Nandi expedition

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Nandi expedition was a police action by the British colonial rulers in East Africa in 1905 against members of the Nandi tribe who protested against the expropriation of their land by white settlers.

root cause

The British consolidated their rule in East Africa in the 1890s through the establishment of protectorates in what is now Kenya and Uganda and the acquisition of Zanzibar from the German Empire. In 1905 the administration of the region passed from the Foreign Office to the Colonial Office , whose bureaucrats were interested in the economic success of the colonies. In tow of the Uganda Railway , which was built from Mombasa to Kisumu in 1896 , white settlers tore the good grazing land along the railway line for themselves.

The Nandi lived in the hill country northeast of Lake Victoria . It was one of the smaller tribes of Central Africa, with around 14,000 men, of whom around 4,000 were capable of arms, but which caused considerable difficulties for the colonial rulers. They did not live in villages, but distributed over farmsteads whose men joined together in districts, e.g. B. to carry out raids against the livestock of their neighbors. Part of the tribe also lived in well-protected caves on Mount Elgon up to an altitude of 1,800 m. Unmarried people lived together communally. They had no actual chief, but medicine men ( laibon ) enjoyed some influence. As early as 1897, they repeatedly offered armed resistance that smaller British expeditions were unable to crush.

Campaign 1905

The Nandi Field Force under Lt. Col. Edgar G. Harrison DSO , with Major LRH Pope-Hennessy as Chief of Staff, consisted of 80 white officers, six companies each of the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the King's African Rifles (KAR) with 10 machine guns and 200 armed police officers, plus numerous porters (500 armed, 3460 unarmed). Furthermore, a thousand volunteers were to be recruited from among the Maasai and in British Somaliland , but they could hardly be found. Later reinforcements also consisted of an Indian signal force requested from Uganda.

Combat operations became inevitable after a British squad of 80 men under Lt. Richard Meinertzhagen at Ket Perak Hill slaughtered Laibon Koitalel Arap Samoei, who was ready to negotiate, and 23 of his companions. A British Askari was slightly injured by a spear.

During the first phase the troops were divided into four columns. It was planned to march north from the railway line, on the one hand, to cut off the Nandi from their allies, the Kipsiki (also called Lumbwa ). Second, they should be evicted from their lands and their livestock destroyed. The third goal was to drive surviving refugees into the forests around Kapwareng . Initially two companies protected the railway line from armored trains. Harrisson's headquarters were set up in Muhoroni .

After the beginning of the dry season, the first column, operating independently, marched north from Londiani to the Eldama Gorge on October 18 . The second, also consisting of three companies, left Lumbwa on the 20th under Major Hookey A. Walker in the direction of Kaptumo via Tindiret . From the headquarters the third column also marched on Kaptumo, but through the soba hills. Another column under Captain WEH Barrett assembled at Fort Nandi of Kipture and advanced north to Tobolwa and then Kaimosi . In the course of the campaign, eleven posts with 500 men were set up in Nandiland to rob the Nandi cattle and make it impossible for them to return to their traditional territory.

There was no major battle, but the highly mobile Nandi in guerrilla style repeatedly attacked smaller units of the British. By the end of November, 90 Field Force personnel and an estimated 600 Nandi had died. The British had captured 10,000 cattle and 18,000 sheep and goats through their scorched earth policy, a number that had doubled by June 1906. As their livelihoods had been destroyed, the Nandi's resistance to resistance waned and towards the end of the year they agreed to go to the assigned reserve in the Aldai and Kapwareng districts . All "murderers" and weapons were to be handed over. This forced relocation continued until February 1906. Tribesmen who "voluntarily" went into the reserve received their animals back. On February 27, the Field Force was disbanded, and by August 1, 800 men remained as a garrison.

The official casualties (June 1906) were 1,117 Nandi dead, 121 dead and wounded on the British side, with 15% of white officers falling victim to climate or disease. 5000 shacks and warehouses had been torched.

Organization and equipment

British: see main article: King's African Rifles


Around 20–50 men formed a company ( sirityet ; plural: siritaiik ) under the command of a local commander ( kirkit, i.e., bull). Several communities ( korotinwek ) formed a regimental district ( pororiet ), of which there were about 16.

The warriors usually wore a headgear made of goat bladders, which was adorned with feathers or a lion's mane in the higher ranks. The cloak, thrown over one shoulder, was made of goat or cow hide. They were armed with iron-tipped spears about six feet long. There were also short double-edged swords ( sime ) in a leather scabbard or cleaver ( penga ). They had almost no firearms at their disposal, but they had bows and arrows with a range of about 120 m. For protection they use the almost 1 m high shields with buffalo leather covering, which are common in East Africa and which have been painted.


Meinertzhagen was initially proposed for the Victoria Cross on October 19 because of “bravery” . However, it was then revealed that he shot the medicine man while shaking his hand. Although he was acquitted at his third court martial ( court of inquiry ) and then made a career in the army until 1925, he was initially sent back to his regiment, the Royal Fussiliers , by Brigadier William Manning .

Between 1902 and 1914, 41,500 km² of the best grazing land in Kenya was expropriated for the benefit of British settlers. The disarmed Nandi and the Embu , defeated in the following year, could no longer oppose this and tried to live autonomously in the areas assigned to them in the form of a reserve in 1907. Few joined the KAR. After independence, they demanded the right to take up arms again.


  • Erwin Herbert: Small Wars ans Skirmishes 1902-18. Early Twentieth-Century Colonial Campaigns in Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Political Background and Campaign Narratives, Organization, Tactics and Terrain, Dress and Weapons, Command and Control, and Historical Effects. Foundry Books, Nottingham 2003, ISBN 1-901543-05-6 , pp. 78-84.
  • GWB Huntingford: The Nandi of Kenya. Tribal Control in a Pastoral Society. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1953.
  • AT Matson: The Nandi Campaign against the British 1895-1906. Transafrica Publishers, Nairobi 1974 ( Transafrica Historical Papers 1, ZDB -ID 752308-7 ).

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Richard Meinertzhagen; Army Diary 1902-06; London 1960
  2. z. E.g .: in the case of northern Tepinot consisting of 27 municipalities