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People of Kenya: Segeju


The Segeju are an ethnic and linguistic group based on the northeast coast of Tanzania, between Tanga and the Kenyan border. Segeju population was estimated to number fewer than 15,000 in year 2003 with less than 7000 speaking segeju fluently. Segeju of Kenya are the remnants of a once numerous, warlike group of herdsmen who live in the Kwale district of southern Kenya, mainly in the villages of Kidimu and Simoni.

They have closely integrated with the Digo and the Shirazi peoples, and have adapted to the agricultural setting. Traditionally their diet was made up almost entirely of cow’s milk and blood but they also engaged in farming where they raised coconuts, cassava, rice, and a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Like the larger Maasai group, they braided their hair with red ochre and wore animal skins. The main social grouping of the community is the mlango, or clan.

Formerly, all ownership of land by the Segeju was communal and based on the mlango. Interestingly, inheritance laws applied to coconut palms, but not to land, huts, and livestock. Today, most of the people live in the typical coral-rag, lime-plastered pole, thatched houses that are found in the coastal villages. Like other coastal peoples, the Segeju have an aptitude for handicrafts.

They braid very attractive sleeping mats made from palm leaves. Also they make hand carved combs, coconut graters, and wooden stools. Like many other coastal tribes, the community are virtually all Muslim of the Shafi’ite branch. They believe that Jesus was a prophet, a teacher, and a good man, but not the Son of God. They pray to Allah five times a day while facing Mecca, their holy city.