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No, Ben Carson, there are no Turkanas in Tanzania

Republican US presidential candidate Ben Carson sought to “clarify perceptions” about himself regarding slavery on Thursday, and ended up disclosing that his ancestor was of the “Turkana tribe in Kenya and Tanzania.”

“You know I have had my roots traced back all the way back to my great, great, great, great grandfather who came from the Turkana tribe which is a migratory tribe even today in Tanzania and Kenya,” Mr Carson told a forum on slavery.

However, the disclosure is riddled with inaccuracies regarding the Turkana tribe.

Though they live a nomadic life, they are largely located in Kenya’s northern border and only cross over to neighbouring Ethiopia to search for pasture and water.

Tanzania is located to the south of Kenya and the only pastoral tribes traversing the Kenya – Tanzania border are the Maasai and Kuria.


Ben Carson is neurosurgeon and author of the acclaimed “Gifted Hands” book.

He is running to be the nominee of the Republican party in the upcoming United States presidential election.

His disclosure however elicited excitement among Kenyans who are flattered by the prospects of another US president with Kenyan roots after President Barack Obama’s term ends.

President Obama is himself scheduled to visit his father’s homeland this month for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi. The Summit is co-hosted by Kenyan and the United States.


At the forum on Thursday, Mr Carson revealed how two of his ancestors, a brother and sister were sold to separate slave owners bust still managed to reunite after emancipation.

“I know about two of my ancestors, a brother and sister, who were sold to seperate owners as children.

“And it broke their hearts and they swore that they would find each other; and after the emancipation – they were in their sixties – and they found each other.

“But the pain and the heartache associated in that era, there is nothing that compares to it,” said Mr Carson.