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Understanding Modern African Horrors by Way of the Indian Ocean Slave Trade

On January 15, and well into the morning of the next day, terrorists affiliated with the Somali Jihadi group Al Shabab forced their way into an upscale Nairobi hotel and business centre, killing 21 innocent civilians. Kenyan authorities, with some help from Western allies, killed some of the terrorists and captured the rest. Al Shabab justified the attack by denouncing the Kenyan government’s participation with African Union forces in Somalia, which has been in a state of civil warfare since the early 1990s.

I had driven by the targeted complex a couple of days before the attack, and once lived in this neighbourhood back when Kenya was my permanent home. On this visit to the country, I’ve noticed that—notwithstanding January’s terrible tragedy—tourism is booming, agriculture is bountiful and the Kenyan elite are benefiting from the massive Chinese investments that have transformed the landscape. The overall degree of improvement depends on which expert you believe. But the plethora of expensive cars that now jam the streets of Nairobi, and the building boom on display in many parts of the city, do suggest a surging economy.

Anyone who knows the history and tribal dynamics of East Africa and the Horn will understand that even if the Kenyan government pulled all its troops out of Somalia, Al Shabab likely would still try its best to destabilize this country. I outlined the reasons for this decades ago, when I first briefed visiting Canadian and U.S. military personnel here in Nairobi. Many of the things I told them remain as true now as they were then. That’s because the most important factors at play are rooted in history, not in recent geopolitical developments.

Specifically: Many modern problems in the area are rooted in the Indian Ocean slave trade—a scourge that was distinct from the better known slave trade that preyed on West Africa. In the eastern part of the continent, there was little to no European involvement. The practice was indigenous and ancient, and lasted more than a thousand years.

The rise of Islamic societies propelled young Arab and Persian men to the Indian Ocean coast, from Somalia down to Mozambique. There, they married local women, converted locals to Islam and established sophisticated coastal trading cities that featured advanced stone architecture, relatively high rates of literacy and even, in some cases, indoor plumbing. This is where they developed the lateen sail (though its origins remain disputed by historians), which allowed them to take advantage of alternating monsoon winds, so as to sail their trading dhows to India and back to East Africa every six months. These were the seas plied by the fictional Sinbad the Sailor. East Africa’s coastal elites brought gold, ivory, spices and slaves from the interior of Africa and sold them to customers in the Middle East and India.

During the 19th century, the Omani sultans relocated their sultanate to Zanzibar, in what is now coastal Tanzania. They used slaves to work their clove plantations, and presided over a large-scale traffic in human beings from the coast to the Congo. As the interior tribes were not Muslim, the Arabs, Swahili and Somali felt free to raid their “infidel” communities. The East African/Central African slave trade was a brutal overland version of the oceanic horrors known to historians of the Western version. Untold hundreds of thousands died before they reached the coast.

This was the Africa that was discovered and first described by missionary explorers such as David Livingstone, who documented the horrors of the East African slave trade on behalf of Victorian England. At that time, the empire recently had banned slavery, and was swept up in an evangelical abolitionist movement. This culminated in Britain occupying the East African coast of the Indian Ocean, taking out the power of the Zanzibaris and establishing their own newly created colonial authority as far as Uganda. From the African point of view, this was a case of European colonialists displacing Muslim slavers.

Together with the French and Italians, the British divided up Somaliland (after a lengthy campaign against a Jihadi leader named Mohamed Abdullah Hassan), whose Somali inhabitants had been willing partners in the East African slave trade (with the Swahili). In this way, the colonial boundaries of what later became the independent countries of Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were established. But of course, that did not stop tribes from moving this way and that across borders that looked real on the map but felt imaginary on the ground.

Although the Somali-speaking peoples of the Horn of Africa all generally follow the belief that they descend from a single man named Soomal, and practise Islam and Islamic saint worship, they continue to be divided into two major tribal confederations. The northerners, called the Isaak, recently have managed, alongside other clans, to establish a near-functioning democracy in the northern Somaliland (which was once a protectorate of the British Crown). To the south is the land of the Darod clans, where the civil war has been raging since the 1990s.

These Darod clans, which are still largely nomadic, gradually have been expanding southwestwards in search of new grazing lands to occupy with their herds of camels, cattle, sheep and goats. Until the late 1890s, they were barely present in what came to be called Kenya’s northern frontier, a vast arid savannah, woodland and desert that stretched west to the Sudan and north to Ethiopia.

However, by the time the British established their authority over all of the Kenya colony, and especially by the end of  WWII, the Darod clans increased their numbers in the northeast of Kenya—in what is now called Wajir, Mandera and Garissa districts. These areas now have  a growing and sometimes dominant Somali presence. In 1964, the Somali of northern Kenya fought a 10-year on-and-off guerrilla war against the newly established Kenyan government, in hopes of linking their territory with the newly independent state of Somalia. This strategy did not work.

From the late 19th century onwards, the British bypassed the Swahili, sending in missionaries from the coast to convert the Bantu and Nilotic speaking tribes of the Kenyan interior, these being former victims of the coastal slave trade. The modernizing elites of these groups then fought with the British during WWI and WWII, and demanded independence after the war, which they got. From an ethnographic point of view, what this means is that the descendants of the non-Muslim tribes that formerly provided the coastal Muslims with slaves were now in charge of the government and economy of Kenya, making Muslims to the northeast and on the coast a political minority within the region.

After 9/11, the southwest expansion of the Somali Darod into Kenyan territory took on a new religious dimension. The young men who man Al Shabab and the youngish “imams” who write their fatwas, the religious rulings that encourage them to bomb “infidel hotels” in Nairobi and other places, have broken away from their elders. Their violent nihilism isn’t much different in character from that of rampaging Congolese militias, except they perform their violence under cover of Jihad. But whatever the pretext, the campaign can be classified, as former Governor of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, Sir Richard Turnbull, called it, the “Darod Invasion” of northeastern Kenya.

This Islamic-branded tribal expansion has two goals. The first is to undermine the Kenyan government so that the southwesterly movement of Darod pastoral tribes toward Mount Kenya can continue. The second is to prosecute a blood feud against the descendants of the tribes that the coastal slavers had preyed on in ancient times, thereby reversing the balance of power in the region and bringing back the old order that existed before British warships broke up the coastal slaving networks.

