Monday 3 June 2024

The Akamba People of Kenya

The Omani settlement along the East African coast followed the fall of the Mazrui family in 1837 and subsequently, the Sultan’s attainment of Mombasa as a politico-economic centre. Thereafter, the Sultan chose Zanzibar as his capital.

The Omani Arabs came to develop extensive trade relations with communities in the hinterland, such as the Akamba, Yao and Bisa. While the Yao and Bisa did trade in enslaved people, it is unclear that the Akamba participated in this trade. The Oman Arabs would later come to use the Akamba’s routes to head towards the hinterland to capture people to trade as slaves. The road and rail system we know today followed the beaten track of the trade routes of almost two centuries ago.

The Akamba had a rich tradition of hunting and gathering which can be traced back to the Waata who lived in present day Eastern Kenya.

The climate that the Akamba lived in meant that the only feasible economic activities were hunting and trade. Their trade routes were:

Kitui – Kibwezi – Athi Galana Sabaki River – Mambrui.

Kitui – Kibwezi – Tsavo – Voi – Taru desert – Kwa Jomvu – Mombasa.

The latter route was shorter, but it involved crossing the dreaded Taru dessert. It was along this route that Chief Kivoi led Krapf on an expedition that led to the missionary sighting the snow capped mountain along the equator in 1849.

The Akamba caravans also had a route North West towards the L.victoria basin:

Machakos – Rift Valley – Around Nandi – Eastern Busoga.

The route across the Rift Valley was divided into two alternatives in order to avoid the Nandi territory as Nnadi warriors were known to be fierce.

Route 1: Naivasha (West) – Sotik – Lumbwa – Head of the Kavirondo Gulf – Mumias

Route 2: Eldama Ravine – Uasin Gishu – Nzoia River- Mumias.

From Mumias it was a short distance to Busoga. In the 1830s the Arabs started moving inland in search of people to enslave.

and thus the Arab-Swahili caravans used the following route: Mombasa – Voi – Kilimanjaro. They couldn’t go North of the Kilimanjaro due to fear of attacks by the Maasai so they followed the Akamba route from Voi and followed the route North West towards the Lake Victoria Basin. The Arab caravans once tried to pass through Nandi territory and this led to their defeat to the Nandi at Kipsoboi in 1850.

The European caravans that ventured inland within the last two decades of the 1800s followed this same route:

Mombasa – Taru – Voi – Kibwezi – Nairobi – Naivasha – Eldama Ravine – Kakamega – Port Victoria.

This route came to be known as The Uganda Road as the British East Africa Company sought to improve caravan transport before the advent of the railway system. The road finally passed through Nandi Territory to Kakamega in order to acquire administration over a larger area.

Over the long arduous caravan journey camp was set up at the following places:

Sungali, Mazeras, Mwachi, Maji ya Chumvi, samburu, Taru, Ndi, Mbuyuni, Manyani, Kufunika, Tsavo, Ngomeni, Kenani, Mtito Andei, Masogoleni, Matolipo, Kibwezi.

There were also watering points at Taru, Maziwa Matatu, Maungu and Mkuyuni.

#Africa #Kenya

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