Since the beginning of the European partition of Africa in the 1800s, the Sengwer in Kenya have suffered the same fate as other indigenous African cultures: forced assimilation. To date, there are only 60,000 Sengwer people still alive.
Many have had to abandon their traditions, move into towns and assimilate. There are only 5,000 people living in their traditional ancestral homeland in Embobut Forest in Marakwet. The Sengwer used the forest for collecting honey, hunting and gathering fruits and roots as well as collecting plants and herbs of medicinal value. Unfortunately, these forest lands have been converted into tea zones.
The Himba of Namibia and Angola
According to the most recent estimates, the Himba people have a population of about 50,000. This semi-nomadic group raises mostly goats, sheep and cattle. In fact, they measure wealth based on the number of cattle a man may have. The Himba women are famous for their red otjize paste used to retain moisture in the hair and skin due to the intense arid conditions of their homeland. For centuries, the ethnic group made their home in the northern region of the Namibia and along the Kunene River in Angola.
Over the past few years, European nations like Norway have launched mobile schools for Himba children because they saw the Himba as tourist attractions. These assimilation schools were used to teach the Himba European languages — like English —and dress. Since 2010, Namibia took them over and converted them into permanent schools. Himba leaders were outraged over the treatment of their children because these schools were used to forcibly assimilate Himban children into modern society.
In addition, there has been a 4-year tug-of-war over the construction of a dam in the Kunene River in the Baynes Mountains. The Himba have staged marches and ousted corrupt chiefs who would sell their traditional settlements.
The Akie people from the western Arusha region in Tanzania number around 5,268 and have been on the verge of extinction for decades. The Akie are similar to other hunter-gatherer groups in Kenya and Tanzania in that they are often called the derogatory term Dorobo or Wandorobo.
Their way of life is constantly under threat because their lands are being encroached upon. The shrinking hunting grounds are also caused by poaching by non-African hunters.
As their numbers decrease, so do the number of native Akie speakers. There are only a few elders who can fluently speak the native language.
The Kisankasa are an ethnic and linguistic group based in the Arusha and Mara regions of north Tanzania. According to estimates in 1987, the Kisankasa people number around 4,670. However, since those estimates, the Kisankasa have made a small comeback to 10,000 people. Just like the Akie, they are rare hunter-gathers.
The Ik people number around 10,000 and have made their home in the mountains of northeastern Uganda near the border with Kenya. Over the years, the Ugandan ethnic group has been removed from ancestral lands to create the Kidepo Valley National Park. The 10,000 that remain perpetually suffer from famine.
El Molo People
The northeastern Kenyan-based El Molo people have been driven to extinction because of ethnic mixing. According to anthropologists, the modern El Molo are believed to have no unmixed members left. The last recorded estimates from 1994 state that there were only eight original El Molo natives living. After two decades, that number may be closer to zero. However, the Wildize organization believes that there are only 300 people left and the “pure” El Molo may number only 40.
As of 2009, there were 2,840 El Molo residents living near Lake Turkana. The El Molo have thrived off of fishing in the lake’s waters. Unfortunately, the lake has been severely polluted because of external factors and has made natives sick.
Ethiopia’s Mursi or Mun people are farmers living in the Omo zone, which consists of the Omo River and valley. According to 2007 census estimates, there are 7,500 Mursi still living. For the past few years, the Mursi have come under attack because of Ethiopia’s plan to create a national park on their land. The Omo National Park was created in 2005 and has essentially stolen land from the Mursi without compensation. Now, the Mursi are “illegal squatters” on their own land.