This will never happen. But Al Shabab believes it will, and is willing to kill as many people as necessary to prosecute its terroristic struggle. This is likely not a movement that can be reasoned with. And so the Kenyan government and its allies must do everything possible to destroy it by force, while also seeking a peaceful solution to the ongoing war in southern Somalia, the home of the restive Darod. This might include formally recognizing the independent Somaliland of the north and, with its help, creating a military pincer against the Darod in the south, a strategy that has yet to be tried.

But whichever path Kenya, the United States, the UK, the African Union and other allied forces take, it is important to remember that Al Shabab is more than just a terrorist group. It is the pathological expression of an ancient hatred between tribes and religions that has persisted for centuries, and springs from the roots of a trade whose evils are known only too well to all parts of the African continent.

Geoffrey Clarfield is an anthropologist-at-large.

Featured Image: “Slavers Revenging Their Losses,” a 19th-century engraving contained in an 1866 book based on the sketches and reports of David Livingstone.

116 Comments

  1. Ray Andrews (the dolphin) says

    This must be wrong because Africa was a paradise of love and multicultural harmony before whitey ruined everything, and Islam is the Religion of Peace (TM)

    • Michael O'Dell says

      Hey Dolph- any chance you could leave this kinda adolescent charm on say, Twitter, and let this space fill up with thoughtful & reflective additions to the conversation? You’ll DEF get more responses when tweeting, the style/effect fits right in, AND it saves the majority of us time by not having to read it.
      Please consider the move- it’s in everyone’s best interest!!!

    • D.B. Cooper says

      Granted, I’ve never stepped foot on the continent, but I’m always left a little unsettled when I hear of people who’ve voluntarily moved to places like Kenya, or God forbid, Somalia. Part of me wants to believe this is due to my ignorance of such places – save the rates of rape, murder, and theft, I’m sure they’re lovely vacation spots. But then there’s another part of me that’s pretty sure it’s not my judgement that’s clouded in ignorance.

      • D.B., maybe you don’t like enterprise and adventure, in Kenya (and Ethiopia, recently) are 100s of enterprising flower and vegetable growers, all of them much greater and richer than their colleagues that did not dare to make the step from developed ambiences(but high labour costs) to underdeveloped ones (but low wage). The riscs that you are thrown out and loose your property has yo be taken of course, that’s how businesses work.

        • Cornfed says

          You are right, but don’t minimize the risk. I have family in a 3rd world country, and have met many enterprising folks there like you describe. I also have heard the stories of others who were found decapitated in their beds. You can lose more than your property. It takes a certain breed of cat…

      • You don’t have to travel to Africa, just visit, if you dare or would even want to, the expanding ghettos, settlements, in any European city like London, where they live off, as they think their right, the Kafirs (call a spade a spade, the word is Kafir, not non-Muslim, like some kind of homeless itinerant), and they are just as much at war in Europe as in Africa The Kafir re-settlement in this case is involuntary, just not geographical. It’s fueled by immigration, a key element of the 1400 year long jihad strategy, to be followed by its codification in the form of Sharia Law.
        A Kafir is the most insulting of words, much more so than the Latin adjective for black pronounced with a hard g, what Livingstone had in common with the slaves in his engraving.

  2. E. Olson says

    Gee Whiz – This nice summary of Kenyan history seems to be in conflict with what is preached by so many social justice warriors, because they seem to think that only white people were slave traders and owners. Won’t they be surprised to find out that it was actually white English colonists who ended slavery in Eastern Africa, and that the “religion of peace” Muslims were the slavers and the ones creating conflicts in Africa today. Its almost as if Social Justice people don’t have any clue about what they are talking about, but perhaps now they will focus on “educating” those former Muslim slavers so that they get down on their knees and beg for forgiveness while asking how much they should pay the victims for reparations.

    • Morgan Foster says

      An interesting speculation:

      If not for white men – not white women, white men – would chattel slavery still be a lawful, protected enterprise in many parts of the world?

      • Don’t forget the author of -Uncle Tom’s Cabin-, Morgan! Very influential in these matters!

      • Dazza says

        Morgan

        It effectively is if you’re Nepalese and work in Qatar. But don’t worry, white men will be turning up soon to save them (hopefully their mum’s have made them a decent packed lunch)
        after the world cup final whistle.

        Do me a favour!

      • K. Dershem says

        Perhaps. But it’s equally true that without white men (and the African tribal leaders who aided and abetted the crime), ten million Africans would not have endured the horror of the Transatlantic slave trade. No ethnic group — or gender — has a monopoly on virtue or vice. I don’t think we should lionize or demonize white men. We’re better served by an accurate understanding of history which acknowledges the failures of civilizations while celebrating the progress we’ve made.

        • Michael O'Dell says

          K. Dershem, that kind of response is what gives hope to tomorrow, and thank you for taking gage time to post!!!!

        • Angela says

          On the flip side the average worldwide income of black people would plummet had whites not brought Africans to America. So even undoing one of history’s worst atrocities would have it’s cons. Shits complicated.

          • Eugene says

            Angela, let’s not forget that America would have been nowhere near as prosperous early on had it not been for two centuries of unpaid labor. I doubt there would’ve been enough indentured servants/willing immigrants to match the massive cash crop profits associated with slavery.

          • Skallagrimsen says

            @Eugene, Brazil imported vastly more African slaves than the British colonies that would become the U.S., and abolished slavery even later (1888). Is that why Brazil has always been so much more prosperous than the U.S?

          • Eugene says

            @Skallagrimsen, I do agree with you that Brazil imported more slaves than the US. However, Brazil didn’t sell arms/supplies to the Allied Forces in WWI along with loaning funds to them. Without the economic boost from slavery I think that it’s debatable that the US would have been in a position at that time to profit so heavily from that conflict and the many more that followed. Before we get further off topic remember that I’m stating that America’s development would have taken longer had it not been for slavery and opportunities would’ve been missed due to that.

          • Skallagrimsen says

            So, how comparatively affluent were the U.S. and Brazil before WWI?

          • Have made numerous visits to the Continent. Always saddened me that it had the same past-300 years or so that Europe and Asia and the Americas did to create thriving economies and culture. Instead, they have warlords and hack one another with machetes.

          • Grant says

            Rely@eugene
            The northern free states were more prosperous and technologically advanced then the south. A very good case can me made that without slavery, the south would have been more prosperous.

          • Sarita Katina says

            …in response to K. Dershem’s “Perhaps. But it’s equally true…”

          • BrianB says

            Eugene,
            Slavery stifles wealth creation because it stifles innovation and distorts markets.
            If slavery is what made America prosperous then presumably the South should have leaped far ahead of the North as slavery petered out above the Mason Dixon line between the revolution and the civil war and of course it not only didn’t but it fell behind.

