The Establishment and Impact of Omani Rule at the East African Coast
The Omani Arabs (Imams of Omani) replaced the Portuguese as the rulers of the East African coast after the capture of fort Jesus in 1698.
The new rulers initially administered the region through some Arab families;
The Mazrui (Mazaria) family which ruled Mombasa
The Nabahan Family which ruled Lamu
The civil wars back home made it hard for the Omani Arabs to control the coast immediately. There were also threats of Persian invasion. Constant rebellion from coastal towns against Omani governors posed a serious challenge to Omani rule. Pate for example refused to pay tax and even murdered the imam’s messengers. Towns they were loyal to Oman were attacked. The Mazrui established themselves as independent rulers of Mombasa and ordered towns like pate, Pemba and Malindi to pay allegiance to them. Their greatest allies were the Mijikenda who promised them support in case of Omani attack.
Slave trade: The buying and selling of human beings Slavery: The state of being enslaved: It’s a system where by some people are owned by others and are forced to work for others without being paid for the work they have done.
It involves capturing, transporting of human beings who become the ‘property’ of the buyer.
The slave trade was one of the worst crimes against humanity.
The trade was started by Arabs who wanted labour for domestic use and for their plantations. However, they were later joined by Europeans..
By 1510, the conquest of the East African coast was over and administration fell into the hands of the Portuguese. For easy administration, the coast was divided into two zones;
a. The area North of Cape Delgado was ruled by the Captain at Malindi
b. The area South of Cape Delgado was ruled by Captain at Mozambique
Both captains were answerable to the Portuguese viceroy at Goa on Indian coast at the General headquarters. Cape Delgado was made the midpoint of the East Africa possession. Sofala was made the regional headquarters but still under the charge of the captain who took his orders from the viceroy at Goa. Later, the Captain in the North was stationed at Mombasa after the construction of Fort Jesus in 1593 because they were rebellious. Other forts and garrisons were established at Sofala and Kilwa.
The Portuguese captains were responsible for the collections of tributes from coastal rulers. They imposed the customs dues on all imports and exports. They were also responsible for the suppression of rebellions on the coast. The Portuguese had problems with administration because they could not provide enough troops to all garrisons their strongholds.
The Portuguese were more interested in gold trade in Sofala. Unfortunately, they failed to develop this trade because of the following;
There were wars in the mining areas between the Portuguese and Coastal people.
As a result the Portuguese were so cruel that any sign of disobedience was punished with maximum brutality to serve as a warning to others who might choose to rebel. This partly explains the unpopularity of the Portuguese on the coast.
The Portuguese also applied the policy of divide and rule by setting one town against the other. For example Malindi against Mombasa.
The relationship with the subjects was not good. They lived in isolation of each other by race and religion. The Portuguese established their own settlements, built their own churches and had their own priest. This could be the reason why their religion was rejected and hatred increased.
In addition, the few Portuguese officials were corrupt, plundered and ordered destruction on the coastal town. All this earned them hatred and opposition from the people and it was not a surprise that they were nicknamed "AFRITI" meaning Devil.
The Portuguese did not mix freely with Africans because they considered themselves to be a special race.
During the Portuguese reign, the glory of the coastal states was no more. The high standards of living the coastal people had enjoyed were no more. The trade that had made them rich was declining. Many buildings were in ruins and there was widespread poverty and misery
In 1585, a Turkish captain, Amir Ali Bey, arrived at the coast as an envoy of the sultan of turkey to free the coastal towns from the Portuguese. Rebellion then broke out between 1585 and 1588 between Ali Bey, the Portuguese, and the people of Mombasa and Zimba warriors. The towns of pate, Siyu and Pemba were attacked and forced to pay heavy fines while manda was completely destroyed
As a result of their ruthlessness, the coastal people became hostile to the Portuguese.
Mombasa for example resisted the humiliation they got from the Portuguese appointed sultan
The sultan’s heir Yusuf was treated as a servant who resented the people of Mombasa
On 15th august 1631, during the Christian feast of Assumption in Mombasa, Sultan Yusuf stabbed the captain with a knife, killing him instantly. This sparked off a rebellion where many Portuguese were killed.
Yusuf posed a threat to the Portuguese rule until his death in 1637.
The people of pate also revolted in 1666. However, their ruler was arrested and exiled to Goa where he was executed
In 1622, the Persians drove the Portuguese from Hormuz. In 1650, the Portuguese were expelled from their bases in Muscat by the Omani Arabs under sultan Saif
Britain, France and Holland also began to compete the Portuguese in trade.
The final blow to Portuguese rule was attack by the Omani Arabs and the seizure of fort Jesus. The coastal Arab towns had appealed to their brothers in Oman for assistance against the Portuguese brutality.
In 1652, an Oman fleet sailed to pate and Zanzibar, overpowered and killed the Portuguese.
In 1696, Imam Saif Ibn Sultan of Oman sailed to Mombasa with a large fleet and army. The Portuguese took refuge in Fort Jesus as battle raged on (about 2500 Portuguese men, women and children) the Portuguese were unfortunate as they could not get supplies to sustain the war with 3000 plus Arab soldiers with full packing of the coastal people.
In 1697, the Omani forces got access to the Fort and found most Portuguese afflicted with disease. By December 1698, the Omanis penetrated the Fort only to find all except twelve Portuguese dead. This marked the end of Portuguese rule though they made a temporary seizure of the fort in 1728 but were overpowered.
For the coastal people, it was however a mere change of guard from the Portuguese to the Arabs
Since the 10th century Arabian influence along the coast had been strong. Most of the port towns along the East African coast had been built by Arab Sultans, who brought the Muslim religion to the coastal people.
The Portuguese explorer and soldier, Vasco da Gama, was the first European to make contact with the people of the East African Coast. He had been paid by the King of Portugal to find a sea route to India.
The Portuguese at the East African coast 1500 – 1700 A.D
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to have contacts with the people of the East African Coast.
They invaded the east African coast in 1498 at a time when the Ottoman Empire occupied most of the Middle East thus blocking the overland route to India from Europe.
They were adventurous and in search for the sea route to India. This led them to the East African Coast where they stayed for 200 years.
The earliest Arab settlers to arrive were the Daybui from Daybul In north western India. They arrived along the east African coast by AD 650 for trade. The earliest Arab settlement was Qanbalu (Pemba). They later settled in manda, Kilwa. Lamu and Mombasa
The Arabs reffered to the Africans as the Zenj (Blacks)
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