East Africa is now composed of the countries of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The pioneering work of evangelizing in this region was launched by the Spirtans in the 19th Century. Earlier efforts by the Portuguese Augustinians to evangelize the eastern coast of Africa and particularly Mombasa which was a Portuguese garrison at the beginning of the 17th Century, ended in failure and bloodshed. At Mombasa, the local king, Chingulia Jerome who was a Christian, reverted to Islam, and killed the Christians. In August 1631, his men martyred more than 300 Christians known as the Mombasa martyrs because they refused to renounce their faith.
The Spiritan pioneers to evangelize East Africa were Frs. Antony Horner and Edward Bauer from Alsace, France. They arrived on Zanzibar Islands, off coast Tanzania mainland, in June 1863. Their main missionary work was the evangelization of the slaves. They bought slaves, liberated them, christened them and taught them useful trades in life. In March 1868, they moved to Bagamoyo which was by then a slave trade center. Another strategy of evangelization was to establish Christian villages which were established near the missions. With the abolition of slave trade, many Christians left the Christian villages.
When the Spiritan missionaries moved to the interior of East Africa, they concentrated on the strategy of establishing schools and hospitals as tools of evangelization. This strategy paid dividends especially in Kilimanjaro region in Tanzania and Central Kenya. The Spiritan strategy to evangelization became a blue print which was employed by missionaries of various Religious Congregations that did ministry in East Africa.
After the First World War, the French missionaries in East Africa, a majority of whom were from Alsace were forced to leave Tanzania by the British. For the British, the Alsaceans had a strong affinity to the Germans whom they had defeated in the War. The Irish, Dutch and American missionaries replaced the French missionaries. It was not the strategy of the Spiritan missionaries to recruit local members to join their ranks but rather they wanted to establish the local church with its clergy first. After consolidating the local church, the three groups of Spiritan missionaries decided to recruit members from the indigenous people.
Creation of the East African Province
The East African Foundation (EAF) was officially launched with the opening of the Novitiate at Usa River, Tanzania on January 10, 1973. A year later four novices were professed in the Congregation. From that time on, the EAF had a steady growth until it was raised to a status of a province in 1989. The EAP has had the following Provincials:
Fr. Dan Macha (1983-1990)
Fr. Augustine Shao (now Bishop of Zanzibar) (1990-1996)
Fr. Daniel Macha (1996-1999).
Fr. Gerard Nnamunga (1999-2002).
Fr. Evarist Shayo (2002-2008).
At the celebration of its silver jubilee in 1998, the East African Province (EAP) had 123 members of origin. The EAP had members working in Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry and South Africa. In line with the charism of the Congregation, thus to do first evangelization and to go to places where the Church finds it difficult to get laborers, within East Africa, EAP members are working among the Maasai in Tanzania and the Pokot in Kenya.
UNION OF CIRCUMSCRIPTIONS OF EASTERN AFRICA (UCEAF)
The rapid growth of the East African Province necessitated the restructuring of the Province along nationalistic lines to facilitate easier administration. In June 2007, the Superior General mandated the suppression of the East African Province, the Kenya District and the Ethiopia International Group and the creation of the Tanzania Province, Kenya Foundation, Uganda Foundation and Ethiopia Foundation, which took effect on October 2, 2008. This decision was endorsed by the last EAP Chapter in January 2008. The four circumscriptions will form the Union of Circumscriptions of Eastern Africa (UCEAF). They will be autonomous in administration and finance but will share the houses of formation except the postulancy program. By 2008, Tanzania had 118 members, Kenya 50 and Uganda 23.