Back to: O level history east africa notes uganda syllabus
The 19th Century Masai Civil Wars
- These were a series of wars that were fought between the Kwavi and Purko Masai.
- The Kwavi were agriculturalists while the Purko were predominantly pastoralists.
- The wars were fought in two separate intervals i.e. in 1815 and in 1840.
- The first major war took place in 1815 in the Uasin-Gishu plateau which ended in the defeat of the Kwavi Masai.
- In 1840, the Kwavi reorganized themselves with the help of the Laikipia and they drove the Purko Masai out of the rift valley.
- Between 1870 and 1875, the Purko decisively attacked and defeated the Kwavi killing many of them.
Causes of the Masai civil wars
- The Purko who were the pastoral Masai always despised the Kwavi who were farmers leading to the wars.
- The Purko claimed that the Kwavi were finishing their land and that very soon they would not have enough grazing lands for their animals.
- The Kwavi farmers also claimed that animals of the Purko were destroying their farms during grazing leading to the wars.
- The Kwavi always expected help from their neighbours the Laikipia and this gave them morale to fight against the Purko.
- The succession disputes between the leaders of the Masai after the death of Laibon Mbatien also led to the outbreak of the wars.
- The Kwavi Masai had always defeated the Purko who had for long wanted revenge for their losses.
- The Purko were always a proud society who took a lot of pride in fighting and when they got the opportunity, they had to engage the Kwavi in warfare.
- The two groups had participated in long distance trade and had acquired guns which encouraged them to fight against each other.
- The Purko always believed that the Kwavi had deliberately spread animal diseases which claiming many their animals lives.
- The youths among the Kwavi were always blamed for stealing the animals that belonged to the Purko which led to the wars.
- The Purko believed that they were the rightful owners of all the Masai land and didnt want it to be taken over by the Kwavi.
- The desire to control the trading activities in the area also led to conflicts between the two groups.
Effects of the Masai civil wars
- Many people died during the course of the wars.
- A lot of property was destroyed during the wars e.g. farms and homesteads.
- The wars created a period of insecurity in Masailand.
- There was depopulation in the area as many people migrated to safer areas.
- The Purko emerged victorious and the Kwavi were greatly weakened.
- The wars greatly weakened Masai supremacy in Kenya and the Nandi emerged as the most powerful tribe in Western Kenya.
- The wars resulted into famine and suffering in Masailand due to neglect of agriculture.
- The succession struggles ended with the separation of the Masai e.g. Laibon Sendeyo and his group occupied Tanzania and Laibon Lenanas group remained in Kenya.
- Natural disasters like small pox and locust invasion further weakened the Masai influence.
- The Masai were easily colonized by the British due to the decline in their power.
- The Masai were tricked into signing treaties with the British which forced them into reserves.
- Masailand was later on taken over by the British colonialists.