        • augustine says

          “I don’t think we should lionize or demonize _______”

          A very sensible entreaty that applies to many social issues that excite imaginations these days. Could be a threat to identity politics, though…

        • BrianB says

          Do you really think you have to tell non leftists that no one has a monopoly on virtue or vice?
          All the left does is the opposite of what you recommend; they distort history and lie constantly that whites, men especially, are uniquely malignant, as is Western Civilization while simultaneously considering themselves uniquely virtuous. Then they turn around and deny or ignore information like that contained in this article.. They try to drum it into our heads daily and hang the albatross of racism on their domestic enemies, even though they are the well spring of most historical and current racism. And most also give a pass to not only past Arab and African racism and slavery but even that which is occurring right now.
          It would take a million “accurate understandings of history”, which this article certainly is, to just begin to chip away at the progressive propaganda they spread with impunity from the institutions they have captured.
          Moreover it was those uniquely evil white Christian men who virtually eradicated slavery around the world and ran the Arab slavemasters out. Was there any great push by Arabs or Africans to do that? No. They had to be forced to.
          Your false equivalency is just that; false. It’s also intellectually lazy.

    • Daniel says

      E. Olson, you said, “Won’t they be surprised to find out that it was actually white English colonists who ended slavery in Eastern Africa, and that the “religion of peace” Muslims were the slavers and the ones creating conflicts in Africa today.”

      Unfortunately, I bet they won’t find that out. Even if you were to strap one to a chair and show them the evidence, they would somehow find a way to ignore it. The human capacity for self-deception has been perfected in the SJW. (Well, perfected for now. I’m sure they’ll outdo themselves tomorrow.)

    • The word slave derived from the Slavic people, Slavs, because they were a very large source of ‘slaves’ taken by the Arab (Muslim) slave raiders, traders and wholesalers to the new world colonies.
      In the first instance slaves were predominantly white indentured slaves, who suffered amongst other things a high death rate from tropical diseases in the southern state plantations and were replaced by black slaves who had a higher natural immunity.

      • I wonder, Mark, who were first?The Slavic tribes and their Slavic languages? Or the name slave for subservients, for sale and working without wages, as known e.g. from Bible and Koran, and subsequently also given as name also to the people that provided lots of those men and women? It’s a nordic, indoeuropean word, and not a slavic or latin one, if I’m right.

    • David Murphy says

      It is surprising hw many Black peel done know that their ancestors were sold to white (and Arab) slavers by fellow black men. Slavery was endemic in Africa before whites or Arabs appeared on the scene and is still common in parts of Africa.

      • Read what Robert (here under) thinks about this issue, David. Slavery as such is not inhumane at all, it means that you spare your conquered enemy, feed them, care for them and put them to work to do at least something back. I understand that even Napoleon at times just executed soldiers in Egypt after a victory. Slavery becomes inhumane when it becomes a commercialised business. In fact, commercialisation an sich, maybe, is corrupting mankind quite often, one should be careful with commerce, it’s highly addictive.

  3. Dan Flehmen says

    As a long time Kenya resident, I find this to be a fascinating article. Somalis I know do not hide their contempt for Bantus and Nilotes, their former prey in the slave trade.

    Nairobi abounds with rumours that part of the building boom has been paid for by Somali piracy profits, along with the billions generated by mass kleptocratic corruption within Kenya.

  4. Sydney says

    Author mentions Chinese investment. Do Kenyan leaders want Chinese support to deal with this terrorism? Where do the Chinese fit in now that they’re a major investor in the region (and all over Africa)? That’s a new development now situated in old, and older, issues.

    • Angela says

      I saw a documentary on TV that partly touched on Chinese investment in Africa. Apparently there’s very little trickle down effect to the working class Africans. China literally ships in their own entire workforce to build projects and avoids hiring any local Africans.

      • E. Olson says

        Angela – that almost sounds like the Chinese are very racist, which obviously can’t be true since only white people can be racist.

      • alan white says

        Projects don’t survive long without constant maintenance by qualified workers. Do they hire locals for this or import Chinese workers?

    • The Chinese built a brand new super modern high velocity train connection from Mombasa to Nairobi, whereas there was a very good one as built by the British and served perfectly well at moderate prices for the common citizen. Kenya has to pay this monstruous dragon back to China. Of course they cannot (the bus is much cheaper and local people can take chickens and bags of cabbage in that bus, to sell on the markets for small profits), but, I’m sure, China can ask other benefits (land leases, hard wood, rice, minerals) if financial means fail. That’s how it goes in Africa, it’s really sad, BUT….. NO MORE COLONIALISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS PALAVER NOW. Tits for tats, of course.

      • BrianB says

        China will find that they have a great deal less leverage than they think when countries begin balking at repayment, unless they’re prepared to invade those that refuse which is not a recipe for success.
        The Chinese are not immune to the truism that when you owe the bank a million dollars you can’t repay, you have a problem. When you owe the bank a billion you can’t pay, the bank has a problem.
        Toss into the mixture that the guys who borrowed the billions are sovereign nations and they may find they’re the ones riding the tiger.

  5. I resided in Lamu in the time of the attack and slaughter on the US embassy in Nairobi. Police from Nairobi (and of US I think it was) came to investigate the crime. Lamu, being kind of muslim pirate hide-out and of old Jemenite and Oman descendance, applauded the suspect perpetrators in the official police ship landing there (and not the national officers), and did not want to help solve the police in finding more accomplices there. Not long ago, Lamu was for half a minute the scene of the movie Out of Africa, all the Coca Cola signs and other post war gadgets had to be removed for the few seconds that Meryl Streep lingered in the narrow streets, with those donkeys transporting sand, bricks and bananas (until now, no cars allowed on the Island).Indeed, it was as if Sinbad could appear on that scene every moment. In the library, I read old manuscripts of British DC’s, lamenting the abolishment of slavery, and, therefore, the total collapse of all local productive plantations of banana and oranges.

      • No, I’m Austrian, living in the NL. After work for aid projects, I came back to Kenya, yearly, and spent a quarter of the year in Lamu, like many other crazy Europeans did, most of them not so young any more and discontent for some reason. It was a small tight community. The local authochtone Swahili descendants of slave traders mainly (I guess), not of slaves.
        They still made these dhow sailing boats there, oysters were very cheap and plenty. Life was calm and pleasant.

