Aweer people

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Traditional, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Other Cushitic peoples

The Aweer (also known as the Waboni, Boni and Sanye) are a Cushitic ethnic group inhabiting the Coast Province in southeastern Kenya. Some members are also found in southern Somalia. They are indigenous foragers, traditionally subsisting on hunting, gathering, and collecting honey.


Evidence suggests that the Aweer/Boni, along with the related Dahalo and Wata, are remnants of the early Bushman hunter-gatherer inhabitants of Eastern Africa. According to linguistic, anthropological and other data, these groups later came under the influence and adopted the Afro-Asiatic languages of the Eastern and Southern Cushitic peoples who moved into the area. Dahalo has consequently retained some of the characteristic click sounds of the Khoisan languages.[2]

The Aweer have historically been known in the literature as Boni or Sanye, both of which are derogatory terms for low-caste groups.[3][4] Their lives were drastically changed when the Kenyan government curtailed their traditional way of life in the 1960s, forcing them to settle in villages along the Hindi-Kiunga Road, between the Boni National Reserve and the Dodori National Reserve.[5] Although the majority of the Aweer settled in villages located in this corridor between the two reserves, some established themselves in nearby Bajuni villages.

Today, the Aweer in Kenya have been encouraged to adopt farming as their main livelihood.[3] However, they also continue to engage in many of their traditional hunter-gatherer practices, utilizing the nearby forests for the collection of wild honey, plants for traditional medicine and building materials, and bush meat to supplement their diets. With laws banning the hunting of all wildlife in Kenya, the Aweer's traditional way of life is in danger.[6] Although Aweer overwhelmingly reside in the East African nation of Kenya, due to the Aweer's traditional dwellings along the protuberant coastline, the Aweer, as well as other inhabitants of Lamu County are sometimes referred to as Horners.[7]


According to the 2019 Kenyan population census, around 20,103 Aweer live in Kenya, where they are an officially recognized group. They have traditionally been concentrated in forests in the Coast Province, particularly the Lamu and Tana River districts.[1]

Some Aweer also inhabit southern Somalia's Badhade district.[8]


The Aweer speak the Aweer language, also known as Boni. It belongs to the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.[3]

According to Ethnologue, there are around 8,000 speakers of Aweer/Boni. Most are bilingual and speak the languages of their immediate neighbors, with about 20% speaking only Aweer.[3]

Aweer linguistically resembles Garre, but the speakers are physically and culturally unalike.[9] The language is believed to be threatened by extinction.[4]


The Aweer historically practised traditional faiths such as Waaqism, though most have today adopted Islam.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume IV: Distribution of Population by Socio-Economic Characteristics". Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  2. ^ Mohamed Amin, Peter Moll (1983). Portraits of Africa. Harvill Press. p. 16. ISBN 0002726394.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Aweer". Ethnologue. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  4. ^ a b Brenzinger (ed.), Matthias (1992). Language Death: Factual and Theoretical Explorations with Special Reference to East Africa. Walter de Gruyter. p. 323. ISBN 3110134047.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ (2007, p. 472)
  6. ^ Umar, Abdi (2000). "Herding into the New Millennium: Continuity and Change in the Pastoral Areas of Kenya". Traditional Occupations of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples: Emerging Trends. International Labor Organization. pp. 44–45. ISBN 92-2-112258-1.
  7. ^ Amin, Rajan, et al. "Africa's forgotten forests: the conservation value of Kenya's northern coastal forests for large mammals." Journal of East African Natural History 107.2 (2019): 41-61.
  8. ^ A.H.J. Prins. 1960 Notes on the Boni, a Tribe of Hunters in Northern Kenya. Bulletin of the International Committee on Urgent Anthropological and Ethnological Research. Vol. 1 (3): 25-27; 1963 The Didemic Diarchic Boni. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. Vol. 93 (2): 174-85.
  9. ^ Frawley (ed.), William (2003). International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 408. ISBN 0195139771.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)


External links[edit]