The History of Kenya referat



The History of Kenya

by J.G. and S.P.





The Kenyan people had always been humiliated by several oppressors.

The first non-African settlers were the Arabs who arrived on the East-African coast in the 7th century. At first they were attracted by the possibility of trading with animal skin, ivory, and agricultural products, but later on they left their home countries due to the uprising unrest of the Islamic culture and made East-Africa their new home. The Arabs intermarried among the Bantu tribes and a new language was born – Swahili. Until the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century, life in East-Africa was in blossom. The Swahili civilization grew. Coastal towns were built up out of stone and quickly developed into wealthy city-states that were ruled by sultans.

Then, in the 15th century, the first European settlers arrived. The Portuguese were the first, but the British, the Indians and the Pakistani were soon to follow because of explorations, colonization, and missionary work. The Portuguese were the reason for the decline of the Swahili reign.

Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, got to Malindi (a coastal town) on the 14th of April, 1498. The 200 years of the Portuguese reign was established by his arrival. Lured by the wealth and beauty of the East-African coast, more and more settlers came and plundered the city-states.

In 1505, Francisco d’Almeida conquered Mombasa in a brutal and bloody battle. The neighboring city, Malindi, didn’t interfere and even welcomed the Portuguese because of their motto: ’The enemies of Mombasa are the friends of Malindi.’

Under the Portuguese rule, the economy went downhill. The trade with Arabia stopped and trade with Europe was established instead.

The most important base for the Portuguese was Mombasa and soon ‘Ford Jesus’ was built there. A large amount of rebellions were suppressed unscrupulously. These rebellions combined with the epidemics and supply problems weakened the Portuguese. In 1698, ‘Ford Jesus’ was destroyed and the Oman reign over the Kenyan coast established. But the situation of the native Africans didn’t change – they were still oppressed. After the Oman had regained influence, the Portuguese left the country in 1720s.

In 1828, Zanzibar was turned into the capital city and domestic trade became the domain. Slavery became more and more important especially as tribes started fighting each other and then selling the inferior tribe. That way Zanzibar was turned into the center of slavery trade and grew rich. When the Europeans found out about that they were shocked and demanded the end of slavery. The British even brought an anti-slavery message to the sultan and established a consulate at his court. In 1847, the sultan agreed to ban slavery, and in 1873, it finally became official but slavery remained a problem for the next couple of years.

The mid-19th century was called ‘The Golden Age of Exploration’. Europeans explored and mapped the interior of Kenya. The knowledge about Kenya was the base for the upcoming colonization of the 20th century.

In 1887, a British association received concessionary rights to the Kenyan coast from the sultan of Zanzibar. The association was given a royal charter as the ‘Imperial British East-African Company’, but its financial difficulties led to its takeover by the British government which established the ‘East-African Protectorate’ in 1895. Because of the colonization more and more Europeans immigrated to Kenya and expelled the Natives from certain regions (these regions are called ‘White Highland’ nowadays). Another humiliation was the so called ‘Kipande-system’ – all of the Natives had to carry a sign of identification which was called ‘Kipande’ with them.

In 1907, the administration was moved from Zanzibar to Nairobi. 13 years later, the interior of Kenya was renamed ‘Kenya Colony’ while the coastal strip remained the ‘Protectorate of Kenya’.

From 1920-1940, European settlers controlled the government and did most of the farming. The Indians were lower-level government employees. The Africans were subsistence farmers or grew cash-crops. During this time period, the Africans began protesting due to their inferior status.



In spite of the humiliation of the Africans, the Europeans couldn’t fulfil their dream of a ‘White Kenya’. The British rule declared that Kenya was an African country and that the African interests had to be respected. But the reality was different.

From 1932-1938, more and more anti-colonial movements came up that fought for the African rights. The call for independence (‘Uhuru’) didn’t subside anymore. One of the most influential leaders was Jomo Kenyatta.

In 1944, the first African, Eluid Mathu, became a member of the legislative chamber. He formed he first political group called ‘Kenya African Union (KAU)’ in 1946. The president was Jomo Kenyatta.

In 1952, the Mau-Mau-Emergency took place. This was a complex revolt against the British rule and an attempt to re-establish land rights and ways of governance. It was led by the Kikuyu. On the 20th of October, the British declared state of emergency and accused the KAU of being involved in the Mau-Mau-Movement. Jomo Kenyatta and many others were imprisoned. More than 10.000 Mau-Mau rebels died whereas only 95 Europeans were killed in the battles.

In 1956, a change took place. The British were now willing to negotiate with the Africans. The parties knew that it was important to generate a declaration of independence. The ‘Littleton Plan’ came into being; there were still racist elements in it but the Africans were now eligible to become members of the House of Commons. One of the first African representatives was Daniel Arap Moi, who became Kenya’s president later.

In April 1960, the state of emergency was declared to be over. The same years, the negotiations about the independence of Kenya began and the ‘Kenya African National Union (KANU)’ was formed.

In May 1963, the KANU won the first free elections and Jomo Kenyatta became the first president. Kenya gained sovereignty but the budget of defense and the foreign policy remained in British hands. In December, Kenya finally won the struggle for independence.

The 1960s were shaped by disputes among ethnic groups, economic growth, and Europeans and Asians leaving the country.

During the early period of independence, it came to boundary disputes between Somalia and Kenya which led to sporadic fights. Territorial disputes with Uganda and Tanzania led to a decline of trade as those countries closed their borders for Kenyan products.

On August 12th, 1978, Jomo Kenyatta died and Daniel Arap Moi became the new president. He promoted the Africanization of industry but the economic conditions worsened anyway.

In 1982, Moi forbade every other party in Kenya except for the KANU. But nine years later, an amendment was passed that legalized multiparty democracy. Moi was re-elected president two more time -- in 1993 and in 1997. After Moi’s retirement, Kibaki was elected president.


In spite of the problems, Kenya is politically and economically one of the most stable countries of the ‘Black Continent’. Social disparities are still present today -- they cannot be compared to the racial problems of South Africa -- but a strict segregation of the Africans and Indians exists.

The heritage of past centuries, the rich wildlife and the astonishing landscape turn Kenya into a fascinating country after all.










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