migration and settlement of the Agikuyu into Kenya

The Agikuyu are the largest population of all the Eastern Bantu. They inhabit the Central province of Kenya.

two legends or myths that refer to Gikuyu origin.

  • That which presents the Agikuyu as having originated from Mukurwe Wa Gathanga, where their ancestors (Gikuyu and his wife mumbi) were settled after God created them. According to this legend, Gikuyu and mumbi begat nine daughters, who married and mothered the nine clans of the present Agikuyu.
  • That which states that the Agikuyu may have descended from one of the four sons of a Mbeere man, the other three of which may have mothered the Akamba, Athi and Maasai.

migration and settlement of the Agikuyu into Kenya.

By 1200AD, The Bantu had already settled in the Central province of Kenya. However, the original inhabitants of the area were hunter-gatherers, such as the Athi (Dorobo) and the Gumba. These may have been the remnants of the original inhabitants. The Athi and the Gumba interacted with the Agikuyu, who later assimilated them.

The Agikuyu may have moved south-west from the coast around 1400AD, probably to avoid hostile neighbours, such as the Oromo. They also may have moved in search for cultivable land. They followed the Tana River.

As they moved, some groups broke off and settled in different places. Those who settled in the east became the Tharaka while those who settled in the south-west became the mbeere. They had arrived and settled in Mbeere and Chuka from a northern direction by the 16th century AD. One group proceeded to the confluence of the Tana and Thika rivers by the beginning of the 18th century. This was the group of Gikuyu ancestors that is associated with the Mukurwe Wa Gathanga tradition in Murang‟a.

The Agikuyu later moved to the Mweya plains, where they were joined by the Akamba and the Thagicu. Farther expansion of the Agikuyu led to the displacement of the Athi and Gumba, some of who were assimilated while others ran into the Nyandarua and Mount Kenya forests.

In the first half of the 19th century, the Agikuyu once more migrated to Othaya and Aguthi. They also moved north-eastwards to Mathira and Tetu in Nyeri. They spread and settled in different parts of Central province and reached as far as Kiambu and Nyandarua. Their settlement in Kiambu and Nyandarua was interrupted by the coming of the Europeans in the 19th century. However, they were still migrating by early 20th century.

As they migrated, the Agikuyu borrowed ideas from the Cushites, the Maasai, the Gumba and Athi. The Gumba and Athi were later together known as the Okiek.

The Maasai seriously opposed or resisted Agikuyu invasion. However, the Athi welcomed and were on good terms with the Agikuyu. The Agikuyu borrowed many economic and social aspects from the Athi, e.g. ironworking, circumcision, clitoridectomy (female circumcision) and some age-set features