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Tutsis – the Ethiopia-Somalia Connection
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

I am a Somali of the Ajuran.  You've said Tutsis migrated from the southern highlands of Ethiopia, but you also mention that the Tutsis came originally speaking a language related to Somali.  In Somalia there had been dynasty called the Ajuraan Dynasty which ruled the most parts of Somalia and some parts of what is known as Ethiopia now and their dynasty lasted more than 700 years.  In the last days of their dynasty the rest of Somalis rebelled against Ajuraan.  The Ajuraan were forced to scatter in Somalia and some parts of eastern Africa.  I wonder of this is when some went to the areas now known as Rwanda and Burundi, who subsequently became Tutsis?

I thank you for your thoughts on the origins of the Tutsis, and possible connections to the Ajuraan.  I am familiar with the Ajuraan from my readings, though I was not in the part of Kenya where the Ajuraan people lived and I cannot remember actually meeting anyone who was of the tribe or spoke the Ajuraan language.

The connection matches what is known from the vague cultural memories of the Tutsi in their early origins and migrations.  Little remains to actually compare in today's culture, and the Bantu language they accepted centuries go from the Lakes area they migrated to and conquered.

Time Depth
The time frame in history would be the main factor to consider for detailed connections and ethnic terminologies, I think.  The Tutsis moved from the Eastern Highland area almost 2000 years ago, with a common date used of AD 200.  At that time the names and sub-groupings we know from our recent history are not found in history or the traditions know so far.  The names we know like Tutsi, Somali, Ajuraan, Oromo, etc., were not used yet at the time.  The people had other names.

These seem to have come out of later history, like some of the names of now well-known peoples in other parts of the world.  The common origins of all the current peoples referred to as Cushites, though, do match and seem to have a common origin.  The Tutsis and our other Cushite peoples today seem to have come from the same origin.  That is, they all came from the same earlier group and language, but the larger separate groups that we know now, with their current names, developed gradually from that common early origin.  So we can say they are cousin peoples.

Language Forms
The forms of language now spoken have developed in different ways from the same early language spoken by those ancestors.  Languages change gradually as families move to new areas, meet other peoples, deal with new cultural settings, and develop new lifestyles that call for different words.  So languages now spoken are also descendants of earlier forms of languages.  So the different changes that have taken place in so many areas has caused the forms of language of each family, or tribe, to become new groups, with language too different to hear each other now.

They can't understand each other exactly now, but we can tell they all came from the same earlier language.  And the people will usually have traditions that say they were kin to some of these other people, or that they used to be one at some time in history.  Are there Ajuraan traditions like this about their earlier relationship to other Somali, or maybe even Oromo people long ago?

So the Tutsi people actually moved from that area long before the time of the Ajuraan Dynasty, if I remember the time correctly.  Likewise the other large political or ethnic periods we know of, such as the rise of the Oromo (Galla) and Somali groupings.  The names as we know them now gradually developed as the people grew in number and moved across larger land areas.

This seems to indicate a common origin at some point, but it was at a time before the languages and ethnic differences we know had developed.  The Tutsis moved from that region before the current peoples as we know them developed from the early common cultural ancestors.

Thanks for your stimulating thoughts.  It is good to try to find facts and traditions in our history to help connect origins of our various human families today.  I am glad to have your thoughts on this.  Thanks for presenting these ideas from your insider perspective as an Ajuraan.

Also related:
The Hima People of Eastern Africa
Hima, Ham and Cush
Tutsi and Chwezi:  History and Pre-History
The Tutsi People – Blog
Tutsi, Hutu and Germans
Tutsi, Hutu and Hima – Cultural Background in Rwanda

Related on the Internet:
Ajuran – Wikipedia


First written November 2006
Last edited 11 April 2012

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

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