Sakuye people

Sakuye / Guji

Sakuye / Saguye / Guji

Sakuye People also known as Saguye or Guji People can be found in Kenya and they are part of the semi- nomadic Oromo People living in Marsabit County in Kenya .

In the 2019 census, they numbered 27,006. Because of their language and their inter-locking settlements, many Sakuye must have given 'Boran' when asked for their 'tribe'. The Sakuye have been weakened by recent events, and to identify oneself as a Sakuye no longer sounds attractive."

According to Ethnologue, Sakuye is a dialect of the Borana language, though it has some significant differences. Their name comes from the name of one of the traditional divisions of Borana territory, Saaku, which is the area north of Marsabit. Thus, Saaku-ye means "from Saaku" or "of Saaku" in Afaan Booranaa. When a group of Rendille moved north from Marsabit, their Borana neighbors referred to them as the "Saakuye".

Sakuye people map


he Sakuye live in northeastern Kenya, near the Ethiopian border.  Dabel is their traditional ceremonial site.  Their name comes from an old name for Marsabit, Saaku.  The group of Rendille who moved north from Marsabit were called Saakuye by the Borana.



The Sakuye are a small, semi-nomadic group of pastoralists.  They were a group of the proto-Somali peoples who separated from the Rendille.  One group called the Sakuye Miigo came from the Garre people.  One group of the related Gabbra are also called Miigo.  The Sakuye now speak the Borana Oromo language and share same Oromo clan identities with other Borana-speaking peoples.

Following Kenya's independence, nearly all of their livestock died due to the Shifta war in 1963 between the Somalis and the Kenya government.  The Sakuye were caught in the middle and most Sakuye became destitute.  Some were able to rebuild their herds but many remain poor.  They survived by taking up agriculture.  Their culture is undergoing basic changes as they strive to maintain their identity.  In some areas, traditional Sakuye rituals have been replaced by Islamic prayers.



Tradition says that before the Sakuye attached themselves to the Borana, they lived with the Rendille in the Mt. Marsabit area.  The Sakuye and the Rendille are said to have broken away in the 1500's from the early Somali group from which the Garre also developed.  Tradition also says that the Gabbra Miigo, the Sakuye Miigo and the Gabbra of Kenya's Eastern Province later originated directly from the Garre Somali.

Sakuye derived from the word “ Saaku” meaning a group of Rendille people who moved north from Marsabit which it became known as Sakuye . It is said their Borana neighbors referred them as “ Saa Kuye”.

Today there are two sections of the Sakuye people, living in two areas.  The northern group are semi-permanent at Dabel and the southern group is in Isiolo District.  Clan structure and raditions are no longer as important as in the past.

The majority can't read and speak only Borana.  Even the Muslim teachers can't read although they want to learn.  However, the school children are learning to read.  Most families exist on famine relief but the fortunate ones are those who still have camels or cattle and fare better.



The Sakuye speak Borana, an Eastern Cushite language adopted from their Borana Oromo patrons.

Sakuye are part of the Oromo People cluster within the horn of Africa . Sakuye are considered to be one of the ethnic group of Kenya , their primary language is considered to be Borana- Arsi – Guji Oromo . It is believed Sakuye People practiced other Islamic , which includes a number of sects that emerged out of Islam such as Ibadhi , Ahmadi , Alevi ,Yazidi and Khariji . According to Ethnologue’s account , Sakuye are said to be of Oromo and Amhara by Ancestry and they traced to Present day Ethiopia and Present day Somalia , It is said in Ethiopia , Oromo is viewed as one People who spoke one language known as Borana among Sakuye People of Kenya and Gabra , Sakuye may have significant dialect and language attitude differences from Borana dialect , religions including Islam and Indigenous Spirituality .



The Sakuye live among the Borana and they are ritually allied to them for political purposes in their history.  Many identify themselves as Borana.  However, the Sakuye herd camels primarily, whereas the Boran are mostly a cattle people.

They have also adopted the pre-Islamic religious institution of the priest-diviner called Qallu.  The Sakuye have much social interaction with the neighboring Somali peoples, and when asked, will sometimes identify themselves as Somali.

Since the re-establishment of the social structures in 1965, the Sakuye do not allow Sakuye girls to marry outside the Sakuye group.

Although it was said they stopped drinking camel , cow and goat blood which is used as medicine and it can be used for drink as healing process known as Halala meaning allowed an ancient practice . However , It is said some Sakuye succeeded in rebuilding cattle herds and returning to nomadism and those settled in Dabel became farmers. One of Sakuye instrument is known as Orutuu , an eight – stringed instrument , the thumb , to produce melodies , Shegat is a very effective instrument used by Sakuye during the land conquest in Somalia, Majimbo is one during the olden times of managing of camels and Sakuye have many other instruments used to perform music and dancing.



Traditionally the Sakuye worshipped one God, Waaq, by putting sacrifices in special trees.  Over the last century, aspects of Islam has come into their culture, largely due to their association with the Somali. Most Sakuye, however, still hold on to their traditional beliefs and practices.

Dabel is the center of the Ayaana, a strong Oromo Satan appeasement and worship cult.  Ayaana followers believe it is necessary to appease Satan, because he brings harm to them, while it not necessary to appease God, since he does not harm people.



Sakuye ethnic group of Kenya has 8 clans such as Migo , Warswa, Harswa, IIani , Madarba, Dele and Ora.



Crops of Sakuye Include corn or maize , Posho which is porridge , mashed beans , cocoyam , potatoes , vegetables , among Sakuye traditional coffee is mixed with milk and sugar . Palm Nut is very important used for pouring libations , drinking local beer which is locally brew made with sorghum and honey.



In Sakuye tradition , for special occasions , It is customary to slaughter a cow or goat and roast it , other meals which can be slaughtered and roast include guinea fowl , goat , cow which is served as a special dish celebrations .

Some Sakuye wear Cowskin dyed and wrapped around the body , women hairstyle indicates her marital status , Sakuye men’s stage of life is revealed by specific headdresses or jewelry . Some wear rows of beaded necklaces and also some wear strands that it elongates their neck .

In Sakuye Culture , Polygamy is traditional , and in the olden days it is not uncommon for Sakuye men to have up to 8 wives , before traditional wedding men negotiates a bride price of cows or goats with the woman’s parents . According to their tradition, Inheritances passes from the father to son which they traced to only their Patrilineal side.

Before the arrival of Arabs and Europeans, Sakuye had their own Literature a story oral tradition which includes life , war stories and soldier’s bravery or warriors.

Sakuye costume is an important elements of mask , swords and other objects , some of their Instruments include flutes , drums , woodwinds and thumb pianos . They also celebrate festivals such as Lake Turkana , Maize festival and many other festivals which are not listed or unknown festivals .

Sakuye have sculptures and wood carving , It is believed Sculptures are appease to their Ancestors , some of the sculptures are made up of Gold, Copper , Ivory and Bauxites .