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The Bondei People of Tanzania

Religion:        Islam, Christianity (Animism)
Population:     123,878 (, 2004)
Registry of Peoples code (Registry of Language code): Bondei  101588  (bou)


The Bondei people live in northeastern Tanzania, Tanga Region, Usambara Mountains, inland from Tanga.  I note that Bondei ( has the same exact population figure for both the Bondei and the Sagara (123,878).  This would make it seem that one or both of these is in error.

Like the majority of peoples in Tanzania, the Bondei speak a Bantu language.  The Bantu peoples migrated east towards the Indian Ocean coast sometime around the time of Christ, or a little before.

Less is known about the Bondei than about other coastal peoples.  But judging from studies in the oral traditions of other peoples, the original Bantu immigrants probably reached the current area of the Bondei around AD 200.  Over the centuries, various subsequent movements have occurred, resulting in the currently known tribes and their language forms.

The Bondei share the Usambara Mountains of Tanga region with the Sambaa, Zigua, Bondei and Digo.  These are the main ethnic groups in Tanga Region in terms of their numbers. nbsp;The Sambaa are the largest ethnic group in the region, and are the main ethnic group in the mountains and lowland Muheza.

The Bondei are found mainly in Muheza District and part of Pangani.  The Bondei make up 16.5% of the population of Muheza District and 10.7% of Tanga District.

The language of the Bondei is a Bantu language called Bondei or Bonde.  The Ethnologue reports that the speakers of the Bondei language are shifting to Swahili.  Many of the languages of Tanzania have less than 1000 speakers, and some linguistic sources report that 93.4% of Tanzania's population speak Swahili as a second language.

Many tribes are fully bilingual and many, like the Bondei, are shifting into the Swahili language stream.  As new generations learn only Swahili as a mother tongue, their traditional speech is gradually dying out.

The Ethnologue reports that the Bondei language has been influenced linguistically by neighbouring Doe and Kwere, and Bondei has likewise influenced them.  It is close to the neighbouring Bantu languages of Shambala, Zigula and Ngulu.

The Bondei, as well as their Digo neighbours, depend on livestock keeping and fishing along the coast.  In the past they were a more warlike people, attacking the Kilindi who had moved into their territory, fomenting a resistance to the Kilindi hegemony in the 1860s.

The Bondei have been affected by the presence of Islam.  Like most of their neighbours, the majority consider themselves Muslims.  But also like some of their neighbours, they have a form of Islam which retains traditional practices, sometimes referred to as "folk Islam."

Some sources report there are Bondei Christians, but the reports them as Muslims with Animism as a second religion.  Like most African peoples, the basic view of the world is a dynamic one, that has been characterized as religious.

The Ethnologue does not report percentages of religious affiliation, but shows the Bondei as "Muslim, Christian."  Bondei ( reports only Islam and Animism, and indicates 0% as evangelical Christians.

Little attention has been given to the Bondei by Christians. The only Christian scriptures in their language are Bible portions with the dates 1887-1895.  There is no version of the Jesus Film in Bondei.

Bondei and Kilindi (Daily times)
Bondei language (Ethnologue)
Bondei (
Tanzania Profile (Université Laval, Québec)
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
Prepared 23 February 2006
First posted on Thoughts and Resources 23 November 2007

Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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