Migration and Settlement in East Africa (1000 –1880)


Causes and effects of bantu migration
Learners' activities



Between 1000-1800 AD, East Africa experienced a wave of migrations from different parts of Africa. The Bantu from the Congo or the Niger Delta Basin were the first to arrive, followed by the Luo from Bahr el Ghazel in Southern Sudan and then the Ngoni from Southern Africa.

Who were the Bantu?

The term Bantu refers to group of people who speak the same or similar language with common word “NTU” which means a person. The Bantu-speaking groups include the  Baganda, Banyoro, Batoro in Uganda, Kikuyu, Akamba, Meru, Embu, Taita, Giryama, Digo in Kenya and Pokomo, Chagga, Yao,  Segeju, Zaramo in Tanzania, as well as many other smaller groups.


There are two versions explaining the migration of the Bantu.  The first version asserts that the Bantu came from West Africa around the Cameroon Highlands and Baunchi plateau of Nigeria; therefore, this points to the Niger basin as the possible cradle land of the Bantu.  The second version posits that the Bantu came from the Katanga region in Southeastern Congo.  Gradually they spread eastward north of the forest and southward to the forest’s edge near the lower Congo or Zaire and lower Kasai. The occupation of the north western (Cameroon- Gabon) was fairly slow due to difference in languages. Else where especially in eastern and southern Africa beginning at the edge of the forest, the spread must have been fast due to the relationship in languages.

The study of migrations will help the learners to understand their origin and settlement patterns, appreciate the interrelationship between the different peoples of East Africa like cultures, customs, etc. They will also understand change and continuity in societies i.e. life is not static but dynamic and this explains the current movements of people to different parts of East Africa.

TASK 1: Migration to Cities: Thinking together.

The largest city in Uganda is Kampala. Like many cities in Africa its population is growing fast.

Kampala has well over 1 million people. 40 years ago it only had one-quarter of the people.

The main reason it has grown so quickly is because of the migration.

People have moved to Kampala from towns and villages in all regions of the country.

They have come from the north, west and south of Uganda.

Others have migrated from neighbouring countries like Sudan and Rwanda and from distant countries such as Somalia and India.

Others who have come from more distant countries such as Somalia and India.

Why do you think people migrate?

Work on your own, in a group or with the whole class and your teacher.

Think of reasons why people might decide to migrate from one place to another.

Write the reasons in a table, under two headings:

Push Factors
Why people might want to leave one place.
Pull Factors
Why people might be attracted to a new place.




Possible answers...


Read the story of Ntuha and his family and do the following

a) Draw a sketch map of East Africa and show the movement of

   i) Mukasa and family

   ii) Nyerere and family

   iii) Ngugi and family

The movement and settlement of Ntuha and his family.

1. Once upon a time, there was a man called Ntuha who lived in the Niger Congo basin. He had four wives and many children due to a number of reasons, conflicts developed among his children. There was shortage of land for cultivation and pasture for the animals due to increasing numbers of people and animals, but children loved to adventure and so they decided to leave their cradle land and moved to other places.

Most of these children moved Eastwards. One of them was Mukasa who entered E. Africa in the region between L. Albert and lake Edward. Some members of his family settled around L. George while others continued on and settled around areas located North West of Lake Victoria.

2. Another group moved and settled in Tanzania Plateau and Taita Hills.

Another group that was discontented moved northwards and settled around Mt
Kilimanjaro. There was also another group that entered East Africa between
L.Malawi and Tanganyika.

Another group led by Nyerere entered E. Africa between L. Kivu and Tanganyika and settled in central Tanzania. Other groups crossed to Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya. These settled around Mt. Elgon area

3. From Tanzania, other members moved northwards, towards Mt. Kilimanjaro and entered Kenya between Mt. Kilimanjaro and coast most of these people settled around the Kenya highlands, this group was led by Ngugi.



Description of the Bantu movements and settlement

The Bantu is believed to have moved in four groups.  These groups were; Interlacustrine Bantu, Central Bantu, Highland Bantu and Southern Tanzania Bantu. 

i) Interlacustrine Bantu or Western Bantu

This group was also referred to as the lake region Bantu.  They entered East Africa between L. Edward and Albert and settled in the areas North and West of L. Victoria between 1000 – 1300 AD.  They were basically agriculturists.  Others moved west to Kenya and Eastern Uganda. 

ii) Central Bantu

These moved into East Africa between L. Edward and L. Tanganyika and first settled in Central Tanzania between 1000 –1300 AD for example, the Sukuma and Nyamwezi.  Others later crossed and settled in Tanzania Plateau and Taita Hills around 1300 AD. Others moved north.

iii) Highland Bantu

These settled in the Kenya Highlands around 1600 –1800 AD.  These include the Kamba, Kikuyu, Embu, Chuka.  They probably moved north from the Taita hills. Some writers have suggested that about 1300 the Chuka came up from the Tana river and were the first to arrive in the Mt. Kenya area. The Embu followed them, about 1425. The last group, the Kikuyu seem to have arrived in the Muranga by the middle of the 16th Century and in Kiambu by the end of the 17th Century.  The migration of the Emba further was halted by the Masaai.  The migrations of the Meru and related groups probably began at the Coast.

iv) Southern Tanzania Bantu

This group entered through L. Malawi and L. Tanganyika.  They are also believed to Habe come from East Africa around 1000 – 1300.  This group includes the Bena, Yao, Hehe. 

According to the tradition between about 1591 and 1698, the Swahili sections of Kilidini, Changamwe and Tangana moved to Mombasa and formed Kalindini town. Where they had earlier migrated from Shungwaya because of attacks by the Galla and Somali. The Segeju and various sections of the Milikenda and other Swahili groups to join the Kilindini group and related peoples on the mainland behind Mombasa later joined them.

The Pokomo and Segeju traditions also suggest the theory of dispersal from Shunguwaya. The Pokomo say that they descended from Shunguwaya Bantu immigrants. However, due to contacts with other groups, they became a mixed community with Galla, Swahili, Segeju and Somali blood.  The Segeju believed that in the second half of the 7th Century the Galla attacked their ancestors. One group fled to the Lamu islands and nearby areas where they intermarried with the local Swahili to form the present Bajun or Tikuu. A second group fled to the lower Tana  and ancestors of present- day Buu section of the Segeju left the lower Tana and moved to the present homes.

Job related life skills

  1. Communication: ability to read, write, listen and speak using appropriate language.

  1. Team work: ability to cooperate and share tasks with colleagues.

  1. Personal attributes : creativity, enthusiasm, reflective thinking, self awareness

  1. Information skills : ability to identify information needs, observe and collect evidence and present findings appropriately

  1. Application of number: - numeracy (as they compare crop yields in treated and untreated plots)




Teachers' guide
Scheme of work

Lesson plan
Learners' activities

Useful weblinks

The story of Africa
Early settlements and migration
Bantu migration(map from Encarta)