  6. Robert Franklin says

    I’ve come to believe that there were two types of slavery. The ancient kind occurred when, for example, one side lost a war and its people, or at least the combatants, were liable to become slaves of the victors. And of course, once a slave, there were only limited legal means of exiting that status. But the slavery this article deals with seems different to me. It was a naked business transaction in which one person shanghaied a human being and sold him/her to another for something of value. As much as no one liked being a slave, the second type seems and seemed the more despicable of the two.

    Those are my tentative thoughts on the matter. I’d love it if someone with greater knowledge of the history of slavery would comment.

    Meanwhile, the Zanj rebellion of the 9th century demonstrated how much the Africans hated the Islamic version of slavery.

    • david of Kirkland says

      Perhaps ranking types of slavery is less valuable than embracing liberty and equality.

      • I don’t agree david, you are a presentist, meaning, you are judging mankind, history, society from a standpoint only valid just now, at present. Wrong, wrong, wrong. But I see this mistake made all over and everywhere at present.

    • Insufficiently Sensitive says

      Those are my tentative thoughts on the matter. I’d love it if someone with greater knowledge of the history of slavery would comment.

      There was a brisk slave trade in the Mediterranean, with North Africans and Levantines all mixed up in it, and slaves of all races including Brits and Europeans being peddled here and there to those in the market for muscle or gratification or whatever.

      • BrianB says

        Since the beginning of man there has been a brisk trade in slaves in every corner of the earth.
        The eventual near eradication of it can be traced to one remarkable and revolutionary short statement that began turning the world upside down a couple of thousand years ago in the letter Paul sent to the Galatians:

        “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
        .

  7. david of Kirkland says

    Sounds like we all suffer from people who cannot escape the past, thinking they are beholden to behave as ancestors did, to hold gripes about past conflicts, and to think themselves unable to behave well now because they are victims and enemies “for 1000 years.” I think humans just like conflict, much as those who argue against anything tend to DO so little themselves and only “do the right thing” (per their mental model) when forced to do so by powers that be…conflict bring glory and satisfaction.

    • Constantin says

      @David of Kirkland
      I was just reading somewhere else about the complications of forgiveness. On a collective level it must be a completely different animal. A friend of mine was out drinking with an Inuk friend with who he worked for years in the same office and who always struck him as gentle and kind. Once sufficiently inebriated, the Inuk gentleman told my friend about his deep seated hatred of everything and everybody of European ancestry and how much he was longing to kill white Canadians, my friend included. This was a terrible shock for my friend. Later he mused that group animosities have a life of their own – mostly residing in the unconscious part of our brain. My take is that we nurture the illusion that group animosities no longer exist, when in fact they are perfectly alive and well, despite the absence of overt physical conflict over time. This is so because conflict is not just physical.

      • augustine says

        Constantin,
        What you say here rings true. It reminds me of something I learned from an elder years ago. He told me that the Japanese, regardless of present civilities and friendly cooperation, will never forgive us for the atomic bombings. This sentiment could be weighted toward the older generations who lived that horror, but as you indicate, some psychic imprinting stays with the group for a long time. Remembering such things vs. living through them in enmity can be the difference between progress and dysfunction. Islam tends toward the latter wherever it invades.

  8. Dazza says

    It’s always nice to read a lesser known piece of history. I enjoyed your article, thanks.

  9. Jezza says

    Islamic slavery was well known to Europeans whose coastal communities and trading ships were plundered by Barbary corsairs, taking thousands of people into slavery. After the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 Britain was able to send a fleet commanded by Admiral Pellew to require the north African states to release their slaves and repay the ransoms, which they did – all except Omar Agha, the Dey of Algiers, who thought his defences were impregnable. On August 27, 1816, Admiral Pellew led a combined British/Dutch fleet into the harbor of Algiers, dropped anchor and opened up on the harbor defences. The Royal Navy gunners prevailed, sinking most of the Algerian fleet and smashing shore guns. The Dey subsequently released over three thousand European slaves. That action is known as the Bombardment of Algiers and it was bigger than Trafalgar..

    Was it successful? Yes and no. The Navy freed the current crop of slaves, ( about ten thousand in all) but the Dey soon replenished them with Jewish slaves. The fact that these events are relatively obscure is because we Europeans eschew victimhood.

    Slavery is in the marrow of Islam.

    Admiral Pellew was honoured by being made Lord Exmouth. One thing has always puzzled me: why did he name his son “Bastard”?

  10. Thanks Geoffrey a concise and interesting read. The links with Asia and the East African slave trade are known but not a great deal has been written about it. A 10th African slave uprising in China and the raids from SE Asia to the East coast of Africa, as well as their own internal slave trade, show how extensive the trade in people has been in most parts of the world.

  11. ga gamba says

    An interesting piece.

    I think it needs to be said: the construct Somali primarily exists outside the country. It’s the four clans, and their respective subclans, that really matter.

    Young people who are distressed by the clan rivalries now look to Islamist ideology and militant movements such as Al-Shabaab to unite the disparate clans, but this also divides clans internally, as young people put religious loyalties above clan.

    For anyone who’s interested in understanding the tensions and rivalries between these groups in Kenya’s Wajir county (formerly the Northern Frontier District), one that borders Somalia and Ethiopia ought to read this dissertation, https://ir-library.ku.ac.ke/handle/123456789/13473 – the thesis isn’t paywalled, so simply click the hyperlink on the page.

    I think this article would have benefited the reader by examining the present clan rivalries like those in Nairobi’s Eastleigh suburb, which today is known as Little Mogadishu. What was once a quiet residential suburb has transformed into a major East African commercial hub. Since the mid-1980s hundreds of thousands of people left Somalia and resettled abroad, greatly increasing the diaspora population and expanding the economic importance of this suburb.

    In 1989, Kenya launched a screening exercise to identify those Somalis indigenous to Kenya whilst many of those declared non-citizens were deported; counterfeit documents had long been available in Mogadishu and Kenyan immigration authorities were notoriously corrupt. Elites from the Ogaden clan – the largest Darod subclan – used their influence of the bureaucratic machinery to detain and deport economic and political rivals, mirroring conflicts expressed along clan lines in neighbouring Somalia. These Ogadens claimed their illegal alien rivals from the Hawiye, Isaaq, and Harti clan families built businesses in transport, the export–import trade, real estate, and other industries and used the proceeds to support poaching, banditry, and other illegal activities in Kenya. After the 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, the number of Somalis migrating to Eastleigh skyrocketed.

