Yiaku Community

Members of the Yiaku Community in traditional attire


The Yiaku are a Cushitic tribe that traces its origin from Ethiopia and dwells in Mukogodo Forest of Laikipia County. They have a population of not less than 6000 people.

Originally, they were cave dwellers inside the Mukongodo forest. In fact, the name Mukongondo means ‘people who live in the rocks’. The Yiaku have four distinct tribes and those are Orondi, Lossos, Luno and Sialo clans. Out of these, 13 sub-clans have emerged. From the Orondi four family leniages: Pardero, Lusopuko, Matunge and Leitiko. From Sialo, the leniages are: Parmashu, Sakui, Miole and Nantiri. From Luno are Liba and Len- Nkilelenyi and from Losos are Lentura, Nanpei and Lol Kinyanyi.

Historically, their main economic activity is hunting of bush meat, gathering wild fruits and nuts as well as honey collection. Honey was stored in large containers that could accommodate about 70Kg of honey called Itaam in Yiakunte. The Yiaku, in their hunting expeditions did not hunt down birds and neither did they hunt mating or delivering animals out of a deep respect for life. Some of the animals which they hunted include rock hyrax, antelope, buffalo and elephant.

Those who owned bee-hives were considered rich. Anyone who had less than 10 bee hives was considered poor, up to 30 hives relatively rich and above 300 hives were considered to be very rich. Milk and fried fruits are unknown to the Yiaku people. Young ones were fed with bee larvae mixed with sika. The mixture is called Rhiimo.

Yiaku believe in a god called Yecheri. Inter-family marriages were prohibited and one could only marry outside the lineage. Dowry was paid in the form of 4 bee hives. Two bee hives would be given to the girl’s father, one would be given to the girl’s mother and the other to the girl’s brothers. Domestic violence was unheard of in the Yiaku culture. Divorce was only allowed when the man could not provide for his family. However, a good number of Yiaku men chose not to marry, partly leading to the low numbers in the tribe.

The community speak the Yiakunte Language which has been marked in the UNESCO red book of endangered languages as language under endangerment or threat of extinction. The Yiaku have lived in harmony with the Forest time immemorial since their traditional practices do not encourage logging and the building of permanent shelters in the Forest. They have sacred sites and ancestral graves within the forest. Traditional medicines for different kinds of ailments sourced for the forest were used Yiaku people.

Elders are determined by age groups and the leaders of the age groups lead the community. Leaders of the age groups are known as Laigwalani. Their council of elders constitutes of the oldest age group. The members of the young generation follow decisions made by the council of elders.

The Yiaku people originally practiced Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) but over-time the practice has worn down.