Between 2500–3000 years ago, speakers of the original proto-Bantu language group began a millennia-long series of migrations eastward from their original homeland in the general Nigeria and Cameroon area of West Africa. This Bantu expansion first introduced Bantu peoples to central, southern and southeastern Africa, regions where they had previously been absent from.
The Bantus inhabiting Somalia are descended from Bantu groups that had settled in Southeast Africa after the initial expansion from Nigeria/Cameroon, and whose members were later captured and sold into the Arab slave trade.
Bantus are ethnically, physically, and culturally distinct from Somalis, and they have remained marginalized ever since their arrival in Somalia.
All in all, the number of Bantu inhabitants in Somalia before the civil war is thought to have been about 80,000 (1970 estimate), with most concentrated between the Juba and Shabelle rivers in the south. However, recent estimates place the figure as high as 900,000 persons.
The Indian Ocean slave trade was multi-directional and changed over time. To meet the demand for menial labor, Bantu slaves bought by Arab slave traders from southeastern Africa were sold in cumulatively large numbers over the centuries to customers in Egypt, Arabia, the Persian Gulf, India, the Far East, the Indian Ocean islands, Ethiopia and Somalia.