Mijikenda, Digo in Kenya

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Introduction / History

The Digo are an East African tribe, concentrated on the southern coastal strip of Kenya between Mombasa and the border of Tanzania. It is rather surprising to find that in a country that is largely Christian, the Digo are nearly all Muslim.

The Digo are a Bantu tribe and are actually grouped together with eight other tribes. Together these tribes make up the Mijikenda, or "nine towns." Tradition tells us that the nine Mijikenda tribes originated farther north, but were driven south as a result of war.

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Digo experienced a time of great famine. It became a common practice for them to give either themselves or their children as kore, or "blood money," to serve as temporary collateral for a loan of food. Sadly, there were many times when the debt could not be redeemed, thus leaving them to live as slaves. Many of the Digo who were brought to Mombasa as slaves later obtained their freedom by converting to Islam.

What Are Their Lives Like?

For many years the Digo have been involved in trade with Muslim Arabs. As a result, they have enjoyed a higher standard of living than most of their neighboring tribes. In addition to trading, farming and fishing are two other sources of income for the Digo. Their principal crop is "manioc," a small shrub with thick roots that are eaten like potatoes. They also grow sesame, corn, rice, and beans. "Palm wine" is a popular drink produced from the palm tree.

The Digo tribe formerly lived in large, fortified villages but today their villages only consist of about 40 huts each. The shape of each hut clearly indicates to the villagers who live inside. The huts of elders are round, while those of other people are rectangular.

When a young Digo man marries, he must pay the normal bride-price of four heads of cattle, two goats or sheep, and palm wine. He is then incorporated into the bride's family. Eventually, as he demonstrates leadership qualities, he will be accepted into the body of tribal elders.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Islam is more widely accepted among the Digo than among any of the other Mijikenda tribes. Nevertheless, ties with traditional practices (such as animism and ancestor worship) still have more influence on the Digo community than does Islam. (Animism is the belief that non-human objects have spirits. Ancestor worship is the practice of praying to deceased ancestors for help and guidance.) One example of spiritism is their use of blood sacrifices. Such sacrifices are very significant to the Digo, especially in the exorcism of evil spirits. Witchdoctors are also consulted regularly.

Most of the Digo people over forty years of age have no real understanding of the Koran. Only a few of them have studied Islam in any depth, and most of them have only a superficial knowledge of its principles and doctrines. However, its presence among the Digo over the past eighty years has not gone entirely unnoticed. Its existence has altered both religious and political structures. For example, the people have adopted new attire and diets from their Muslim Arab neighbors. Although they know no religious significance for wearing the black veil, Digo women wear it to show respect for their husbands. This nominal identification with the Muslim religion is referred to as "folk Islam."

What Are Their Needs?

Even though the nation of Kenya is predominantly Christian, the Digo have never been successfully reached with the Gospel.

The entire New Testament has successfully been translated into Chidigo, the language of the Digo people, around 2005, and now there is a need for literacy training to put the gospel in their heart language to use. The Old Testament translation into Chidigo has also begun.

Since the Digo are economically self-sufficient, they have no real need to reach out to the nearby Christian-sponsored relief agencies. Materialism is becoming increasingly widespread among them.

Also, the religious practices of the Digo are deeply rooted in spiritism and folk Islam. This makes reaching them a very difficult task.

Prayer Points

The raising up of Digo pastors who take their words and actions from the Word of God in their own language is necessary for true church growth amongst the Digo.
Pray that God will cause the Digo people to become dissatisfied with their traditional religions and begin searching for the Truth.
Pray that God will empower the Kenyan church with the ability and the strategy to reach the Digo tribe with the Gospel.
Ask God to soften the hearts and open the ears of the Digo people to the Gospel as it is presented to them.
Pray that Christian broadcasts will be made available in the area of Kenya where the Digo tribe is located.
Pray for the Christians working nearby the Digo settlements. Ask God to give them open doors of ministry to the Digo tribe.
Pray that a strong Christian work will be raised up within the Digo tribe.

Scripture Prayers for the Mijikenda, Digo in Kenya.

Profile Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center  

People Name General Mijikenda, Digo
People Name in Country Mijikenda, Digo
Alternate Names
Population this Country 469,000
Population all Countries 753,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous Yes
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
Pioneer Workers Needed 9
People ID 11557
ROP3 Code 102607
ROP25 Code 302101
ROP25 Name Digo
Country Kenya
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Kwale county, Matuga , Msambweni and Lungalunga sub counties. South of Mombasa.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016 and field source
Country Kenya
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Kwale county, Matuga , Msambweni and Lungalunga sub counties. South of Mombasa..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016 and field source
Map of Mijikenda, Digo in Kenya Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.05 %)
0.10 %
Ethnic Religions
20.00 %
0.00 %
79.90 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Primary Language Chidigo (469,000 speakers)
Language Code dig   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Yes   ScriptSource Listing
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Chidigo (469,000 speakers)
Language Code dig   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Chidigo

Primary Language:  Chidigo

Bible Translation Status  (Years)
Bible-Portions Yes  (1982-2000)
Bible-New Testament Yes  (2007-2008)
Bible-Complete Yes  (2020)
FCBH NT (www.bible.is) Online
YouVersion NT (www.bible.com) Online
Possible Print Bibles
World Bibles
Forum Bible Agencies
National Bible Societies
World Bible Finder
Virtual Storehouse
Resource Type Resource Name Source
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching Global Recordings Network
Film / Video Jesus Film: view in Chidigo Jesus Film Project
Film / Video LUMO film of Gospels Bible Media Group/LUMO
Film / Video World Christian Videos World Christian Videos
General Faith Comes By Hearing - Bible in text or audio or video Faith Comes by Hearing
General Scripture Earth Gospel resources links Scripture Earth
General YouVersion Bible versions in text and/or audio YouVersion Bibles
Mobile App Android Bible app: Chidigo YouVersion Bibles
Mobile App iOS Bible app: Chidigo YouVersion Bibles
Photo Source Erik Laursen, New Covenant Missions 
Map Source People Group location: SIL / WLMS. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Bethany World Prayer Center 
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Learn more.

Joshua Project logo    Terms of Use   Privacy Policy   Contact Us   Copyright © 2024