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Bantus, Nilotes, Cushites and The Great Migration into Kenya

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The Great Migration into Kenya

The Great Migration into Kenya: Kenyan communities were attracted to Kenya from different regions by good climatic conditions. They moved into the country between 2000BC and 1500BC. The country has three main ethno – linguistic groups, namely Cushitic, Nilotic and Bantu speakers. Over the years, however, this linguistic grouping has changed as a result of intermarriage and other groups of people having migrated into Kenya from other regions of the world.

The Great Migration into Kenya – Cushites in Kenya

The Cushitic speakers were the first people to move to Kenya between 3000-5000 years ago through Lakes Abaya and Turkana. Social scientists believe that the Cushites found other people whose language is not known, although it is believed to have affinities with the dental click languages of the Khoisan of South Africa and the Sandawe, Hadza and lraqwi of Tanzania. These original inhabitants are also believed to have been rock artists and practiced hunting and gathering for subsistence. The Southern Cushitic speakers moved from southwestern Ethiopia to Kenya and Tanzania.

To supplement the linguists’ evidence, archaeologists have found pottery with the same forms of decoration and of similar age in the areas that are assumed to have been occupied by the Cushitic speakers. Some of the Eastern Cushitic groups in Kenya today include the El molo, Somali and Boni.

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The Great Migration into Kenya: Reasons for the migration of the cushites from their original homeland into Kenya

  1. They were searching for pasture and water
  2. Escape from drought and famine
  3. Outbreak of diseases and epidemics
  4. Clan feuds and External attacks from neighbours
  5. The need for extra land for their increasing populations i.e Population pressure
  6. Spirit and adventure
Cushites in Kenya

Cushites in Kenya

The Great Migration into Kenya – Nilotes in Kenya

After the arrival and several years of settlement by the Cushitic speakers, another group, probably in search of pastures, arrived through the Uganda— Sudan—Ethiopian border region around 2000 years ago. These are the southern Nilotic speakers. Within some of the localities believed to have been occupied by the Nilotes, is evidence of archaeological materials, similar to those found within localities occupied by the Cushites, indicating some form of interactions between the two groups. There are also some similar cultural practices between the two groups, such as age sets.

Some of the economic activities related to the Nilotic speakers include fishing, as unearthed by archaeo1ogists from fish bones and fishing implements like bone harpoons.

Nilotes in Kenya

Nilotes in Kenya

The Nilotic groups today in Kenya include the Luo (river and Lake Nilotes), Samburu, Maasai and Turkana (plain Nilotes) and the highland Nilotes, including the Nandi, Tugen and Kipsigis.

The Great Migration into Kenya: Reasons for the Migration of the Nilotes into Kenya

  1. Increase in population. Land is assumed to have been small for their growing numbers forcing them to search for bigger areas for settlement.
  2. Search of fertile areas that could support agriculture.
  3. Search for pasture and water for their animals.
  4. Prolonged seasons of drought and the drying of water reservoir which might have forced them to move in search of water.
  5. Epidemic diseases like small pox, malaria, river blindness and nagana may have hit their area due to overcrowding, forcing some to look for new disease free areas.
  6. Internal conflicts are given as a probable cause for their migration. i.e family quarrels or clan feuds.
  7. External conflicts and pressure from the neighbours especially the Cushites.
  8. The spirit of adventure and wandering.
  9. Group influence, i.e. simply because they saw others moving.

The Great Migration into Kenya – Bantus in Kenya

Bantus in Kenya

Bantus in Kenya

The Bantu speakers occupy more than half of Africa south of the Sahara. Just like the other groups, it is not possible to give complete undisputable evidence about their origins and spread. However, it is generally agreed that the Bantu speakers originated from a West African homeland around the Cameroon.

From the archaeological records, Bantu speakers are believed to have brought with them the knowledge of root crop farming, settled lifestyles and iron working which enabled them to cultivate and even occupy vast areas of land.

Their expansion may have taken place more than 2000 years ago and in other areas like the Mt Kenya region less than 1000 years ago, as recent archaeological evidence has revealed. Characteristic pottery decorations and iron working sites in Bantu-speaking areas have demonstrated this.

Some of today’s groups of Bantu speakers in Kenya include people living in central Kenya (Kikuyu, Mbeere, Kamba, Meru and Embu), the Luhya of western Kenya and the Miji Kenda at the coast.

The Great Migration into Kenya: Reasons for the Migration of the Bantus from their Original Homeland to Kenya

  1. Growing population and need for more space.
  2. The need for more land for cultivation.
  3. Search for additional pastures.
  4. Internal quarrels arising especially from population pressure.
  5. Attacks from neighbobouring communities
  6. Prevalence of diseases
  7. The spirit of adventure

The Great Migration into Kenya: Effects of the migration and settlement of Kenyan communities in Kenya

  1. It led to intermarriage with their neighbours e.g. Akamba and Maasai
  2. It led to expansion of trade
  3. It led to displacement of some communities e.g. Okiek
  4. It led to conflicts over resources i.e. land and cattle
  5. It led to assimilation of some communities they encountered e.g. the Athi and Gumba
  6. It led to enrichment of languages
  7. It led to cultural interaction i.e. borrowing of dressing, circumcision and other cultural practical