What is it about?

The challenge is represented, while many did trace Africans in Asia, by trying to re-examine the role of the Asians - Baloch from South-Central Asia - communities in Africa. Available literature on the subject is not a generous one: life and times of the Baloch around the 1800s is quite obscure. While capture and forced slavery were common among the Baloch mainly on a short distance basis, to the Persian/Arab Gulf for pearl diving and dates cultivation, soldiers in Oman and in Africa was a recruiting practice between those Baloch who were involved in the arms traffic and soon conquered a social, economic and political status along the Swahili coast.

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Why is it important?

Thanks to research carried on in the Balochistan Archives combined with research in the British Archives, and field work conducted in Pakistani Balochistan, in the Sultanate of Oman, in the United Arab Emirates, in the United Republic of Tanzania, and in Mozambique, Baloch presence in the Indian Ocean was apparently closely historically and politically connected with military and with measures taken by the British authorities against slave trade during the nineteenth century. The level of influence on trade routes controlled by Muslim merchants in the Gulf and in the Indian Ocean was high, the major motivations to Baloch migrations were originated from environmental issues as well as from socio-economic and political conditions in their land. These conditions implied numerous consequences such as the expansion of lawless habits throughout their region, enslaving by external powerful groups, and the progressive creation of new roles in the Persian/Arab Gulf and in East Africa such as the military one.

Perspectives

The ties between Makran and Oman go back centuries but became more focused from the early eighteenth century; by then Oman had eclipsed the failing Portuguese Empire to become officially the dominant regional power-broker along the coast of East Africa. Oman began to develop key ports as bases for the export of ivory, cloves and slaves; the major ones being Mombasa, Zanzibar and Pemba. The Al Bu Sa’id rulers in Muscat had developed a symbiotic relationship with key Hindu and Muslim financiers (Banyan).

Prof. Ph.D. Beatrice Nicolini
Catholic University, Milan, Italy

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This page is a summary of: The Makran-Baluch-African Network in Zanzibar and East Africa during the XIXth Century, African and Asian Studies, January 2006, Brill, DOI: 10.1163/156920906779134830.
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