19th Century Omani Rule
The Omani sultan Seyyid Said moved his capital to Zanzibar in 1839 and created long-distance trade routes into the interior of Kenya (Maxon and Ofcansky 140 2000). The arid regions of Northern Kenya were lightly inhabited by seminomadic pastoralists who provided livestock and pelts. In the south, pastoralists and cultivators bartered goods and competed for land as long-distance caravan routes linked them to the Kenya coast on the east and the kingdoms of Uganda to the west. Arab and coastal African cultures produced an Islamic Swahili people and a culture of trading in a variety of commodities, including slaves (Hallet 227 1974).
Omani Arab colonization of the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts brought the once independent city-states under closer foreign scrutiny and domination than was experienced during the Portuguese period.
The Omani Arabs were primarily able only to control the coastal areas, not the interior. However, the creation of clove plantations, intensification of the slave trade and relocation of the Omani capital to Zanzibar in 1839 by Seyyid Said had the effect of consolidating the Omani power in the region. Arab governance of all the major ports along the East African coast continued until British interests aimed at securing their ‘Indian Jewel’ began to put pressure on Omani rule. By the late nineteenth century, the slave trade on the open seas had been completely strangled by the British. The Omani Arabs had no interest in resisting the Royal Navy’s efforts to enforce anti-slavery directives.