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A Brief History of Kenya

There are several traditional stories regarding the origin of the name “Kenya”. What is common is that the name originates from one of the highest mountains in Africa called Mount Kenya. One story has it that the Kamba ethnic group called the high mountain “Keenya”, meaning the place of snow, due to the snow at its peak. Another story is that the Kikuyu people called the mountain “Kiri-nyaga” or “Kere-nyaga”, meaning the mountain of white patches.
 
The British and other European visitors found the words, “Keenya, Kiri-nyaga or Kere-nyaga” too long or were un-able to pronounce the words correctly, hence opting to shorten them and later adopted the name “Kenya”. 

Kenya’s history pre-dates the stone and iron-ages. Archeological evidence has been unearthed to suggest that some 2 million years ago, man’s ancestors of the genus Homo habilis and Homo erectus roamed in an area around Lake Turkana. For more information follow this link www.museums.or.ke. The Hominid fossil finds in Kenya dating back to over 2 million years ago have earned Kenya the sobriquet “the Cradle of Mankind”.

Kenya's Inhabitants

Today’s Kenyan inhabitants are almost all immigrants whose ancestors reached the country less than 10 thousand years ago. The Cushites from the North were the first immigrants to arrive in Kenya, followed by the Nilotes who entered Kenya from the West of Lake Turkana and finally the Bantu who arrived from the South and West about 1000 A.D.

 
The first foreigners to arrive at the Kenyan coast were the Arabs who came during the third and fourth century amid strong resistance from the local inhabitants. The first Arab settlements were in Lamu and then spread southwards. They were later followed by the Portuguese. The Gedi Ruins Fort Jesus and Vasco da Gama Pillar are major monuments at the Kenyan coast dating back to that turbulent era of Kenya’s history.

Joseph Thomson (1858 – 1895), a Scottish Royal Geographic Society Geologist and explorer played an important part in the Scramble for Africa. Notably, Joseph Thomson was the first European to establish in 1883 a direct trade-route through the Maasai land from the Eastern coast of Africa to the Northern shores of Lake Victoria due in part to the demands from the British Empire traders for a route that would have avoided the fearsome Maasai people and the hostile Germans who were competing for trade in the area.

Following this success by Joseph Thomson he gave a sensational account of his experiences at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society in November 1884. Afterwards, during the Scramble for Africa by European countries, Kenya was declared a British Protectorate in 1895. It remained as such until 1920 when the land and space currently known as Kenya became the Kenya colony of the British Empire after years of being part of the British East Africa Protectorate.

The colonization process was met with resistance by the local people of Kenya. However, this resistance was countered with excessive force. Hence, most of Kenya's modern history is marked by rebellions against the British, with the first one being in 1890 and the last one, known as Mau Mau rebellion in 1952. The outbreak of the Mau Mau paved the way for constitutional reforms and development in the subsequent years.

 
By 1955, numerous political parties had been formed all over the country after the colonial Government yielded to the clamour for self governance. Elections were held in March 1957, after which racial barriers in the Government began to be lifted. By 1960, LEGCO had an African majority. In 1960, Kenya African National Union (KANU), which advocated for a unitary government was formed. In 1961, Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) which advocated a quasi-federal government (Majimbo) was also formed.
 
The first full franchise General Elections were held in May 1963 and KANU emerged the winner. Kenya gained independence on 12th December, 1963 after attaining self-governance six months earlier on 1st June, 1963, with Jomo Kenyatta as Prime Minister. One year later, on 12th December, 1964, Kenya became a Republic with Jomo Kenyatta as the Founding President.


A government with a complex Majimbo constitution which conceded much autonomy to the regions was formed thereafter. On the first anniversary of independence in 1964, Kenya became a Republic with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as the President. Following his death on August 22, 1978, Hon. Daniel Arap Moi assumed the Presidency in accordance with the Kenyan Constitution. He ruled Kenya for 25 years. Following the General Elections that were held in 2002, Hon. Mwai Kibaki, the third President of the Republic of Kenya took office on 30th December 2002.
 
Currently, Kenya is governed by a coalition government following the General Elections that were held in 2007. The current President Hon. Mwai Kibaki is on his final year of his second-five year term. The next General elections are scheduled to be held in March 2013.
 
Today, Kenya is one among the top of Africa’s most modern and developing countries. Kenya is a member of the international community of nations with membership to the United Nations, the Commonwealth Club of Nations, the African Union, Group of 77 & China, Non-Allied Movement, and a host of other Regional Economic Communities (RECs) recognized by the Africa Union, among others.

 
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