This unit explains everything you need to know about Nandi Resistance


By the beginning of the 19th century, the Nandi had become prosperous and were expanding in the Eldoret area at the expense of the Masai who had been weakened by the series of epidemics and natural disasters.

Between 1859 and 1860s the Nandi had expelled of Arabs and Swahili from that area when the Europeans came, they found the Nandi as the most prosperous community in the Eldoret area.


The Nandi didn’t want to lose their powerful position which they had gained through wars.

Nandi resisted British colonialists

They didn’t want to lose their land to the whites because they needed to do economic activities especially grazing.

They wanted to preserve their social, political and economic independence.

The fact that they were very powerful, with a very strong military force encouraged them to resist the foreigners

Religion it had been prophesied that the people who would conquer their land would come from the East.

The inspiration by Orkoiyat (leader), the Nandi were blessed with their traditional leader who possessed both religious and political power. It is this that could establish if the situation was favorable or unfavorable for the army to fight or not. Generally, the Nandi were united by their leaders.


In 1895, the Nandi murdered a British trader called Peter West who tried to cross their territory and this began the 11years of hostility between the British administration in Kenya and the Nandi.

The Nandi People

In 1897, the Nandi attacked a British party crossing their land and the British sent 400 Masai Mercenaries but the Nandi were not defeated.

Between 1899- 1900 when the railway line reached their territory they attacked the deports, settlements and carried off steel wires and other supplies. This discouraged the construction of the railway.

They also started a series of guerilla attacks against the British, Indians workers as well as the Luyia and Luo soldiers employed by the British.

The British also retaliated by burning Nandi villages, confiscating their cattle and food but the Nandi withdrew to the forest and continued with their attacks.

The Nandi resistance was broken in October 1905 through and by act of Treachery. In that year, the British colonel in charge of the area sent messengers that he wanted to visit the Orkoiyat who accepted to receive them.

When the Nandi leader and his people came to meet their leaders with courtesy and unarmed the Whiteman shot all of them down in cold blood.

They claimed that the shooting was in self-defense. The loss of their leader disheartened the Nandi and the British took advantage of the situation and sent troupes all over the Nandi country and to establish their rule there effectively.

The British moved the Nandi to a reserved area which was far away from the railway line and their land was given away to European settlers being with 1906.


There was depopulation; many people died especially the Nandi and the British forces during the wars of resistance.

The wars were distractive in nature i.e. a lot of property including homes, villages, cattle, food crops were destroyed and burnt to the ground.

The Nandi lost most of their fertile land to the British. This was used for both White settlers and the construction of the railway line.

The Nandi were put in reserve areas. These were not as fertile as their original places.

They accepted British forces i.e. after ten years of resistance the Nandi accepted the British as their colonial masters.

The Nandi also realized the supremacy and strength of the White man`s military technology. This was in comparison with their outdated weapons.

Because of this resistance, more Nandi natives migrated to urban areas in search of jobs since the better part of their land had been taken by the British thus improving on their standard of living.

There was an increased European settlement in Nandi land and the rest of the region.

As an alternative, the Nandi embarrassed Christianity and abandoned their traditional regions. This was due to the fact that they had been disappointed by their religious leaders.

The war proved costly to the British i.e. it was expensive to maintain the British forces.

The Nandi lost their

Nandi resistance

political independence.

The defeat of the Nandi was a lesson to the neighbours who were frightened even to resist the British. Societies like Masai, Luo, Luyia collaborated having realized the military superiority of the British.

The Nandi resistance led to the delay in the construction of the Uganda railway, however, the Uganda railway was finally extended through the Nandi land, Kisumu and finally to Uganda. This was possible the British suppressed the Nandi rebellion.

The Nandi resistance gave rise to future rebellions in East Africa.


The Nandi were very experienced in war since they had been fighting with their neighbours e.g. masi and Kikuyu.

The Nandi warriors were very efficient and disciplined fighters.

The climate reduced the effectiveness of the British soldiers to the advantage of the Nandi. The Brirish were victims of climatic changes which led to poor health weakening them and slowing down the pace of their advance.

The Nandi used surprise night attacks and night ambushes since they were fearless and good fighters. They rarely confronted the British face to face they usually ambushed the British forces which took them by surprise and in most cases they attacked at night.

The Nandi lived in forested areas which they knew very well so they could attack and retreat back to the forest quickly.

They fought in separate groups based on clans and residences and this helped cause they couldn’t be destroyed by the enemy at once.

They had a democratic system of electing leaders i.e. if a commander was killed or captured. The resistance wouldn’t collapse but continued under a new colonial leader.

Their mixed economy reduced the effect of crop burning because of Nandi could still survive on animals then hide in forests.

The British forces comprised various natives. This didn’t have a common cause or justification to fight the Nandi. Though some like the Masai could have they were not united like the Nandi. The British used the services of the Sudanese, Ganda, Somalis, Indians, Masai and the Luo Mercenaries.


The Nandi fought in separate groups according to their clans and areas resided in. they, therefore, looked a unified military command.

The Europeans were better armed than the Nandi i.e. they were militarily superior with a maxim gun and a large number of arms in comparison to the Nandi.

The Nandi lacked unity with their neighbors. The relationship was hostile for example the Luo, Luyia and Masai collaborated with the British forces because of the hostility of Nandi.

The death of their leader Akwayat demoralized the Nandi being a traditional leader he was a symbol of strength, unity and inspiration.

The Nandi economy was not very strong it was mainly agricultural which wouldn’t maintain resistance for 10yrs yet the British was industrial and rich enough to fight the resistance.

The Nandi depended on superstition; they believed in prophecies and that their gods would send away foreigners.

Lack of defensive natural barriers; the Nandi didn’t have protection from the British fire especially the Maxim gun.

Outdated military tactics; some times the Nandi engaged a very large British force, for example, a clan comprising few men attacking a very large British force.

The Nandi were faced with natural disasters and calamities; they faced large periods of drought, famine and rinderpest. These calamities weakened their resistance.

The Nandi lacked a constant supply of ammunition and firearms compared to their counterparts the British. Therefore it is because of this that the British gained an upper hand.

The European use of diplomacy; the British signed Agreements with the Nandi in 1900. This in one way or the other was to the advantage to the British to reorganize their forces to be able to attack and defeat the Nandi.


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