  12. X. Citoyen says

    Great piece. If it’s any consolation to you, I’ve been pushing for including more anthropological research in—how shall I put it—the sort of places where people analyze things.

    Anyway, my only complaint is that it’s not long enough.

  13. Stephanie says

    Great article on a part of the world I don’t know enough about. Much appreciated!

  14. Charlie says

    Kenya did not appear to have developed warrior tribes like the Zulus. Shaka drilled the Zulus so they could run 50 miles and fight a battle. He drilled them to fight as units using shields for protection in a similar manner to the Romans. The Zulu stabbing spear functioned like the Roman Gladius and their throwing spears like the javelin. No foreigners enslaved the Zulus or their cousins the Nbele.

    East African slavery increased when the British stopped that in West Africa.

    • alan white says

      More evidence that one can claim to “own” land only if you can defend it against invasion and seizure . If you cannot, you don’t own it. Those who make moral claims to land have no place to stand. Unjust? Perhaps. But that’s the way the world works

    • vacamav says

      You are forgetting that literally every Kenyan tribe is/was a warrior tribe. Maasai? Also, no foreigners enslaved any tribes in Kenya. All suggestions in that direction are hubris. Kenyan tribes were renowned long-distance traders but they never sold slaves. But of course the history of Kenya is glossed over or lumped together with the general ‘East Africa’ history.

      • Of course, vacamav, Kenya was the exception and a special case in the East. May I ask which textbooks you have your wisdom from? Kenyan authors, I presume.

        • vacamav says

          Just ordinary books Mr. dirk. Yes Kenya was the exception and special case. Which kingdoms can you name from Kenya? Which are the famous slave-trading markets in Kenya? Who are the famous Kenyan slave-traders? Give me an answer to those questions first. And then we can talk about Uganda, Tanzania, Congo and others by answering the same questions. I can give you a complete breakdown of the Kingdoms and Chiefdoms that traded slaves in the whole of East Africa plus the names of slave traders. I can see you mentioned Tippu Tip somewhere. So please, do the honours and give men the answers here because you might end up educating me.

          • Congratulations. BTW, I was not educating, I never do, I was just sarcastic. Have a good day! I loved the time spent in your country. I spent it mostly in the mud, in rice fields in Coast Province. With dhows at the horizon, splendid!

  15. Jack Langworthy says

    I’ve lived in Tanzania for the last ten years, and never heard that the British ended the Omanian slave trade. This seems like a noble, and notable, piece of history that is lost.

    • In Tanzania Jack? Then you must have heard of slave trader Tippu Tip (died in 1905 in Zanzibar). Unlike the Europeans, this Tip went himself with a crew deep into Africa to find and transport his slaves, he even once went into Congo and Sudan together with Stanley, to rescue a German. Tippu Tip was a black Swahili from Zanzibar, he maintained good relations with the British, Germans and even the Belgians How he managed to keep this friendship as a notorious slave trader, he described in his autobiography, in Swahili, but translated in English. The clove plantations of Zanzibar and Pemba (still existing) were worked and harvested by an army of 10.000 of his slaves, not unlike the cotton in Louisiana thus. The plantations around Lamu (see comment above) were abandoned and went into bush after the British made slavery unlawful. In Pemba and Zanzibar, small scale cooperative peasants took over.
      The illustration above could well have been phantasised after a trip from Tip’s men, though, of course, the scene as depicted (slaves not even looking where one of their brothers is slaughtered by a gard) is just only negative propaganda, 19th century framing, not the real thing.

  16. Fred LaSor says

    The original post by Geoffrey Clarfield is as good and succinct a summary as I have seen of slavery in the Horn of Africa and the coastal regions of modern-day Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania. I have tried to tell this story myself, and ended up getting too detailed. Clarfield stripped the history to the bones and presents an easily understood version in a few minutes’ read. I would have included details like Tippu Tib, but that’s because I lived four years in Bangui, so feel the slavery along the Ubangui River Basin is important to understanding the slave trade through the Swahili coast. Probably only for a few readers.

    I must also say that ga gamba added additional details that do a good job of rounding out the picture.

    When I lived in Nairobi (1990-95) I was struck by an economic relationship between Kenya and Somalia that is little mentioned or studied — the khat trade. I think the general impression of Somalia is of bone-crushing poverty. And certainly on short visits I made to Somalia, that is an easy understanding with which to come away.

    But there is an extremely lucrative cash-only trade between Wilson Aerodrome near Nairobi and rural airports in Somalia, or at least there was when I was there.

    Khat is a leaf from a bush that grows in the Kenya highlands, and once it is picked and bundled it needs to be consumed within hours. So khat farmers would truck large bundles to Wilson Aerodrome, where owners of small planes would load (and frequently over-load) the green bundles early in the morning and fly to rural airports in Somalia. They were met there by people representing very wealthy Somalis, who would buy the khat with bundles of US currency. There was no haggling over the price — if one buyer didn’t want to pay the price asked, another was there to buy it. Demand appeared always to exceed supply.

    The conventional wisdom around the airport was that you could import a small single-engine plane to Kenya — something like a Cessna 182 or 206 — and pay it off within a few months in the khat trade. And there was the occasional crash in the game park at the edge of Wilson Aerodrome, caused by a pilot underestimating the weight of the load and not being able to climb away and fly safely to Somalia.

    I wondered at first why an unscrupulous buyer at the Somali airport would not just hijack a plane load of khat when it arrived, but I soon understood they would only do that once — the khat pilots knew which destinations were manned by reliable purchasers and would never return to one where they might be robbed or cheated. And since demand exceeded supply, you could always fly to a different location and find a buyer if you needed to.

    I came to consider this trade a small example of what the slave trade must have looked like — minus the inhuman nature of slavery, of course.

    Thank you, Mr. Clarfield, for a good article, and ga gamba for additional details. I enjoyed it.

    • This khat was also traded in Lamu, by road and boat, at about 3 a clock afternoon, when all shops and small businesses closed and local Swahili people (only men, women not allowed? or chewing at home?) started chewing this stuff and spitting the remains out where standing or seated. I took it also once, but did not feel any effect or influence. This khat is not considered a drug by Dutch law, and is now also daily transported and bought in the NL. 75% of our Somali immigrants are jobless (but regular chewer), Ali Hirsi being the exception (we lost her to the US, she is also from the Darod clan as mentioned in the article)

  17. Steve says

    Other than Quillette and a handful of other outlets, it’s hard to imagine this essay being published anywhere today. As classical liberalism is finally snuffed out, vast quantities of historical knowledge will be corrupted, suppressed or simply destroyed. Narrative first, facts second to the extent they support the narrative.

