The Borana are part of a very much larger group of the Oromo. Oromos in northern Kenya first entered the region from southern Ethiopia during a major migratory expansion in the late 10th century. They are differentiated into the cattle-keeping Borana and the camel-keeping Gabbra and Sakuye.
The Borana are the southern-most group of a cluster of three closely related Oromo groups including the Arsi and the Guji (or Gujji), which total almost 4 million. The Borana Oromo live in Ethiopia and Kenya, with a few in Somalia.
The Kenya census of 2009 reported that there are 161,399 Borana living in Kenya. The Borana are originally from Southern Ethiopia. They shifted to the South Northern areas of Kenya in the early years of the 16th century.
They currently reside in and around Isiolo, Tana River, Garissa, Moyale and Marsabit Districts. The heaviest concentration live in the Sololo area of Marsabit District and in Moyale District. Those in Isiolo District are concentrated in Merti and Garba Tula.
The decreasing availability of productive grazing land threatens the Borana people and contact with other nomadic peoples often leads to bloody clashes as they fight for the right to grazing lands. They have been increasingly dependent on relief agencies for help, something that is culturally repugnant to this proud people. Two or three centuries ago, the Borana converted to Islam, so most are nominally Muslims who practice Folk Islam.
Many traditionalists are said to practice Ayana, a very powerful and much feared form of Satan worship. Their traditional religion is monotheistic with communication through intermediary priests or "Qalla." This large and ancient people have had only minimal contact with Christianity, due in part to their nomadic lifestyle.
The language they speak is also called Borana which is a form of the broader Oromo grouping, a Language; originally of an eastern Cushite family of the Afro-Asiatic language.
Marriage among the Borana is viewed as a contract between the families of the man and woman. The male relatives of both families negotiate an acceptable bride-price. Therefore, there is huge pressure on the individuals to stay together, even if they are having problems.
If a Borana man wants to marry a woman, but her family objects, he can persuade her to agree to elope with him. The day after the elopement, the man and his male family members go with an apology gift and a portion of the bride-price. Usually the woman's family accepts the gift because they see that the woman has run away of her own free will.
This form of marriage has become increasingly popular with the younger generation of Kenyan Borana adults. This is probably due to the growing difficulties of finding the bride-price in a changing economy, and the Western influence of "marrying for love." There are clear gender lines in the way boys and girls are raised.
Boys are rarely disciplined (especially not by their mothers), and are encouraged to be strong and authoritative over those under them, including all women. Girls are usually disciplined, and are raised to be quiet, submissive and hardworking. Boys are circumcised, but individually, at the time the father chooses, unlike the Bantu practice of a group induction. Female circumcision is still practiced among the Borana, although a few Christians have taken a stand and refused to circumcise their daughters.