Three tribes take up half of all public sector jobs

Public Service Commission chairperson Margaret Kobia. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA |

What you need to know:

  • Of the 236,231 employees on the public payroll as at June 30, 2013, the three ethnic communities accounted for 115,633 or 49 per cent of the work force
  • PSC chairperson Prof Margaret Kobia attributed the variance to a number of factors, mainly tribalism and historical reasons

The three most populous communities in the country hold half the civil service jobs, a report by the Public Service Commission shows.

The data shows that of the 236,231 employees on the public payroll as at June 30, 2013, the three ethnic communities accounted for 115,633 or 49 per cent of the work force.

The Kikuyu community had the highest number of employees at 52,787 accounting for 22.3 per cent of the total workforce. The Kalenjin are second with 36,069 (15.3 per cent) and the Luhya community are third with 26,777 employees, representing 11.3 per cent. The Kamba were fourth with 22,961 employees or 9.7 per cent.

The 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, the most recent to be conducted in the country by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, placed the Kikuyu community as the most populous with 6.62 million people or 17 per cent of the total population, the Luhya were second, accounting for 14 per cent of the population, while the Kalenjin represented 13 per cent of the population. The Kamba were fourth with 10 per cent of the population.

Others, according to the PSC jobs report, are the Luo community with 21,472 officers, Kisii with 16,407 officers, Meru with 14,057, Mijikenda 7,273 officers and Embu with 4,469 officers.

The Hawiyah ethnic group (a Somali clan) had the lowest representation in the service with only one officer working as a technician. The South Asian community is represented by 104 officers in government service, while the Sakuye, Murulle and El Molo had 76, 72 and 27 officers respectively, giving them the lowest representation. Seventy-one officers were not identified by community in the data.

The El Molo community, feared to be fast becoming extinct, had most of its workforce in the lower support staff category with 20 officers. The highest placed El Molo was in the technical staff category at Job Group K.

There are only two Kenyan European officers in the civil service while the Dasnach-Shangil community has 11 officers, all male.

The Gosha community has 19 officers in the public service.

The chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Prof Margaret Kobia, told the Sunday Nation that the past six years had witnessed deliberate affirmative action measures to ensure the country’s public workforce reflects the face of Kenya.

She attributed the variance to a number of factors, mainly tribalism and historical reasons.

“Some might be better exposed to public service jobs; others enjoy proximity to the public service sector; some communities were exposed to government jobs earlier, but we are putting in place measures to ensure the future does not mirror today; the 30 per cent threshold will not be achieved in a day, it is a gradual process and the coming years will definitely create a change,” Prof Kobia said.

Although it will take time to redistribute slots in the civil service to portray the true face of Kenya, Prof Kobia said the PSC has put in place strategies to ensure those being employed are representative of all tribes.

“We will be doing this to factor the representation in terms of population,” she said.


Prof Kobia said tribalism was not just a disease of the civil service but also in the higher learning institutions where, she added, it is a growing trend.

“Even campus politics is done along tribal lines; this should not be the case. We should go for merit as opposed to tribe, the mentality that you have a brother or father who will employ you is what we are fighting,” she said. 

In terms of gender, there are 69,334 female officers in the government workforce representing 29.4 per cent, which is slightly below the threshold of at least 30 per cent set in the Constitution. Males account for 70.6 per cent of the service workforce totalling 166,867 officers.

In the same 2009 census, men and women seemed to have struck a balance, nearly, with 19,192,458 males and 19,417,639 females.

In general, the analysis reveals that the distribution of officers currently in the service does not meet the constitutional principle that not more than two-thirds of members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.

For instance, of the total Kikuyu workforce, 19,960 were females while 32,827 were males, while the Maasai community with a total workforce of 3,449 had 630 female officers. Likewise, the Pokomo with 1,412 people on the government payroll had 365 females, while the Pokot had 413 female officers out of 2,651 and the Turkana, a total of 2,329, had  394 females.

The data reveals that officers between 31 and 40 years comprise the highest number of employees in the civil service while those in the 51-59 age bracket were the least numerous.

In some instances, the analysis found that there were more females than males. There were 57 South Asian females in the service and 47 South Asian males.


Despite the variance, the report shows that at least all ethnic groups had at least one officer in the civil service.

The Integrated Payroll and Personnel Database data further showed that there were 443 officers at the level of policy managers, which is the highest cadre of the service (job group S-V). Of the policy managers, 83 were younger than 50, while 360 were over 51. Senior managers who occupy job groups P, Q and R were 4,133 officers with 2,401 officers being below 50. The rest were over 51.

The technical staff who occupy job groups K to N were 55,175, with those under 50 standing at 38,109.

The middle support staff had 81,689 officers of which 62,359 were under 50 years old.

The lower support staff are the highest in the service accounting for 40.1 per cent of the total workforce. Of the 94,751 officers in this category, 84,655 were under 50.

There were 55,386 officers between 19 and 30, which translates to 23.45 per cent of the service while there were 67,369 between 31 and 40 years representing 28.52 per cent.

A total of 737 public officers are due for retirement this year after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60 years.

Of these, 558 are male. Another 12,685 officers will be retiring over the next two years.

Communities with highest number of officers

Kikuyu 52,787

Communities with lowest number of officers

Kenyan European2

According to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census, Kikuyu community is the most populous with 17 pc of the population, followed by the Luhya at 14 pc of population and Kalenjin accounting for 13 pc of the population.