    • alan white says

      Yes, history as a means of learning from the mistakes of the past has disappeared and few humanists seem to complain. Is there then some truth to the claim that socialists are quite happy about this loss because it cleans the historical record of disasters such as Stalin’s USSR and Mao’s China?

  18. This was a very informative article, and a nice break from the typical Quillette fare. I’m sympathetic to the most of the pieces published in Quillette (and I’m glad a forum like Quillette exists), but sometimes it feels a little stale reading the fifth article on how those darn SJWs are taking over _____ institution.

    • alan white says

      Yes, so common it’s boring. But social justice types still needs to be opposed.

    • Charlie says

      That is because the Cultural Marxists have been at work since 1919 and the post modernists since 1968. Most traditional Liberals and Conservatives of the Locke/Mill school have only just woken up, so have a lot of catching up to do..

  19. Interesting article. It often seems that despite their overpriced degrees, our so-called leaders’ advisors don’t seem to be aware of this historical information, which is essential when constructing a viable foreign policy.

    • alan white says

      It is frequently to the advantage of political ideologues that people don’t know history. For example, it makes it much easier to get them to vote socialist again and again despite the terrible outcome.each time….. Parts of Africa and South America are good examples.

  20. TheSnark says

    Good article. Interestingly, the story was very similar in the Sudan. The northerners, who are Muslim and consider themselves Arab, raided the southern tribes (non-muslim, non-arab) for slaves for centuries. It only ended when the British crushed the Khalifa at the Battle of Omdurman 1898. And the Khalifa’s state had come to power (the Mahdi uprising in 1883-4) in large part as a war against the British efforts to curb the slave trade.

    At independence in 1956, the Northern Sudanese took over the government. Like the Somalis and the Kenyans, they despise the southerners. And like the situation in Kenya, it is exacerbated by the northern, Muslim herders encroaching on the agricultural tribes to the south. In 1963 the southerners began a revolt that lasted until South Sudan was created in 2011. And now the South has collapsed into tribal warfare, a fate that Kenya has largely avoided but flirts with during elections.

  21. Curtis says

    I, on the other hand, thought your response contributed greatly to the discussion and I also think Mr. O’Dell can eat a dick. Thanks for your well constructed comment

  22. Saw file says

    “Kenyan government and its allies must do everything possible to destroy it by force, while also seeking a peaceful solution”
    Former first, then the latter.
    The fist and boot is all that such subhuman filth truly understand.

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  24. David says

    Very well written, informative and free from an obvious political bent. The objective of explaining that the current difficulties in eastern Africa have deep, historical roots was achieved concisely and convincingly with objective, historical facts.

    I remember a day when such an article was the norm. Much of today’s short-form writing is thinly veiled demagoguery intended to influence as opposed to inform.

    I was listening to a young “journalist” on NPR in my car the other day explain how he works hard to write an article that is “emotional, compassionate, inclusive and informative”, which instantly informed me that the speaker did not understand journalism – an all too common condition in journalism today. A journalist’s objective is to inform. If the writing does anything beyond that, great. But if a journalist works hard to do anything other than inform then their writing is either intended to influence, is fiction, or both.

    Mr. Clarfield is clearly from an era of writing that I desperately hope we can return to, but I am not optimistic. I do not feel it is an accident that we has arrived at a place of such inanity.

    • But, David, take care, also Mr. Clarfield wants to impress,to evoke emotions, to “epater”, just only look at the type of illustration he chose to underline his informing and reporting! BTW, I think most illustrations here on Q. are far from neutral and free of the emotional aspect.

  25. augustine says

    An interesting article, thank you. But please consider a more suitable word than “tragedy” to describe a terrorist bombing. A tragedy occurs when loss of life cannot be ascribed to human agency or intent, such as a ship lost at sea. A terrorist act may be a tragedy in some sense, but more importantly it is an act of deliberate violence committed by willful individuals. The natural human reaction varies accordingly and should not be neutralized by the modern generic abuse of the word “tragedy”.

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  27. crawford421 says

    I doubt the lateen sail is what made sailing with the monsoons possible, as the Greeks and Romans sailed the same winds long before.

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  29. JC Calhoun says

    Thank you…true history has suffered greatly in the last fifty years and it is refreshing to find a piece that appears to have been written without an agenda. I will pass on an amusing anecdote from a friend who is an airline pilot with weekly flights into Lagos. He was enjoying a cocktail in the Hilton bar with three Black American teachers who had come to explore their ancestral continent and was told, “We can’t say this back home, but thank God for slavery and our families being transported to America. We can’t imagine having to live in this hellhole.”

  30. Levi Wekesa says

    I live in Kenya and I disagree with this analysis. Al Shabaab menace is not aimed at ethnic hegemony or restoration of any ancient caste order. It is purely economical. It is neither a religious jihad. Just like the militias of Congo, they benefit from instability and lack of legitimate government control in the area they operate. Young recruits are told it is a religious jihad, they blow themselves up or kill innocent civilians in Nairobi hotels, so that some fellas up the food chain can benefit from geopolitical instability in Somalia, which has the longest coast line in Eastern Africa.

    • Levi, could you please tell us more about your roots? your background? your belonging? This, to be able to place your comment and to understand it. Are you a Somali or Kikuyu or expatriate? In my time, long ago, this didn’t matter too much, but now, I feel, it does!

      • Or are you, like Barack Obama, maybe a Luo? In that case, I don’t understand very well your preoccupation with coastal things, that’s far away of Lake Victoria!

  31. John Graham says

    “Islamic saint worship”? A provocative term that invites clarification by author.

    • The author doesn’t clarify, so let me help. Some clans of Somali adher to a kind of Sufi islam, in which saints and forefathers are buried and honoured with some monument, for the Suni islam an heresy, haram, not done. One of the first things that Al Qaeda perpetrates where they taken over, to destroy the graves and monuments, often age-old cultural assets.

