Status: <0.1% Christian
Location: The 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.
History: 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 In some areas, traditional Sakuye rituals have been replaced by Islamic prayers.
Identity: 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.
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 traditions 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 cattle and fare better. Language: The Sakuye speak Borana, an Eastern Cushite language adopted from their Borana Oromo patrons.
Customs: The Sakuye live among the Borana and they are ritually allied to them for political purposes in their history. Many identify themselves as Borana. T hey have also adopted the pre-Islamic religious institution of the priest-diviner called Qallu. Since the re-establishment of the social structures in 1965, the Sakuye do not allow Sakuye girls to marry outside the Sakuye group. The Sakuye have much social interaction with the neighboring Somali peoples, and when asked, will sometimes identify themselves as Somali.
Religion: Traditionally the Sakuye worshipped one God, Wak, by putting sacrifices in special trees. Over the last century aspects of Islam has come into their culture, though just overlaid on 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, as he does not harm people.
Christianity: There is little Christian influence among the Sakuye. Geographical, as well as social, isolation is a major factor in their lack of access to the gospel.