Kenya has been a hub for various migrations
for millennia. In the meeting between Arabs and Bantu
people, the so-called Swahili culture developed, which
already in the Middle Ages conducted long-distance
trade. When Europeans colonized Africa in the 19th
century, Kenya came under British control. White
settlers seized the most fertile soils, causing great
dissatisfaction. It became the breeding ground for the
mau-mau uprising in the 1950s. The rebellion was
brutally defeated by the British but by extension it
paved the way for Kenya's independence in 1963.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Kenya, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Several million-year-old finds of human beings have
been made in present-day Kenya, including at Lake
Turkana. Later people migrated in, partly from the Nile
Valley to the north and partly from the west. During the
first millennium of our era, the Stone Age culture was
replaced by an Iron Age culture with advanced terraced
farms and stone houses, when influential Bantu people
from the West crowded the hunter and gatherer people who
lived in the area.
In the 7th century, Arabs began to colonize the
coastal area, from Somalia in the north to Mozambique in
the south. The traders of Swahili culture had contact
with Persia, India and China. From the interior of the
country, African traders brought with them ivory and
slaves, which they exchanged for fabrics, metals,
ceramics and salt. The language of Swahili spread along
the trade routes, and in its tracks also followed Islam.
The trading power of the Swahili cities was divided
by the Portuguese, who in the 16th century established a
trade route to India. The Portuguese brought with them
new cultural plants such as maize, cassava and tobacco
that they collected in America.
In the interior of Kenya there were no great
kingdoms. The population depended mainly on agriculture
and livestock, with extensive trade between the
different peoples. New ethnic groups immigrated to the
area, including the Luo people who came from an area in
present-day Uganda at the end of the 16th century.
The Sultanate of Oman on the Arabian Peninsula, which
had ambitions to form its own empire, expelled the
Portuguese at the end of the 17th century. Much of the
18th century and the beginning of the 19th century were
characterized by conflicts with the Omani and mutual
struggle between the cities along the coast. By the
middle of the 19th century, trade routes changed. The
caravans searched from the coast and into the country.
Gradually, the British pushed away the Omani.
Kenya becomes part of the UK
When the European superpowers divided the African
continent between them at the Berlin Conference of
1884-1885, Britain was allocated the area that would
become Kenya. Kenya became a British protectorate in
1895 and the same year the railway to Uganda began to be
built. Much of the workforce for the railway
construction was sourced from India.
To secure their support, the British gave special
benefits to certain African leaders, and different
groups played out against each other. In 1902, white
settlers were encouraged to relocate to the fertile
highlands and the indigenous population was expelled.
Africans were referred to less fertile areas.
However, the settlers had difficulty finding labor.
By imposing a series of taxes, the authorities forced
Africans to take payroll work on the white farms.
During the First World War, settlers strengthened
their grip on local authorities and decision-making.
Discontent grew among the indigenous population and in
the early 1920s several political organizations were
formed for blacks.
By 1920, Kenya had become a crown colony. Among the
white settlers there were strong demands to break away
from the UK and gain self-government within the British
Commonwealth, like Australia and Canada.
In 1944, Kenya's African Union (KAU)
was formed with Jomo Kenyatta as its leader. KAU's
members consisted of an educated elite, several people
groups included, but the organization was dominated by
kikuyer. One of KAU's demands appeared particularly
controversial: that blacks should have access to land in
When the peaceful struggle to hear this failed,
tensions within KAU grew. The dissatisfaction increased
and led to the so-called mau-mau uprising in 1952, with
armed actions against white settlers. In October of that
year, the British issued an emergency permit and
launched a counter-offensive. KAU leaders, including
Kenyatta, were imprisoned, and 90,000 blacks were
detained in camps. Political organizations were banned.
Instead, union leaders such as Tom Mboya and Oginga
Odinga, both from the Luo people, played an important
role in the ongoing struggle. In 1956, the colonial
authorities had regained control of the country.
The data on how many lives that were required in the
fighting in 1952–1956 are falling apart. It is clear,
however, that it involved tens of thousands of Africans,
mostly kikuyas, and at most a few hundred whites. The
British won a military victory. However, support for
colonialism had been lost even at home.
The state of emergency was lifted in 1960. In the
same year, KAU was reorganized into Kenya's
African National Union (Kanu)
and demanded land reform and independence for Kenya. The
party had its strongest support among the Kikuyer and
the Luo. The rival Kenya Democratic Union
(Kadu) worked for a federal solution
that would guarantee smaller political groups political
In the first general elections in 1961, Kanu won, but
the party refused to form government before Kenyatta was
released. Later that year he was released and resumed
leadership of the party. After the 1963 election,
Kenyatta became prime minister while gaining internal
The ICC names six suspects
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague names six people
suspected of crimes against humanity after the 2007 elections: Uhuru Kenyatta,
Henry Kosgey, William Ruto, Joshua arap Sang, Francis Kirimi Muthaura and
Mohammed Hussein Ali (see further ICC trials after the 2007 election).
Ministers are turned off
Education Minister William Ruto is suspended from office due to suspicions
that he has swindled a state company. According to the new constitution, a
corruption-suspected minister must be suspended while a judicial process is in
progress. A week later, Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula is also suspended
because of corruption suspicions.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission begins its work
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) that was decided upon in
connection with the February 2008 settlement begins its work. The Commission is
tasked with investigating historical injustices and human rights crimes
committed since independence in 1963, with the aim of creating reconciliation
and national unity.
Criticism against census
When the results of the 2009 census are published, criticism is directed at
also reporting ethnic belonging, because the issue is so loaded.
Voters approve new constitution
In a referendum, voters may decide on the draft constitution: Two-thirds vote
in favor of the new constitution, which will limit the president's power and
give the regions greater influence.
Clear sign for new constitution
Parliament approves a proposal for a new constitution.
ICC investigates election violence
The International Criminal Court (ICC) opens an investigation into crimes
against humanity in connection with the outbreak of violence after the December
2007 elections. The ICC has concluded that Kenya does not succeed in bringing
those responsible to justice on their own.
Corruption suspicions against government parties
The unifying government is cracking down on President Kibaki's cancellation
of Prime Minister Raila Odinga's decision to shut down agriculture and education
ministers suspected of corruption. Accusations of corruption hail between the
parties; both government camps are suspected of involvement in corruption