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Cushites in 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.

Cushites in Kenya – Origin

Cushites form a significant minority of Kenya’s population. They speak Afro-Asiatic languages, and originally came from Ethiopia and Somalia in north-east Africa. Cushites are concentrated in the northernmost North Eastern Province (formerly known as Northern Frontier District -NFD), which borders Somalia. The Cushitic people’s form a small ethnic minority of about 2%, mostly represented by Oromo and Somali speakers.

In Kenya, Cushitic language speakers are divided into the Eastern and Southern Group. The Southern Cushites were the second earliest inhabitants of Kenya after the indigenous Bushman hunter-gatherer groups, and the first of the Cushitic-speaking people to migrate from their homeland in the Horn of Africa about 2000 years ago. They were progressively displaced in a southerly direction and/or absorbed by incoming Nilotic and Bantu groups until they wound up in Tanzania. As a consequence of these movements, there are no longer any Southern Cushites left in Kenya.
The Eastern Cushites include the Oromo and the Somali, of which the Somali are the most recent arrivals to Kenya, having first come from Somalia only a few centuries ago.

The Cushites live in the arid and semi-arid eastern and North-Eastern parts of Kenya. They reside along a very large area of land that runs from the east of Lake Turkana, stretches to the north of Kenya, and through to the Indian Ocean.
Cushites include Somali, Rendille, Borana and Oromo tribes.
Due to the dryness of their habitat throughout most of the year, Cushites are mainly nomadic pastoralists who keep large herds of cattle, camels, goats and sheep. Cushitic people maintain very close ties with their kinsmen – the Cushites of the neighbouring countries of Somalia and Ethiopia.
The Cushitic languages (spoken by Cushitic peoples) are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family spoken in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. They are named after the Biblical character Cush, who was identified as an ancestor of the speakers of these specific languages as early as AD 947 (in Masudi’s Arabic history Meadows of Gold). The most populous Cushitic language is Oromo with about 35 million speakers, followed by Somali with about 18 million speakers, and Sidamo in Ethiopia with about 2 million speakers. Other languages with more than one million speakers are Hadia (1.6 million), Kambata (1.4 million), and Afar (1.5 million).

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. The Spirit of adventure

Results of the settlement of the cushites in Kenya during the pre-colonial period

  1. The cushites came with their own livestock and so encouraged livestock farming in areas where they settled.
  2. Their settlement led to increased rivalry and conflicts for ownership of land.
  3. Some cushites who had been converted to Islam spread the religion in the areas where they settled.
  4. The cushites attacked the Eastern Bantu communities who had settled at shungwaya, and forced them to move to their present homeland in Kenya.
  5. The cushites intermarried with the communities they found in the areas where they settled.
  6. The cushites attacked the Eastern Bantu communities who had settled at shungwaya, and forced them to move to their present homeland in Kenya.
  7. The cushites intermarried with the communities they found in the areas where they settled in Kenya. (There was increase in population)
  8. Trade developed between the cushites and the example they exchanged livestock products such as milk and butter with the Bantu and in return they obtained grains from the Bantu.
  9. The Bantu borrowed some to the cultural practices of the cushites e.g. Circumcision.
  10. Cushites learnt mixed farming.

 

Cushites in Kenya

Cushites in Kenya


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