History of Kenya

History of Kenya

The history of Kenya as a land occupied by sentient humans extends for millions of years, even though the history of Kenya as an independent state is relatively short.

Kenyan prehistory

Recent finds near Lake Turkana indicate that hominids like Australopithecus anamensis lived in the area which is now Kenya from around 4.1 million years ago. More recently, discoveries in the Tugen Hills dated to approximately 6 million years ago precipitated the naming of a new species,the Orrorin tugenensis.

Early Kenyan civilizations

Cushitic-speaking people from northern Africa moved into the area that is now Kenya beginning around 2000 BC. Arab traders began frequenting the Kenya coast around the 1st century AD. Kenya's proximity to the Arabian Peninsula invited colonization, and Arab and Persian settlements sprouted along the coast by the 8th century. During the first millennium AD, Nilotic and Bantu peoples moved into the region, and the latter now comprise three-quarters of Kenya's population.

Swahili, a Bantu language with many Arabic loan words, developed as a "lingua franca" for trade between the different peoples. Arab dominance on the coast was eclipsed in the 16th century by the arrival of the Portuguese, whose domination gave way in turn to that of Oman in 1698. The United Kingdom established its influence in the 19th century. A mean of establishing this influence was through the missionaires: the first Christian mission was founded on August 25, 1846, by Dr. Ludwig Krapf, a German and missionary of the Church Missionary Society of England, who established himself among the Mijikenda on the coast. He later translated the Bible to Swahili.

Colonial history

The colonial history of Kenya dates from the establishment of Imperial Germany's protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar's coastal possessions in 1885, followed by the arrival of Sir William Mackinnon's British East Africa Company (BEAC) in 1888, after the company had received a royal charter and concessionary rights to the Kenya coast from the Sultan of Zanzibar for a 50-year period. Incipient imperial rivalry was forestalled when Germany handed its coastal holdings to the British Empire in 1890, in exchange for German control over the coast of Tanganyika. The colonial takeover met occasionally with some strong local resistance: Waiyaki Wa Henya, a Kikuyu chief who ruled Dagoretti who had signed a treaty with Frederick Lugard of the BEAC, having been subject to considerable harassment, burnt down Lugard's fort in 1890. Waiyaki was abducted two years later by the British and killed.

Following severe financial difficulties of the British East Africa Company, the British government on July 1, 1895 established direct rule through the East African Protectorate, subsequently opening (1902) the fertile highlands to white settlers. A key to the conquest of Kenya's interior was the construction, started in 1895, of a railroad from Mombasa to Kisumu, on Lake Victoria, completed in 1906. This was to be the first piece of the Uganda Railway.

In building the railway the British had to confront strong local opposition, especially from Koitalel Arap Samoei, a diviner and Nandi leader who prophesied that a black snake would tear through Nandi land spitting fire, which was seen later as the railway line. For ten years he fought against the builders of the railway line and train. Later, determined to continue the railway line, the British assassinated Samoei.

The settlers were partly allowed in 1907 a voice in government through the Legislative Council, a European organization to which some were appointed and others elected. But since most of the powers remained in the hands of the Governor, the settlers started lobbying to transform Kenya in a Crown Colony, which meant more powers for the settlers. They obtained this goal in 1920, making the Council more representative of European settlers; but Africans were excluded from direct political participation until 1944, when the first of them was admitted in the Council.

As a reaction of their exclusion from political representation, the Kikuyu people, the most subject to pressure by the settlers, founded in 1921 Kenya's first African political protest movement, the Young Kikuyu Association, led by Harry Thuku. This was to become the Kenya African Union (KAU), an African nationalist organization demanding access to white-owned land. In 1947 its presidency was given to Jomo Kenyatta.

From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule. African participation in the political process developed rapidly during the latter part of the period as British policymakers sought to isolate the insurgents and their supporters. The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957.

Independent Kenya

Despite British hopes of handing power to more "moderate" African rivals, it was the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta, a member of the large Kky tribe and former prisoner under the emergency, which formed a government shortly before Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963. A year later, Kenyatta became Kenya's first president on the establishment of a republic.

The minority party, the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), representing a coalition of small tribes that had feared dominance by larger ones, dissolved itself voluntarily in 1964 and former members joined KANU.

A small but significant leftist opposition party, the Kenya People's Union (KPU), was formed in 1966, led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former vice president and Luo elder. The KPU was banned and its leader detained after political unrest related to Kenyatta's visit to Nyanza Province. No new opposition parties were formed after 1969, and Kenya became a single party system under KANU.

At Kenyatta's death (August 22, 1978), Vice President Daniel arap Moi became interim President. On October 14, Moi became President formally after he was elected head of KANU and designated its sole nominee. In June 1982, the National Assembly amended the constitution, making Kenya officially a one-party state. On August 1 members of the Kenyan Air Force launched an attempted coup, which was quickly suppressed by Loyalist forces led by the Army, the General Service Unit (GSU) — paramilitary wing of the police — and later the regular police, but not without civilian casualties.

Multi-party politics

After local and foreign pressure, in December 1991, parliament repealed the one-party section of the constitution. Multiparty elections in December 1992, gave the President's KANU Party a majority of seats, and Moi was re-elected for another five-year term, although opposition parties won about 45% of the parliamentary seats. Kenyan democracy movement did scatter before the elections, which helped KANU to retain power unilaterally.

Further liberalisation in November 1997 allowed the expansion of political parties from 11 to 26. President Moi won re-election as President in the December 1997 elections, and his KANU Party narrowly retained its parliamentary majority.

Constitutionally barred from running in the December 2002 presidential elections, Moi unsuccessfully promoted Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's first President, as his successor. A rainbow coalition of opposition parties routed the ruling KANU party, and its leader, Moi's former vice-president Mwai Kibaki, was elected President by a large majority.

ee also

*Colonial Heads of Kenya
*Heads of Government of Kenya (12 December 1963 to 12 December 1964)
*Heads of State of Kenya (12 December 1964 to today)
*History of Nairobi

External links

* [http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2962.htm U.S. State department. Background Note: Kenya]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1024563.stm BBC News Country Report: Kenya]
* [http://www.historyofnations.net/africa/kenya.html History of Kenya]
* [http://www.ennex.com/~Marshall/sophics/Kenya.asp Another perspective on the history of Kenya]

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