The Zenj Story

ZENJ is the arabic word for “BLACK.” the first outsiders to visit the East African Coast were the Arabs. They called it the “Land of Zenj” (of the Black People). The interaction of peoples of the Middle, Near and Far East in Culture, Economics and Politics created the first inter-continental Eastern Africa Economic and Quasi-Political Region known as the “ZENJ EMPIRE” spanning from the Port of RAS HAFUN in the North of what is today Somalia to the Mozambican port of SOFALA in the South with MALINDI in Kenya as it’s center.

The Europeans disseminated the natural organic growth of this region and fragmented it. The past was frozen, while the present is constantly in flux and shifting in form.

But to this day within the Countries of what are Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi, Malawi and Mozambique, these peoples land is laden with cultural influences that speak volumes of their formative union which was spurred by their external contacts with the orient, be it in language i.e. Kiswahili, Music, Dress Patterns and Ornamentation.

The streets of Nairobi can be said to be the ‘melting Pot” of this Region. The development of the UAE as the centre of commerce between Africa and Asia highlights the significance of the Arabian Peninsula’s historical role as a trade route between Africa and Asia going back to the time of Abdul Malik of Syria in the 9th Century AD.

The scholar Tuan Ch’eng-shih (A.D 863) in the Chinese geography Yu-yang-tsa-tsu in 1060 was quoted by professor Duyvendak’s in his “China’s Discovery of Africa.” THUS:

“it happened that the giraffe ….. as it strode the Emperor’s court, became the emblem of perfect virtue, perfect government, and perfect harmony in the empire and in the universe…. That is what the discovery of Africa (Malindi) did for the Chinese Confucian Ideology.”

Understanding the Zenj perspective is fundamental to the realization that greater East Africa is the gateway for the interaction of Western Capital, African resources and Oriental Markets. The challenges of regionalism within the Zenj definition can be successfully mastered by those who internalize this concept. It will determine who succeeds within the regional groupings of COMESA, EAC or IGAD.

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