  32. Scott Massey says

    Brilliant piece and a consistent reminder why to read Quillette. I was in the Kenyan Northern regions and was shocked to find so many of Somali lineage. Did not know the history of their migrations nor the power they wielded. That the once enslaved peoples are now the ruling elites of the region certainly gives me the context for what I experienced anecdotally while there. Much obliged for the conversation. I will say the Somali people are highly entrepreneurial and have added a lot to the economic underpinnings but within that context there is housed a militancy, superiority and entitlement over the current Kenyan ruling tribes that seems a great source of tension.

    • @Scott: having lived in Kenya, you certainly also have either read Out of Africa, or seen the movie. The differences between Somali (preferred servants in home, for some reason) and the ordinary Kikuyu, coffee pickers, garden boys. I was especially moved by the death of a white settler, where his Somali mistress was not allowed to join his funeral, however, Meryl saw her at the gate, went over to her and comforted her. Human emotions, everywhere, have the upperhand.

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  34. vacamav says

    I’m a non-muslim Kenyan and I am shocked by the amount of inaccuracies in this article particularly on the slave trading history. A couple of things I need to point out:

    1. There were no raids done by any slave traders inside the Nilotic and Bantu areas as the writer would like to imply. 17th-19th century Kenyan hinterland had wayward warlike tribes who slave buyers avoided by all costs. This is why there are no slave markets in the area (as opposed to the kind of historical slave markets you find all over Tanzania and Congo, for example).
    2. There were no raids elsewhere in East Africa where slave-trading occurred either. Local corrupt tribal chiefs and kings willingly sold their adversaries to Arabs. If there had been ‘raids’, as the author implies, we would expect the African Bantus or Nilotes to either fight or flee. In the instance of fleeing, the lands in the modern East Africa would now all be occupied by Arabs, which is not the case. Secondly, the slave trade would not be called ‘trade’ if there was nobody selling. If the Arabs, Somalis and Swahilis were capable of raiding and taking the people, why would there be need to sell when the merchandise was free for the taking? In short, African Chiefs SOLD and Arabs BOUGHT, that is how it became TRADE. Remember that Ivory, Gold and Wildlife was also sold, not just slaves.
    3. The differences in Islamic and Christian ideologies in Kenya are there without a doubt. But there has never been a period in history where there were full-scale wars between the different religious conflicts where one group tried to dominate others.
    4. The Swahilis and Somalis themselves are descendants of slaves. The majority of these two populations comes from Arab fathers and African mothers. They are thus the “former victims” or slavery, not the Nilotic or Bantu, who until the British converted them were not under the domination of any foreign religions, practices or ideologies. The suggestion that the Nilotic and Bantu inhabitants are former victims is wild since these groups neither sold slaves, raided slaves nor were they raided themselves.
    5. As stated earlier, slaves were sold by African Chiefdoms and Kingdoms, in the absence of centralized Kingdoms or Chiefdoms in Kenya, there was literally no slave trading. The human resources that were conquered by tribes within the territory were simply assimilated into bigger tribes. The Maasai tribe was particularly a strong tribe that assimilated various smaller tribes in the 17th to 19th century periods.

    Finally, there is no doubt that terrorism is tied to religious beliefs, economics, tribalism and ideology in some way. The ultimate solution to ending attacks inside Kenya is by improving the economic welfare of citizenry. This way, there will be no room for exploitation by foreign interests. Remember that Somalia itself is destroyed because of poor economy and foreign interests.

    • he is right. many of the bantus that were sold as slaves were mostly from the western region of kenya towards uganda and congo. tribes like the maasai and the kikuyus were however able to fight back , they would impale arab slave traders on poles outside their villages to warn the traders from trying to enslave them but there are some kikuyus who ended up as slaves . like the case of some bantu slaves in turkey their leader was a turkish man called kamau. and its true that somalis hate bantus and nilotes . once i had gone to eastleigh to visit a relative and i went with a cousin of mine, we met with a friend of mine who was accompanied with her parents, they greeted me but refused to even acknowledge my cousin because she was black and bantu looking while i looked cushitic yet im also bantu. a friend of mine clarified that they tend to see as slaves. somalis are not slaves unless you are talking about the ones in shungwaya most somalis are of somali and yemeni descent plus just because someone is born of a slave mother or father does not mean that person would not engage in slavery if called to do so. most of the great slave traders in the coastal region were born from slave mothers .

  35. Of course,jturi, a slave mother or father doesn’t mean at all not engaging in slavery, the Tippu Tip (nick name), mentioned twice above, greatest east african slave trader of all times, was 3/4 Bantu, probably Giriama, or Mijikenda. I have worked with Giriama, good people, and used to work for and under the Arabs for centuries (even before the Portuguese came there and built fortresses, such as Fort Jesus, Mombasa). These Arabs often married their women. A man alone can’t do his job properly and be happy.
    BTW, what I found in Out of Africa, in which Karen Blixen often talks about animosity and relations of Somali, Swaheli and Bantu: the (Nilotic) Masai are the only tribe of Kenya that never was enslaved, and therefore more esteemed among the Somali, that’s information from her Somali servant Farah. Of course, he couldn’t know that so exactly, what about small tribes such as the coastal Pokomo, and other such minor tribes?
    Nevertheless, this is what was noted and written up by people that lived and worked there, early 20th century, together with the locals, for yrs and yrs in government and plantations, so, should be listened at.

  36. vacamav says

    I am aware of the tribal dynamic in Kenya. Unfortunately, it is not just about Somalis only. It is not until recently that the Kikuyu and Kamba themselves started accepting marriages with other Kenyans from the West. You can still find quite a number of the rural folk to still be discriminatory on the basis of looks, circumcision and what-not. I am also aware of the general attitude of some Somalis towards bantus/nilotes. It has more to do with their history themselves. Like I said, they have been victims of slavery and other ills inside their own country. Their attitude therefore is a reflection of their past and society. For your info, they call Ethiopians, Yemenis, Bantus, Nilotes and everyone around them “slaves”. The northern Somalis themselves call the southern Somalis slaves. It is not about hate.

  37. James Lewellen Courtright says

    This article is classic primordialist clap-trap. Anyone who uses the phrase “pathological expression of an ancient hatred between tribes and religions that has persisted for centuries” should be viewed with suspicion at best.

    If people actually want to read and learn about how the Indian Ocean slave trade affected East Africa (or at least the islands of Zanzibar), I would recommend the work of Jonathan Glassman. He takes a much more nuanced approach, showing how slavery was different in different parts of East Africa and how the “memory” of slavery has political undertones to this day.

    I’m honestly shocked that Quillette would even publish something like this.

