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Crazy, stupid love: Where to fetch compatible spouses in Kenya

Luo men marry Kikuyus for cultural bragging rights and ‘kutoa tint’ but not bewitchingly brown Taita women…

Pingu za maisha: Jomo Kenyatta, President Uhuru’s son and his wife, Fiona Achola. Kikuyu men hardly marry Luo women over that small matter of taking ruracio hundreds of kilometres to the lakeside. In Uhuru’s case, they took ruracio to Fiona’s home in Karen.

By Kieran Ng’endo

 Contributing writer/features


 You could be dating someone you know in your hearts of hearts will make your mother pray overnight, sobbing. Trying to marry from the ‘wrong tribe’ can induce grey hairs when your father too swears against your choice by the pubic hair of his ancestors.

Reasons range from incompatible cultures, language barriers, stereotypes, suspicions, fears, ignorance, long-held negative perceptions. Add too, practices like witchcraft, wife inheritance, bride price expectations and dramatic funerals. Some Kenyans believe there are communities which eat people, would you believe it? Indeed, some decades back those who intermarried were labeled as outcasts, prone to curses.

There are communities which are more compatible to marry into than others, whichever way you look at it

A touch of masala: Shakeel Shabbir, Kisumu East MP and his Bukusu wife, Nancy Wanyoyi both of whom received phone threats over their marriage. While Asian men marry Kenyan women, the same is not the case when their women fall in love with a Kenyan man. ‘We are all Kenyans, regardless of tribe, wealth or religion. We should intermarry and build stronger ties with our neighbours,’ said habbir.

Though this has changed via education and exposure in a globalised world, there are communities which are more compatible to marry into than others, whichever way you look at it. And though today couples are looking for communities which are exposed, learned even, each has its match. Here goes…

The Kikuyu: Jeff Kihiu, a lawyer, reckons the Kikuyu match well with communities from the larger Mt Kenya region, Meru, Embu and Kamba because of cultural, traditional and language malleability. “Politically, they were all part of GEMA (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association) which united them in tribal comfort. The Kikuyu also match well with the Maasai from their proximity as “geographical factor” is key when it comes to solving land disputes.”

But Meru women don’t look kindly at Kikuyu men as marriage partners. They think them too stingy and hard to ‘sit on.’

Rib of my rib: Lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru during their traditional Kikuyu wedding in 2019. The Kikuyu match well with spouses from the larger Mt Kenya region because of social, political, cultural and language malleability.

Kikuyus are not compatible with some communities over religion, culture, food, lifestyle, traditions and hygiene reasons. They rarely marry Somalis, Boranas for instance. Kikuyu men, on average, also fear Kambas over kamuti and their love for small time fun which they deem petty, wastage of money.

Class manenos: Steven Kariuki, former Mathare MP and son of Bishop Margaret Wanjiru. His Baby Mama is Nana Gecaga, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s niece. Wealthy Kikuyus have issues when their girls marry into families deemed to be of lower pedigree. Kariuki and Nana had to be separated. Remember the case of playboy Omar Lali and Keroche heiress Tecla Muigai?

While Kikuyu women marry Luhya men, the same is not the case with Kikuyu men over the small matter of bringing over the extended family.

 The Luo: Andae Afande, a businesswoman in Nairobi says the Luo prefer Luhya because they are patient, submissive, hard working “and loves to be pampered which men from the lake side are good at.” Geographical proximity also helps and despite Luos being Nilotes and Luhyas Bantus “our cultures are somehow similar” and besides “Luhya women also love cooking a lot and Luo men love eating humongous meals.”

Luo women can be bossy and high maintenance-which tightwad Kikuyu men find too hot to handle

Drop dead beauty: Nyong’o Jr, son of Kisumu Governor Prof Anyang Nyong’o and Wanja Wahoro during their wedding in Tigoni, Limuru, Kiambu County. Luo men find it culturally prestigious marrying Kikuyu women for bragging rights and ‘kutoa tint’

Luo men find it culturally prestigious marrying Kikuyu women for bragging rights and ‘kutoa tint’ for their children. It is also easier when couples come from exposed and learned families. But Kikuyu men rarely marry Luo women. For starters, Luo women can be bossy and high maintenance-which tightwad Kikuyu men find too hot to handle. Ruracio can also be tricky due to language barrier, incongruent cultures, food and traditions. The lakeside is also very far from Mt Kenya and culturally the sun should never set while at the in-laws…let alone sleeping over!    

