East Africa: The Interconnected Eastern African Peoples – Opportunities to Prosper Together

Eastern Africa, part of sub-Saharan Africa comprising two traditionally recognized regions: East Africa, made up of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda; and the Horn of Africa, made up of Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

Peoples of this region have a lot of features in common that magnify their unity to enable them grow together via combining resources the region endowed with instead of differences that make them go apart. Among the common features tie the peoples together are: topography of the land, languages, life style, dressing fashion and basic means of living, agriculture and animals’ herding among others.

Similarity between landscapes of the region contributes to the similarity of the peoples as they share the same geography such as plateaus, valleys, and grasslands and so on. Eastern Africa consists largely of plateaus and has most of the highest elevations in the continent. The two most striking highlands are in Ethiopia and Kenya, respectively, where large areas reach elevations of 6,500 to 10,000 feet (2,000 to 3,000 meters).

Twin parallel rift valleys that are part of the East African Rift System run through the region. The Eastern, or Great, Rift Valley extends from the Red Sea’s junction with the Gulf of Aden southward across the highlands of Ethiopia and Kenya and continues on into Tanzania. As a result of unique feature of the rift valley, peoples residing there enjoy the same climate and temperature whether it is cold or hot, dry or wet, humid or windy, as well as sunny or rainy.

Though it is not one and the same, their presence in the similar climate and landscape brings them together like they are eating from the same table and drinking from the same spring and knowingly or unknowingly, they reveal the same characteristics in their lifestyle.

The Western Rift Valley curves along the western borders of Uganda and Tanzania. Between the two rift valleys lies a plateau that comprises most of Uganda and western Tanzania and includes Lake Victoria. The volcanic massif of Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, reaches 19,340 feet (5,895 meters) in northeastern Tanzania. The Horn of Africa, a major peninsular extension of the African mainland into the Arabian Sea, contains the vast lowland coastal plains of Somalia.

Peoples living in these areas have many things in common like their dressing style, their interrelated languages, their way of earning life, and their economic base founded on agriculture and animals’ breading. These similarities should contribute to unification instead of separation.

One important thing Africans should not forget is the big rift of perception the foreigners, especially the Western Whites, have to Africans and that of Africans have for themselves. Africans perceive themselves as independent peoples with their own respective sovereign States and boundaries; their unique history and cultures as well. Of course, they are independent politically speaking with the reservation of their dependency on the Whites more of economically and technological advancement.

On the contrary, the Whites categorize and put not only the Eastern Africa, but the entire continent, in one basket which they call it “The Blacks” or even “The Dark Continent”. These terms do not stand alone; they rather accompany with the third world, the underdeveloped continent, the unstable, the burden of the whites and many other disgusting expressions.

Though they are also dependent on Africa especially for its natural resources and educated personnel, the degree varies one from the other. Africa’s dependency is backed by unwise usage of its own resources and ignorance to modernity that enables the society to transform into civilization.

Big weakness Africans should get rid of soon is the way they utilize their resources. Pitifully, like elephants fighting on the grass, they are fighting for the same resource to consume independently instead of sharing fairly. Sadly, they fight each other by the weapons bought from the Whites.

Thus, it is time for Africans to come to their mind be wise in communicating their fellow Africans to not in the way there is enmity between them but fraternity; not differences but similarity; not sheltered in different baskets but one basket that is Africa.

By the same token, the Eastern Africa ought to focus on what makes peoples of the region the same than separates them, the climate for instance. The climate of Eastern Africa is generally tropical, though average temperatures tend to be reduced by the region’s high elevations. Precipitation also is affected by varying elevation: Uganda, Tanzania, and western Kenya receive plentiful rainfall, while Somalia, eastern Ethiopia, and northeastern Kenya receive far less.

The region’s vegetation ranges from woodlands and grasslands in the wetter regions to thorn bushes in semiarid areas. The grasslands of Tanzania and Kenya are renowned for their wildlife, in particular large migratory herds of ungulates (e.g., gnus, zebras, and gazelles) and predators (lions, hyenas, and leopards).

