The other day we posted about a delegation of Somalis going to Aroostook County Maine at the invitation of local business leaders.
Here we learn a bit more about the potential move by Somali “Bantu” out of Lewiston. From WAGMTV:
This group of Somali immigrants from Lewiston are at the SAD 1 Farm learning about agriculture opportunities in Aroostook County.
Muhidsin Libah says, “there’s overcrowding in the Lewiston area. So we are at the process of looking for another place to resettle.”
Through the help of the Maine Community Foundation and Northern Maine Community college these immigrants are getting the chance to experience all of what Aroostook County can offer them in terms of resettling.
Steven Rowe says, “Aroostook County has lost population and would like to attract more families to this part of the state and we have the Somali Bantu Farm families in Lewiston that are looking for more land to farm.”
The Somalis need housing to accommodate families with TEN members.
Libhah says, “the biggest problem in the Lewiston- area is housing because we are large families.”
Their average families consists of almost 10 people. Libah says adequate housing where lead is not an issue is important.
Somali Bantus: What you need to know:
They are not the same as the so-called Somali “skinnies” and they became Muslims to save themselves when Arabs enslaved them hundreds of years ago. Wikipedia has a good discussion about them. (And since there is so much discussion about slavery in America these days, I thought you might like to know something about Muslims enslaving Africans.)
I was especially interested in the fact that Tanzania wanted to take the Somali Bantu refugees nearly two decades ago, but the UN stymied the plan and sent them to the US instead.
Here are some snips from a long Wikipedia report:
The Indian Ocean slave trade was multi-directional and changed over time.
To meet the demand for menial labor, black Africans from southeastern Africa captured by Arab slave traders were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers in Morocco, Libya, Somalia, Egypt, Arabia, the Persian Gulf, India, the Far East and the Indian Ocean islands.
From 1800 to 1890, between 25,000–50,000 black African slaves are thought to have been sold from the slave market of Zanzibar to the Somali coast.
In the 1840s, the first fugitive slaves from the Shebelle valley began to settle in the Jubba valley. By the late 1890s, when Italians & British occupied the Jubaland area, an estimated 35,000 former Bantu slaves were already settled there.
The Italian colonial administration abolished slavery in Somalia at the turn of the 20th century by decree of the King of Italy. Some Bantu groups, however, remained enslaved until the 1910s in the areas not totally dominated by the Italians, and continued to be despised and discriminated against by large parts of Somali society.
Unlike Somalis, most of whom are traditionally nomadic herders, Bantus are mainly sedentary subsistence farmers. The Bantus’ predominant “Negroid” physical traits also serve to further distinguish them from Somalis. Among these phenotypic characteristics of the Bantu are kinky (jareer) hair, while Somalis are soft-haired (jilec). Bantus are also shorter, darker and more muscular, with broad facial features.
The majority of Bantus have converted to Islam, which they first began embracing in order to escape slavery.
In 1999, the United States classified the Bantu refugees from Somalia as a priority and the United States Department of State first began what has been described as the most ambitious resettlement plan ever from Africa, with thousands of Bantus scheduled for resettlement in America. In 2003, the first Bantu immigrants began to arrive in U.S. cities, and by 2007, around 13,000 had been resettled to cities throughout the United States with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the U.S. State Department, and refugee resettlement agencies across the country.
Prior to the United States’ agreement to accommodate Bantu refugees from Somalia, attempts were made to resettle the refugees to their ancestral homes in southeastern Africa. Before the prospect of emigrating to America was raised, this was actually the preference of the Bantus themselves. In fact, many Bantus voluntarily left the UN camps where they were staying, to seek refuge in Tanzania. Such a return to their ancestral homeland represented the fulfillment of a two-century old dream.
While Tanzania was initially willing to grant the Bantus asylum, the UNCHR did not provide any financial or logistical guarantees to support the resettlement and integration of the refugees into Tanzania. The Tanzanian authorities also experienced additional pressure when refugees from neighbouring Rwanda began pushing into the western part of the country, forcing them to retract their offer to accommodate the Bantus.
By the late 2000s, the situation in Tanzania had improved, and the Tanzanian government began granting Bantus citizenship and allocating them land in areas of Tanzania where their ancestors are known to have been taken from as slaves.
There is a lot more to learn, here.