  38. Mohamed Amin says

    This is the most dispeakable and ignorant piece of writing I have ever read. In this day and age of enlightenment I would never have imagined that such hollow and sweeping statements that have absolutely no facts behind them can be used to brainwash or misinform an audience that is largely-as I would like to believe- ‘learned’.

    To learn more about the history of East Africa I would suggest you read the work of Jonathan Glassman.

  39. kisame Shisya says

    the statement that “Al Shabab is more than just a terrorist group. It is the ‘pathological’ expression of an ancient hatred between tribes and religions that has persisted for centuries, and springs from the roots of a trade whose evils are known only too well to all parts of the African continent” has made me rethink a paper am co-authoring on CVE in the East and Horn of Africa.

    Does that mean pathological ways are the ultimate prescription for this War,…i however am of the opinion that although your analysis is ‘rich’, its also skewed because today Al-Shabaab, in their rank and file, have Kenyans who have no Muslim background (converts) including those who took part in the recent 15 January Dusit business complex attack.

  40. Interesting, these highly negative comments of Levi, jturi, Mohamed, vacamav and some other (east africans?), quite understandable whereas they might be too much involved (as is the case with Israëli and Palestinians, any analysis of either of these parties about the situation will be negated, or judged as useless or ignorant by the other). The fierceness of their attacks, and their hiding behind a certain Glassman make one believe there is someting severely rotten in the State of Denmark. However, none of them explains this negative stance. And of any understandable criticism, or any substance, we can only dream, the more, whereas this thread seems to be at the end, no longer read by more than just 2 or 3 remaining last ones. A pity. As somebody having lived and worked in that frontier area, I would have loved to learn more about it all.

  41. mitchellporter says

    Well, this is an intriguing article and discussion. For some commenters, it’s an opportunity to rebut leftist attitudes to western civilization; look here, they say, here was a slave trade that had nothing to do with Europeans, and which the British empire actually stopped.

    Meanwhile, a few other commenters (mostly from Kenya?) protest that the article misrepresents the reality of Al Shabab. What is its final message? That we should think of Al Shabab in ethnic terms, as the attempt by a former slave-trading people to restore the precolonial hierarchy of power.

    All this made me wonder, who exactly is the author, this “anthropologist-at-large” who happens to have to been a military advisor to western forces in Kenya? Here’s some of what I have gleaned about him: He is the founder of a small Canadian organization, Mozuud, which seems intended to be an Israel-friendly alternative to Avaaz. He has written in the Times of Israel that the “Arabs of the Land of Israel” are an “invented people”. And he has written several times in this decade in support of the Republic of Somaliland, the diplomatically isolated successor to British Somaliland.

    Dare I deduce, then, that however erudite this article may seem – especially to complete outsiders like myself – it is not exactly a disinterested account of the facts, but rather a narration carefully constructed in order to favor a particular diplomatic and strategic agenda? (I could even wildly speculate that it’s also a subterranean push back against the recent criticism of AIPAC by Ilhan Omar, who turns out to be Daroud by descent.)

  42. -Disinterested account of the facts-? Are you serious Mitch?? Does that exist? Yes, maybe in free, safe, developed democracies with a free press and such, and even there it will raise eyebrows. Why interested in such things?
    I have lived in that frontier area for some time, a very good time indeed, though dangerous, every moment could be the end of your comfortable life, and that of yours. But people there (seated in the shade of an acacia tree, the one as described by Ayaan Hirsi), never talked about strategy and diplomacy, more about where to buy the goatmeat for roasting, the cabbage, rice and petrol for the vehicles to Wajir. All Somali country, though Kenyan territory now, but not really.

  43. Just before this thread is cut to end, some more that I was thinking on this night. Readers and commenters (unless the few that have lived in the area) most probably have no idea of the landscape and diversity of cultures in this corner of Africa (just south of the Horn). For modern people, cities, towns, agricultural fields and nature parks are the normal living conditions, even if they live in Arizona, there is no overwhelming influence of the desert around, they have aircondition and buy food in the super.

    How different in northern Kenya. People that live there are nomads, you have too, otherwise no food, rain is not enough to grow crops. You have a herd of cattle, goats, sheep, and camels where very dry. There is no homestead like we know, you take your home with you on the camels and settle a week or so where the grass grows.I have made trips with Somali (always in consorts, alone too dangerous), they see the world with other eyes, I am not a general anthropologist, but wonder in how far such conditions determine your culture, your thinking, your priorities. Not the daily care for a small nearby maize or bean field, the community and the gatherings on digging a new well, a dyke, a wall around the vilage. But always on the move, and aware of strangers. I would think, makes good soldiers. Within the group, strict trust and obedience. But mistrust elsewhere, mistrust then is something good, if not, you might not live for long.

    Kenya has highlands where the main tribes live on agriculture, and savannas and deserts where the nomadic Maasai and Somali live. Their contacts with the colonists and settlers were not the same, the Kikuyu quickly were overthrown by the British, and even had to pay a hut tax. Not so with the Maasai and Somali, what to do with them? Where are they today, where to reach or discuss with them tomorrow? Even now, development aid and political interest is directed at the towns and farmers, not at the nomads. national borders in the South and the North run straight trhough those tribes, half of the tribe in one nation, the other half in the neigbour’s. How , then to feel yourself, Kenyan? Somali? Tanzanyan?? Zanzibari? In North Kenya, Somali are a majority, besides other minor nomadic tribes and the new immigrants now from the highlands, BUT, the political power, the army, the money, the roads and buses, the schooling system, it’s all in the hands of the highland tribes that were first colonised, and learned quickly how to behave to undo the colonial yoke and install the new nation.

    In fact, the situation in Palestine, Iraq, Birma, Burundi (nomadic Tutsi, Hutu farmers) , has a lot in common, and, the very first murder, was also due to the different ways and cultures of land use, are you a farmer? Or do you depend on grass growth and cattle? Nomads are often the minority, but the better soldiers and police. Now comes democracy, we are going to vote now, and what is the result? Those natural rulers of once are just a tiny minority, and all of a sudden have to listen to the majority, the subdued of once.

    Of course, much more is at stake, islam (nomadic religion), inequality in jobs, public funding, growing dissatisfaction for this or that, but, when driving in my car to my work, from the neat bana/cassava plots of the coastal Giriama, to the dry, desiccated nomadic lands with those enormous herds, these were my considerations. And every moment, from the bush, you could expect an attack form SHIFTA bandits (El Shabaab not yet existing, but maybe a fruit of it).

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