Burji 

BURJI PEOPLE AND THEIR HISTORY

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PICTURE: Burji dancer’s during Lake Turkana Cultural Festival 2016
Ancient Burji were agricultural people who lived around the Gara Burji in Ethiopia. Their territory was to the east of river Galana Amara and south-east of Lake Abaya. To the west, across the Galana Amara was the Konso country, to the north the Darasa and to the south and south-east the Boran.
Also called Amara-burji, the ultimate origin of the Burji is traced near a place called Liban in northern Ethiopia,It is widely believed that at one time the Burji were part of the Amhara peoples of Ethiopia. This view is borne out by various factors, one of which is similarity between the names; one is known as Amhara and the other as Amara. There is also considerable linguistic affinity between the Burji and the Sidama who are related to the Amhara. With which the Burji language has over 41% lexical similarity.
The Amara-Burji are divided into two main groups – The Burji and the Gubba. The Amhara tribe live in the extreme north-western corner of Ethiopia next to them is the Gubba tribe. It is difficult to establish any cultural and linguistic affinity between the Gubba tribe in the north and the Gubba in Gara Burji.
Towards the end of 16th Century, triggered off by a misunderstanding between the Burji and the Boran, from Liban the Burji moved in a westerly direction and settled at a place called Abuno which they have strong sentiments about. From Abuno the Burji moved to Barguda. Just before their final settlement on the mountain, the Burji separated into two groups at a place called Mure. One group composed of the Qarado, Yabbi and Umma clans came in through Wollo, while the Gamayo, Karama, Annabura and Woteish came through Sara.
Although the Burji fleeing from Menelik moved into Kenya as early as 1896 the first Burji on record is Hille Ume who was found in Moyale in about 1906 by Philip Zaphiro, the first British frontier agent in Moyale. Hille Ume went back home for a period of time but returned to Kenya during the years of the Great war accompanied by Nawe Gubbe. These two, then, were the first Burji in Kenya according to available records.
But the Burji were farmers, not herders, so they couldn’t move around. Being practical people, they accepted Ethiopian rule. Under the gabbar system, they were partitioned out to work for the northern settlers. Their crops
were drained by the north.Then the Burji began to leave. Not back and forth across the border like the herders, but permanently moving southward into Kenya, reaching Marsabit.
Another historic contribution of the Burji to Kenya is naming of Marsabit town after a Burji farmer named Marsa. Who according to www.wikipidea.com moved to Marsabit after being encouraged by the British administrators. The name is loosely translated as Marsas Home from Amharic (official language spoken in Ethiopia also understood to the Burji then) sentence Marsa bet. To date Burji people pronounce the name as Marsa-bet.
According to Marsabit District Annual report, Burji and the Konso are the first to permanently settle in Marsabit around an area called Karatina & Majengo Mpya after moving from Boma due to the draught of 1928. This is so because the other tribes who were in area at the time were all pastoralists and could not settle permanently.
Although the Burji fleeing from Menelik moved into Kenya as early as 1896 the first Burji on record is Hille Ume who was found in Moyale in about 1906 by Philip Zaphiro, the first British frontier agent in Moyale. Hille Ume went back home for a period of time but returned to Kenya during the years of the Great war accompanied by Nawe Gubbe. These two, then, were the first Burji in Kenya according to available records.
Majority of the Burji are Sunni Muslims while the remaining are either Christians or traditionalist.
Courtesy of Joshua Project

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