The region is also interconnected by hosting similar ethnic groups. Eastern Africa is populated by 160 different ethnic groups or more, depending on the method of counting. Most of the peoples of Eritrea and Ethiopia–and some of those in Tanzania and Kenya–speak languages belonging to the Cushitic branch of the Afro Asiatic languages. Speakers of Nilo-Saharan languages populate Uganda and the rift valley portions of Kenya and Tanzania, while speakers of Bantu languages constitute much of the remainder of these countries’ population.

The largest ethnic groups in eastern Africa are the Oromo, Cushitic speakers who occupy much of southern Ethiopia, and the related Somali, who occupy all of Somalia, southeastern Ethiopia, and much of Djibouti. The Afar is found in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.

The main ethnic groups of Eritrea, the Tigray and the Tigre, are speakers of Semitic languages. Both the Tigray and the Amhara, another Semitic-speaking group, dominate northwestern Ethiopia.

The ethnic fabric in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda is much more fragmented, with many smaller peoples intermingled or occupying discrete territories. The largest numbers of Nilo-Saharan speakers belong to the Luo, Lango, Kalenjin, Maasai, and Karimojong peoples, while the principal Bantu-speaking ethnic groups are the Kikuyu, Chaga, and Kamba.

History of the eastern Africa tells that the area has relations not only within the region, but with the foreign world including the Far East. The earliest written accounts of the East African coast occur in the Periplus Maris Erythraei–apparently written by a Greek merchant living in Egypt in the second half of the 1st century CE–and in Ptolemy’s Guide to Geography, the East African section of which, in its extant form, probably represents a compilation of geographic knowledge available at Byzantium about 400 CE.

The Periplus describes in some detail the shore of what was to become northern Somalia. Ships sailed from there to western India to bring back cotton cloth, grain, oil, sugar, and ghee, while others moved down the Red Sea to the East African coast bringing cloaks, tunics, copper, and tin. Aromatic gums, tortoiseshell, ivory, and slaves were traded in return.

Researches indicate that the region has also been chosen by the countries from the Middle East for its proximity to trade with and the route to the rest of the world. Because of offshore islands, better landing places, and wetter climate, Arab traders from about 700 CE seem to have preferred the East African coast to the south of modern Somalia. They sailed there with the northeast monsoon, returning home in the summer with the southwest.

They dubbed the part of the coast to which they sailed Azania, or the Land of Zanj–by which they meant the land of the blacks and by which they knew it until the 10th century. South of Sarapion, Nikon, the Pyralaae Islands, and the island of Diorux (about whose precise location only speculation seems possible), the chief town was Rhapta, which may lie buried in the Rufiji delta of present-day Tanzania.

Here the situation differed somewhat from that in the north, and, though tortoiseshell and rhinoceros horn were exported from there–as were quantities of ivory and coconut oil–no mention is made of slaves. Rhapta’s main imports were metal weapons and iron tools–suggesting that iron smelting was not yet known.

Mafia Island, which lies out to sea here, could perhaps be Menouthias, the only island named in both the Periplus and the Guide, although this could also be either Pemba or Zanzibar (perhaps there has been a conflation of all three in the one name).

There is little information concerning the period until the 8th century. Greek and Roman coins have been found, and there are some accounts of overseas migrations to the coast. No settlements from this period have been found.

A new period opened, it seems, in the 9th century. The first identifiable building sites are dated from this time, and, according to Arab geographers, the East African coast was then generally thought of as being divided into four: (1) Berber (Amazigh) lands, which ran down the Somalian coast to the Shebelle River, (2) Zanj proper, (3) the land of Sofala in present-day Mozambique, whence gold was beginning to be shipped by about the 10th century, and (4) a vaguely described land of Waq waq, beyond. The only island that is mentioned is Qanbalu, which appears to have been what now Tanzania’s Pemba Island is.

Though there is some suggestion that in the 10th century the Muslims had not yet begun to move farther south than Somalia, on Qanbalu they soon became rulers of a pagan population, whose language they adopted. Moreover, at Zanzibar an extant Kūfic inscription (the only one) recording the construction of a mosque by Sheikh al-Sayyid Abū ՙImrān Mūsā ibn al-Ḥasan ibn Muḥammad in 1107 confirms that by this time substantial Muslim settlements had been established.

These all similarities among the peoples of Eastern Africa and beyond give clue that Africans better live in unity via sharing their assets aspiring mutual prosperity rather than fighting simply for mutual destruction.



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