Migrations in East Africa

Migrations in East Africa

From 1000A.D, East Africa received many groups of people coming from different directions. The new invaders included;

i)   Cushites and the plain/highland nilotes from Ethiopia

ii)  Bantu from Niger / Congo Basin

iii) Luo (River-lake-Nilotics) from southern Sudan (Bahr-el Ghazel)

iv) Ngoni from South Africa

The bantu migration


  • Bantu is a linguistic word describing a group of people who speak a similar language.
  • They have a root word/suffix ‘Ntu/Ndu’ meaning a person.
  •  They belong to the Negroid family.
  • Their origins and migrations are still unclear among historians.
  • Some historians believe that the Bantu came from West Africa around the Cameroon highlands.
  • However, most historians believe that they came from the Katanga region in South Eastern Congo.
  • Their migration was gradual and seasonal i.e. spread over a long time.
  • Believed to have entered East Africa by the first millennium i.e. 1000 A.D.
  • They entered East Africa under different groups and clans.
  • They entered East Africa through the Western part using different routes
  • The Bantu form the largest group of people in E.Africa.
  • They include tribes like, Banyankole, Baganda, Bakiga, Bagishu, Chagga, Nyamwezi, Kikuyu, Luyia, and Pokomo.
  • The major reason for the migration was search for fertile soils that could support Agriculture.

Causes of Bantu migrations

  • Population pressure; The Bantu were forced to migrate from their cradle land to E.A because the population had increased and they were searching for settlement in new areas.
  • Search for fertile lands; since the Bantu were farmers they ended up migrating to E.Africa in search of new areas with fertile soils for Agriculture.
  • Internal conflicts; The Bantu migrated to E.Africa due to misunderstandings with in their communities e.g. witchcraft and cannibalism.
  • Misfortunes; it is also assumed that the Bantu cradle land witnessed misfortunes that claimed many people and their animals thus the fortune tellers directed the Bantu to move to safer areas.
  • Land-pressure .Due to population explosion, the pressure increased on land resulting into land conflicts and the defeated groups ended up migrating into E.Africa in search of new lands for settlement.
  • Natural calamities for example famine, drought, earthquakes, floods and diseases. These forced the Bantu to search for new areas for settlement and ended up in E.Africa.
  • Adventurism /Love for adventure .The youth may have wanted to explore and adventure into new lands where they could practice their skill of iron working.
  • Unsuitable geographical climate. The climate of the Congo forest was inhabitable and this necessitated moving of Bantu into E.Africa.
  • External pressure. The Bantu were constantly attacked by their neighbors and this forced them to look for new areas which were free from civil wars.
  • Poor leadership. Some of the Bantu migrants experienced poor leadership in their cradle land which forced them to migrate to E.Africa so as to exercise their leadership skills.
  • The need to export their iron working culture some people maintained that the Bantu migrate wanted to export their Iron working culture and search for market for their Iron products.
  • Search for water and pasture since the Bantu were animal keepers they migrated to E.A in search of new grass land and water for their animals.
  • The band wagon influence some of the Bantu simply moved to E.A because they saw their friends plus relatives migrating.