In this study, genetic diversity in 340 finger millet accessions from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and 15 minicore accessions was assessed using 23 single-sequence repeat markers and five qualitative traits. Nineteen markers were polymorphic with a mean polymorphic information content value of 0.606 and a range of 0.035–0.889, with allele size ranging from 148 to 478. A total of 195 alleles were detected (range of 3–23 and average of 10.3 alleles per locus), with 57.7% being rare and 17.4% being private. Differentiation between the accessions of the three countries was weak, with most of the genetic diversity being explained by variability within the countries and subregions than by that among the countries and subregions. The highest genetic diversity was observed in the Kenyan accessions (0.638 ± 0.283) and the least in the Ugandan accessions (0.583 ± 0.264). The highest differentiation based on Wright's fixation index was observed between the Ugandan and Tanzanian accessions (F
ST= 0.117; P< 0.001). There was no association between the morphological traits assessed and the genetic classes observed. The low variability between the countries could be attributed to a shared gene pool, as the crop originated from the East African region. Farmers' selection for adaptation and end use could have contributed to the high diversity within the countries. Concerted efforts need to be made to characterize the large germplasm stocks in East Africa for their effective conservation and utilization. The lack of representation of accessions from the three countries in all global minicore diversity clusters points to the need to explore the East African germplasm to identify the diversity not captured earlier to be included in the global repository.