extended their settlements into Kikumbuliu as well. The Akamba were apparently once a compact group occupying the region called Ulu (from the Kamba word meaning "upper"). They considered Mbooni Mountains as the place where they settled after generations of wondering in the plains in search for better life. The Mbooni Mountain slopes and valley proved to lush with permanent water and fertile soil and so conducive to agriculture, and so they settled here.

Long before the arrival of the Europeans, the Akamba were great traders and organized caravans that brought ivory to the Arab traders in Mombassa (some 500 miles from their homes and back). There they exchanged the ivory for copper, bracelets, beads, rolls of cloth and salt. These items were taken back to Ukamba trading centers in Machakos, Kaani and Kitui.

By the time the British arrived in Kenya, Machakos had become an important commercial center. The local name to this date is "Masaku", a name given to the commercial center in honor of the famous Elder of the place called Masaku, but since the British could not pronounce the name properly, it ended up as Machakos in English. The Akamba call it Masaku.

©2016 John S. Mbinda