Baluch Community in Mombasa.

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“…I am a Baluch warrior, never afraid of anyone. Ever ready to fight for the rights of everyone…”, reads a Baluch Exhibition inscription at Fort Jesus. Baluch warriors came as ‘soldiers of fortune’ over 3 centuries ago, their lineage is still very present.

The Baluch are often acknowledged for having formed the earliest special forces unit of the Oman military. Likely because of their immigrant status in Oman, the services they probably best offered were mercenary duties. They gained prominence during the Y’arubi dynasty of Oman. After the Y’arubi dynasty expelled the Portuguese from Muscat in 1650 and unified the country, they shifted focus to East Africa to outwrestle the Portuguese from strategic assets, Mombasa key among them. This came after a Mombasa emissaries’ plea for help from Muscat in 1661.

The story then became one of fascinating espionage. Amir Jamadar (military officer rank, Kiswahili: Jemadari) Shahdad Chotah was sent to Mombasa by the Imam (the Y’arubi rulers used the title Imam) of Oman in 1662 to gather as much information as he could about the Portuguese. This effectively made Amir Jamadar Shahdad Chotah the first recorded Baluch to set foot in Mombasa. The Mombasa emissaries who had asked for help from Muscat tried the best they could to give him the cover he needed by helping him pose as a businessman but somehow he stood out.

He was apprehended by the Portuguese, who themselves had become increasingly guarded and suspicious in their stations everywhere after being deposed of their rule in Muscat. He was held in Fort Jesus for a while, as they tried to get him to admit his true nature of businesss. Unbeknownst to them, they offered Shahdad Chotah greater insight on the Fort from the inside. They released him after the questioning failed to yield any espionage. He went back to Muscat and returned to the Swahili coast in 1664 leading an army of Omani and Baluch soldiers.

The mission resulted in the surrender of Portuguese’ strategic assets such as Lamu and laid the ground for the siege of Fort Jesus a few decades later. The Baluch warriors were in service over the next two centuries in the politics between Oman and rulers of the Swahili coast. When winds of change blew over rule to the British, Baluch soldiers of fortune services (especially at the Fort) were no longer required. The British made provisions for them to settle around Mombasa and are believed to have given the name Makadara to the popular Mombasa area.

Thanks to the Baluch community for great documentation of their history. You can find more insight to the Baluch community in Kenya, here

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