Embu County

Discover Embu County

Spatial Location of Embu County in Kenya
Spatial Location of Embu County in Kenya

Brief Overview of Embu County

On the map of Kenya, Embu County resembles of a scalene triangle drawn with an unsteady hand with its apex thrust into Mount Kenya National Park; being one five counties in central Kenya whose borders converge at the top of Mount Kenya at a point with Nyeri, Kirinyaga, Meru and Tharaka Nithi. The imaginary triangle then inclines moderately from apex to base, with Kii and Rupinganzi Rivers on the west separating it from Kirinyaga, and Thuchi River in the east separating it from Tharaka Nithi County. Within this overall descend in Embu County are many other rivers which, lower down, debouch into River Tana that eventually drains into the Indian Ocean after traversing 727 kms. Its principal lines of communication are the B6 Makutano-Embu-Meru Road which crosses it in the northern area from Embu to Kathageri en-route Meru, and B7 Embu-Kitui Road travelling southerly from Embu through Gachoka, Kiritiri and Kivaa.

At the base of Embu County lies a hot, dry lowland plain. In that, the north and south areas could be said to be diametrically opposed and noticeably composed of two distinct zones with crosswise agro-climatic variations: The cool, healthy and fertile zone in upper area around Mount Kenya, comprised of Runyenjes and Manyatta, standing out in perennial contrast with the hotter, droughty and lower area, comprised of Mbeere North and Mbeere South. The southwest part of Embu is covered by the Mwea Plains. Unexpectedly, the southeast area has closer affinities with that west of Kitui persisting at best as a semi-arid terrain. Its notable hills, confined to the northern half, are composed of Kiangombe and Kanjiri Hills separated by a wide valley through which the Tana has cut its path.

​Embu is best-known as the hydro-electricity giant of Kenya and as a gateway to Mount Kenya National Park. It hosts the nationally germane seven forks hydro electric dam project which is a series of five major dams constructed along its southern border, along River Tana, that collectively generate 543 MW, placing its contribution to the national installed H.E.P capacity at 75%. River Tana, the recipient of all the drainage in the area, is a notable example of a strike stream having selected for its course within the area a channel of fairly little resistance. Sighted widely, Mount Kenya is perhaps the most conspicuous feature in Embu. The major tribe in Embu is the Aembu, who, although culturally associated with their neighbours Meru, Tharaka and Kikuyu tribes, have their unique customs. Around Embu County are more than twenty five little known sacred groves and culturally important sites which, aside from their beauty, offer rich insights on Aembu Culture. It occupies 2,818 km2 on the southeastern slopes of Mt. Kenya.

Karue Hill in Embu County. Image Courtesy of Mwangi Kirubi
Karue Hill in Embu County. Image Courtesy of Mwangi Kirubi

Salient Features of Embu County

  • County Number 14
  • Area – 2818 km2
  • Altitude – 515 to 5100 ms
  • Major Towns – Embu, Siakago, Runyenges
  • Borders – Kirinyaga, Kitui, Machakos, Muranga, Tharaka Nithi, Meru
Map of Embu County

Brief History of Embu County

Beyond the forest boundary of Mount Kenya to the east, south and west live the Meru, the Embu, Tharaka and Kikuyu, all speakers of Bantu language, mutually understood with varying ease and whose histories, cultures and customs have been intertwined since their settlement here. These societies, and the Embu in particular, were small, acephalous societies, with only transient and situational leadership and the colonial regime with the associated missionary work would seriously disrupt their social orders. Several decades prior to establishment of administrative stations in Embu, Zanzibari traders had been visiting Embu in search primarily of ivory and occasionally of slaves. These intimations from the outer world were followed in 1906 by the more enduring arrival of a massive governmental expedition, led by Colonel Meinertzhagen, which overwhelmed Embu resistance, established useful administrative stations and overhauled the social, political and economic orders. At the onset, the Aembu and counterparts around Mount Kenya had forcefully resisted colonial rule, the Tharaka and Kikuyu putting up more forceful resistance. In 1919 a punitive expedition was send to closest Tharaka kin and many of them were killed while the rest fled to the bush. In that accord, up until the 1940s, Embu’s politics remained largely loyalist. The threat of losing chunks of their land to European settlers, as their Kikuyu neighbours had done, encouraged loyalist politics. Their Local Native Council was adequately in charge of labour to state farms in Embu. After the 1940s, there was increased collaboration with the Kikuyu and Meru to oppose colonial administration. Embu was one of the first districts in central Kenya to undergo native land registration with title deeds being awarded as early as 1961.

View of Mwea National Reserve.  Photo Courtesy of Wander Kenya
View of Mwea National Reserve.  Image Courtesy of Wander Kenya
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26 Attractions in Embu County, arranged as one would visit these - south, west, east then south - with the aid of in-depth narratives, images, strip maps and distance chart:

Mwea Rice Plains, Ndaraca ya Ngai (God's Bridge), Isaak Walton Inn, Njukiri Forest, Camp Ndunda Falls, Mount Kenya Riverside Retreat, Murinduko Hill Forest, Karue Hill, Kirimiri Forest, Nthenge Njeru Falls, Nthungu Falls, Nthenge Njeru Hiking Trail, Mount Kenya National Park - Irangi Gate, Mzima Fishing Camp, Kaagari-Gaturi Irrigation Scheme, Thuchi River Lodge, Ancient Mbeere Terraces, Kiang’ombe Forest Reserve, Mumoni Hill Forest Reserve, Kianjiru Hill, Mwea National Reserve, Kamburu Dam, Masinga Dam, Gitaru Dam, Kindaruma Dam, Kiambere Dam 

Geography, Land-Use, Highlights, Population, Roads, Airports, Climate and National Monuments in Embu County