Nandi Resistance (1895-1906)

Nandi Resistance (1895-1906)

  • The Nandi put up a strong and prolonged battle against the British in 1895.
  • The rebellion took place in western Kenya particularly in the Uasin-Gishu plateau.

Causes Of The Nandi Resistance

  • The Nandi fought the British in order to defend their independence i.e. they didn’t want British interference in their society affairs.
  • The Nandi did not want to see any stranger crossing their land and in 1895, they killed a British trader Peter West and this sparked off the war.
  • The religious prophecy of Orkoiyot Kimnyole also inspired the Nandi to fight the British e.g. He warned that the Nandi land would at one time be ruled by foreigners.
  • The construction of the Uganda railway also provided the Nandi with an excuse to fight the British i.e. Prophet Orkoiyot had warned them of the “Big iron snake” belching smoke that came from the East to quench its thirst in the west. (Lake Victoria)
  • They believed that they were militarily superior because they had successfully defeated and raided all their neighbours e.g. the Maasai.
  • The Nandi also resisted because they believed in their cultural superiority and didn’t want the British to pollute their culture e.g. they resented the British dressing code and looked at it as the Nandi female devils.
  • The Nandi also had a belief that their land was the most fertile land in the whole world and therefore didn’t want to lose it to the British colonialists.
  • The Nandi also resisted because their traditional enemies and neighbours the Maasai and Luyia had collaborated with the British.
  • The Nandi were a Warrior society that took pride in fighting and raiding and therefore when the British came, they took it as a chance to show their military might.
  • The Nandi resistance was also inspired by other rebellions like the Hehe and Abushiri revolts in Tanganyika.
  • The Nandi also had an environment advantage i.e. the Nandi hills were suitable for war with little space for open warfare.
  • The rise of Nandi nationalism towards the end of the 19th century also inspired the Nandi to challenge the British.
  • The killing of the Nandi leader Orkoiyot Koitale Arap Samoei in a shameful incident also forced the Nandi to pick up arms to fight the British.
  • The British were also interfering in Ivory and slave trade which were the main source of livelihood for most of the Nandi.

Course Of The Nandi Resistance

  • Clashes between the British and the Nandi begun in 1895 when a British trader Peter West was killed by the Nandi for attempting to cross their land.
  • The British responded immediately by sending a force under General Cunningham comprised of six British and several Sudanese and Swahili mercenaries.
  • This force was defeated with 30 of their men killed.
  • In 1897, the Nandi successfully attacked the British and destroyed their mail system.
  • The British organized another force under the command of Truman and even recruited Maasai mercenaries but still they were crushed.
  • In 1900, when the Uganda railway reached their area, the Nandi often raided the equipment deposits, stole telegram wires and killed the Indian railway workers before disappearing into the hills.
  • At the same time, the Nandi attacked the Luo and Luyia tribes that were under the British and raided traders passing through that area.
  • The British mobilized a stronger force comprising of Ganda, Maasai and Sudanese mercenaries but still they were crushed.
  • This greatly worried the British who resorted to burning Villages and confiscating Nandi cows but the Nandi didn’t give up.
  • After suffering several losses, the British decided to change tactics and adopted peaceful negotiations to end the war because they wanted the railway construction to go on.
  • The Nandi were also tired of the war, negotiations begun and an agreement was reached.
  • The Nandi allowed the British to build centres in Kipture, Kiptume and Kapkolei.
  • The peace was short lived and the Nandi resumed their attacks on the railway builders and looting telegram wires.
  • In 1902, the British organized an expedition which registered minimum success and this time the British decided to use force and diplomacy.
  • In the same year, the British built a strong force of about 1500 soldiers but its diplomacy which ended the Nandi wars.
  • In 1905, a British commander Colonel Meinertzhagen visited the Nandi leader Orkoiyot Koitale Samoei Arap Kimnyole and as he came out to greet his visitors, he was shot dead with some of his men.
  • To the Nandi, this was cold blooded murder of their leader and between October and November 1905, they tried to stage Guerilla wars but they were defeated with heavy losses.
  • By December 1905, the Nandi had lost the morale and spirit of fighting and this marked the end of their resistance against the British.
  • The Nandi were forced into reserves in the north far away from the railway line so that construction work would go on and their fertile lands were given to European settlers.

Why The Nandi Resisted The British For So Long

    Unlike other rebellions, the Nandi put up a prolonged resistance against the British for over 11years.

  • The Nandi were involved in the L.D.T through which they were able to acquire guns from their neighbours  bthe Akamba.
  • The Nandi pride i.e. they were a superior race militarily and culturally which gave them determination to fight the British for so long.
  • The emergence of Orkoiyot Koitale provided the necessary leadership for the wars because this united the Nandi and gave them morale.
  • The Nandi never suffered from famine because their land was fertile and could therefore support agriculture which provided enough food for their troops.
  • Being a warrior society, the Nandi had a lot of experience in fighting e.g. they had a long of history of successfully defeating their neighbours like Maasai, Luyia and Luo.
  • The Nandi area had an environment advantage because it was hilly with little space for open warfare and the British could not use their maxim gun effectively.
  • The Nandi had a strong, organized and highly disciplined army which was divided into units and companies based on clans and place of residence.
  • The Nandi employed the Guerilla tactic which involved ambushes (hit and run) especially at night and this always surprised the British who were unprepared for these fights.
  • The cutting of telecommunication lines by the Nandi hindered the transportation of British troops and reinforcements.
  • The Nandi lacked defensive units e.g. forts and barracks which could have been possible targets for the British forces.
  • The presence of black smiths among the Nandi who constantly made iron weapons like spears, arrows and these were used to strengthen the Nandi army.