The Luos are not compatible marrying the Taita over perceived laziness and glaring cultural differences. Besides, bewitchingly beautiful Taita women drive many men crazy and Luo find them hard to pin, domestically.    

Bukusu darling: Timothy Khamala and Sarika Patel had their love bred in remote Nangina village in Webuye, Bungoma County. They tried swimming against the tide of race, colour, religion and wealth, but Sarika’s family would have none of it in 2014. They flew her to England to be as far as possible from her ‘Bukusu darling.’ Asians are Kenya’s 43rd community but have issues when their own intermarry with Africans.

 The Kalenjin: Are compatible within themselves: The Kipsigis marrying the Nandi due to similarity of customs and traditions. John Kipng’etich says there is also “trust they have built for years” and that Kalenjins take marriage seriously, are cool and value families.  

But Tugen men hardly marry Kipsigis women. They are aggressive and love partying, drink too much. The Kipsigis are entrepreneurial and extremely bold and most marry Kisiis and Maasai due to proximity. Tugen men were beneficiaries of scholarships to foreign universities and thus rub their noses down at others. 

Kalenjins also avoid Kikuyus due to the land conflicts and their attachment to children

Italian job: The late President Moi hit the roof when his son, Philip wed Italian Rossana Pluda in a private ceremony at the AG’s Chambers. Kalenjins prefer zero-grazing from home.

The Kalenjins are not compatible with Kambas. They perceive them as lacking drive but love gossip and can bring home entire clans. They also avoid Kikuyus due to the land conflicts and their attachment to children.    

 Kambas: They are ‘open’ to many communities due to large swathes of Kambaland being a ‘hardship area’. But most are compatible with the Taita because of proximity and cultural blending says Millicent Zighe, a resident of Taita Taveta. “Taita’s are known to make the best wives and husbands because of our politeness and good looks” but “nowadays people look at different things like well educated or exposed communities.” Michael Kasera, a video producer, says Kambas and Kisiis also marry each other as things like juju are prevalent to both.

Kambas are not compatible with the Luhya over fears Kamba women tame their men with juju

Life time guarantee: Irene Nzisa, wife of billionaire Jimi Wanjigi. The Kamba are ‘open’ to many communities when it comes to marriage. They are also for life as wives ‘no matter what.’

Kambas are not compatible with the Luhya over fears Kamba women tame their men with juju and for being sex athletes and thus prone to away matches. 

The Kisii: They marry among themselves but are also compatible with Kambas and Merus (with whom they share anger management issues).

Echoes across the valley: Musician Cece Sagini weds lifestyle photographer Victor ‘Peace’ Karanja. While Kisiis mostly marry among themselves, exposed urbanites have no such attachments despite their woman being very expensive during bride price bids.

Kisiis are incompatible with the Nandi over historical conflicts, being serial players, possessiveness and jealousy. They also have a cultural attachment to children which scares Nandi women. Kisii men are also emotional and some cry during wife ‘battery’ sessions which turns off Nandi women to whom crying is a cultural no for a man.

 Meru: Marry among themselves but also do well with the Embu and Kisiis due to biological ties and genetic traits like hot tempers. But Meru women shun Kikuyu men for their apparent stinginess besides unromantic tendencies of forgetting birthdays or wedding anniversaries and being too individualistic against extended families. 

Beauty and brains: Betty Murungi, wife Siaya Senator James Orengo. A Meru woman marrying outside her community, especially beyond Kisii, is the exception rather than the rule.

The Merus are also not compatible with pastoral Boranas and Somalis over historical conflicts.

Coasterians: They blend well with Luos who are attracted by their beauty and culinary delights. Both love lavish lifestyles. Due to perceived laziness, Coasterians are not compatible with entrepreneurial Kikuyus who also fear Coastal women as charming, high maintenance cheats. 

Laugh of my life: Comedian Jalang’o and wife Amina Chao. Luo men prefer ‘yellow-yellow’ communities and if the women are good cooks and love an east life like Coasterians the better.

 Somalis: Marry among themselves besides intermarrying with Boranas to promote peaceful co-existence between two pastoral communities. They are hardly compatible with non Muslims.

Love brewed in an African pot: Former US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger and his Maasai wife, Ruth Konchellah. Mzungus are the most liberal when it comes to spousal decisions. Race, religion, colour, creed and social hierachies rarely count. ‘We have heard the best marriage ever,’ said Ruth. ‘I am the happiest woman in the world. He has truly loved and taken care of me. I know I am his queen and he always treats me as one.’

Editor’s note: Insightful comments on any of our platforms might be added to enrich the story. Peace!

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