Kenya Old History

By | January 2, 2023

Kenya is an independent nation in Eastern Africa. With the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya 2020 population is estimated at 53,771,307 according to countryaah. 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. For Kenya political system, please check cancermatters.

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 the highlands.

Mau-Mau uprising

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 influence.

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 self-government.



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 scandals.

Kenya Old History