History of East Africa

East Africa has a rich history compared to any other region globally. It is home to the earliest human ancestors and a key focus point to trade, migration, and exploration. The earliest human-like remains were discovered in East Africa over 3 million years ago in places like Oldupai Gorge and in Lake Turkana, Kenya. Though there are other places where such remains have been discovered, most scientists agree that East Africa is the origin of humanity.

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The Khoisans, who were hunters and gatherers were the first inhabitants of East Africa 10000 years ago. In Rwanda and Burundi, there were some few Pygmy groups that are also believed to have been in existence during this time.

Around 3000 or 5000 years ago, there were multiple migrations which are believed to have shaped the present day East Africa.  The Cushites and the Nilotes in the north and the Bantus from the East came together and formed the rich tribal diversity that makes East Africa presently. As the people continued with their migration, some like the Pygmy were absorbed while others established themselves as the greatest in the region. When traveling around East Africa, you’ll love the diversity that was a product of these ancient migrations and settlements.

As the rest of the region was being shaped by the ongoing migrations, the coastal region was under a different influence. The ancient Greeks set up trading posts in the 400BC one of which was Raphta that believed to have been either in Kenya or Tanzania. Trade grew steadily which led to the establishment of permanent settlements by the people that took part in the trade. The Arabs and the Persians freely intermingled with the locals and as a result, the Swahili language and culture were born. Within the same time, the Islamic religion was introduced and spread widely towards the 11th century. 

In 1498, the first European settler, Vasco da Gama arrived on his way to Orient. 3 decades later the Portuguese greatly disrupted the trading patterns and taken over the coastal region. They built forts in different places such as Kilwa and Mombasa and this went on until the 18th century when the Oman Arabs took over. Their influence was too strong and with time, the Sultan of Oman transferred his capital to Zanzibar from Muscat. Slave trade also flourished within this time where thousands of slaves were abducted and transported through Zanzibar every year.

Towards 1980, the western interest on East Africa was aroused and this made the Germans and the British to sign an agreement that defined their spheres of influence. With this, the British took over Zanzibar, which is known as Tanzania today and later Kenya and Uganda. The Germans took over power in Rwanda and Burundi. The British and the Germans took up the task of building railway lines and roads in an effort to open up their territories to more trade opportunities. They also established schools and hospitals which encourage more missionaries to come into the region. 

The locals were unhappy with the European reign over them and as a result, the raised demands to regain their independence. Tanzania attained its independence in 1961, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi in 1962 and in 1963, Kenya attained its independence. The countries have continued to grow both economically and politically though the effects of colonization are felt up to date.