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There is no tribe called the Luhya rather, there are people who may wish, for one reason or another, at one time or the other, in one place or another, to be called Luhya. The Luhya, 12 percent of the general population, consist of 16-18 distinct groups, speaking different languages and having different traditional political alliances. Luhya leaders often urge "Luhya Unity," but in fact the Luhya do not behave as a unified voting bloc. Consequently, "Luhya Unity" is an oft talked about but seldom achieved political goal for the area's leaders. With 14% of the national population, the Luhya vote is heavily courted.

Within the Luhya community, the Bukusu (centered primarily around Bungoma District) and the Maragoli (centered primarily around Sabatia District) comprise the largest groups. These two groups dominate the political landscape among the Luhyas and play important roles in determining the political destiny of Western Province.

The word Luhya is simply a convenient tag that refers to a group of communities that speak different languages but which have a significant affinity to each other. The 18 sub-nations are Abakhayo, Abanyala, Abanyala ba Ndombi, Abanyole, Abakabras, Abashisa, Abamarachi, Avalogooli, Abamarama, Abasamia, Abatachoni, Abatiriki, Abisukha, Abidakho, Abatsotso, Babukusu, Abawanga and Abasonga.

The Luyia nation is relatively new by historical standards cobbled together as a political necessity a little less than three generations ago. The Luyia nation is still evolving in a slow process that seeks to harmonise the historico-cultural institutions that define the 18 subnations in Kenya alone.

Available records indicate that geophysical spread of the Luyia-speaking people extends beyond the Kenyan frontier into Uganda and Tanzania with some Luyia clans having extant brethren in Rwanda, Congo, Zambia and Cameroon. When a Maragoli speaks, a Marachi may only understand 10 pe cent of what is said. Whereas, when a Musamia speaks a Munyala may perfectly comprehend 90 percent of the words.

The name Abaluyia/Abaluhya did not come into existence until 1930s. The word Luyia was first suggested by the local African Mutual Assistance Association around 1930 and adopted by the North Kavirondo Central Association in 1935. Abaluyia or simply Luyia generally means the people who speak any of the various closely related 18 dialects.

The territorial region is Buluyia, and the language they speak is Oluluyia (Oluluhya). The name was generally used thereafter to describe the communities that lived in what was then known as North Kavirondo later Bantu Kavirondo (in South Kavirondo were the Luo later Nilotic Kavirondo).

Both government factions (NARC-Kenya, elements of FORD-Kenya) and opposition factions (ODM-Kenya, elements of FORD-Kenya) claimed significant support from various Luhya sub-groups in 2006. The Luhya divided their vote during the draft constitution referendum. Most Luhya constituencies opposed the government's draft while the Bukusu sub-group of the Luhya stood behind favorite son Trade Minister Kituyi in his support for the government draft.

The Luhya do not have the Kamba's close historical ties to the Kikuyu. They have been culturally influenced by their more homogeneous neighbors, the Luos; traditional political rivals of the Kikuyu. Thus the Luhya are considered less reflexively pro-Bantu than are other Bantu groups, and more open to cooperation with the Luo. Also, unlike the GEMA and Kamba, who are all entirely Kenyan, the Luhya are transnational, with a significant population in Uganda.

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Page last modified: 03-05-2015 19:48:35 ZULU