The Somali Bantu represent a traditionally subjugated and oppressed cultural group in Africa. They have been victims of persecution, prejudice, oppression, and violence. The Somali Bantu were barred from political participation and land ownership, were prevented from intermarrying, had limited access to formal education and were relegated to service and labor intensive positions regardless of their training. Due to this many Somali Bantu are illiterate and have very limited job skills.
After the outbreak of civil war in Somalia in 1991 their plight worsened. Without the protection of the Somalian clan structure, the Somali Bantu became victims of increased violence against their communities, including the massive confiscation of properties, the burning of villages, murder and sexual assault. Many fled to Kenya, living in refugee camps for 12 years or more where violence against women and discrimination persisted.
In 1999, the US Government approved a plan for 12,000 Somali Bantu to be resettled in over 50 cities in 38 states. The community in Chittenden County began arriving in 2003 as a part of this resettlement plan and has grown to over 600 individuals over the past six years.