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Fossils found in East Africa suggest that primates roamed the area more than 20 million years ago. Recent finds near Kenya's Lake Turkana indicate that hominids such as Homo habilis (1.8 and 2.5 million years ago) and Homo erectus (1.8 million to 350,000 years ago) are possible direct ancestors of modern Homo sapiens and lived in Kenya during the pleistocene . In 1984 one particular discovery made at Lake Turkana by famous paleanthropologist Richard Leakey and Kamoya Kimeu was the skeleton of a Turkana boy belonging to Homo erectus from 1.6 million years ago.

As a rare site of dinosaur fossils in Africa, two hundred Cretaceous dinosaur/ theropod and giant crocodile fossils were discovered in Kenya in 2004: from the Mesozoic Era (over 200 million years ago), the fossils were found in an excavation conducted by a team from the University of Utah and the National Museums of Kenya in July-August 2004 at Lokitaung Gorge , near Lake Turkana. [2]

Colonial history

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore Kenya, Vasco da Gama having visited Mombasa in 1498 . Portuguese rule centered mainly on the coastal strip ranging from Malindi to Mombasa. The Portuguese colonial presence in East Africa officially begins after 1505 , when flagships under the command of Dom Francisco de Almeida bombarded and plundered Kilwa , an island located in what is now southern Tanzania . Following this, the Portuguese sacked Mombasa following the refusal of the town's leadership to pay tribute. Attacks followed on Hoja (now known as Ungwana, located at the mouth of the Tana River ), Barawa, Angoche, Pate and other coastal towns until the western Indian Ocean was a safe haven for Portuguese commercial interests and tribute was paid to the Portuguese crown by all of the city-states along the East African coast. The Portuguese colonial presence in East Africa served two primary purposes: the extraction of tribute from coastal polities and the control of trade within the Indian Ocean through piracy. The first objective was only mildly successful by all accounts as local East African rulers rebelled against the Portuguese frequently. However, Portuguese naval vessels were very disruptive to commerce within the western Indian Ocean and were able to demand high tariffs on items transported through the sea due to their strategic control of ports and shipping lanes. The construction of Fort Jesus in Mombasa in 1593 was meant to solidify Portuguese hegemony in the region, but their influence was clipped by the British , Dutch and Omani Arab incursions into the region during the seventeenth century . The Omani Arabs posed the most direct challenge to Portuguese influence in East Africa and besieged Portuguese fortresses, openly attacked naval vessels and completely expelled the Portuguese from the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts by 1730 .

Omani Arab colonization of the Kenyan and Tanzanian coasts brought the once independent city-states under closer foreign scrutiny and domination than was experienced during the Portuguese period. Like their predecessors, the Omani Arabs were primarily able only to control the coastal areas, not the interior. However, the creation of clove plantations , intensification of the slave trade and relocation of the Omani capital to Zanzibar in 1839 by Seyyid Said had the effect of consolidating the Omani power in the region. Arab governance of all the major ports along the East African coast continued until British interests aimed particularly at ending the slave trade and creation of a wage-labor system began to put pressure on Omani rule. By the late nineteenth century , the slave trade on the open seas had been completely outlawed by the British and the Omani Arabs had little ability to resist the British navy's ability to enforce the directive. The Omani presence continued in Zanzibar and Pemba until the 1964 revolution , but the official Omani Arab presence in Kenya was checked by German and British seizure of key ports and creation of crucial trade alliances with influential local leaders in the 1880s . However, the Omani Arab legacy in East Africa is currently found through their numerous descendants found along the coast that can directly trace ancestry to Oman and are typically the wealthiest and most politically influential members of the Kenyan coastal community.

However, most historians consider that the colonial history of Kenya dates from the establishment of a German protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar 's coastal possessions in 1885 , followed by the arrival of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888 . Incipient imperial rivalry was forestalled when Germany handed its coastal holdings to Britain in 1890. This followed the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway passing through the country. Although this was also resisted by some tribes, notably the Nandi led by Orkoiyot Koitalel arap Samoei for ten years from 1895 to 1905 , these did not stop the British building the railway. It is believed that the Nandi were the first tribe to be put in a native reserve to stop them from disrupting the building of the railway.

At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 , the governors of British East Africa (as the Protectorate was generally known) and German East Africa agreed a truce in an attempt to keep the young colonies out of direct hostilities. However Lt Col Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck took command of the German Military forces, determined to tie down as many British resources as possible. Completely cut off from Germany by the British Navy , von Lettow conducted an effective guerrilla warfare campaign, living off the land, and captured British supplies, and remaining undefeated. He eventually surrendered in Zambia eleven days after the Armistice was signed in 1918 . To chase von Lettow the British deployed Indian Army troops from India and then needed large numbers of porters to overcome the formidable logistics of transporting supplies far into the interior by foot. The Carrier Corps was formed and ultimately mobilised over 400,000 Africans, contributing to their long term politicisation.

During the early part of the twentieth century , the interior central highlands were settled by British and other European farmers, who became wealthy farming coffee and tea . By the 1930s , approximately 30,000 white settlers lived in the area and were offered undue political powers because of their effects on the economy. The area was already home to over a million members of the Kikuyu tribe, most of whom had no land claims in European terms (but the land belonged to the ethnic group), and lived as itinerant farmers . To protect their interests, the settlers banned the growing of coffee, introduced a hut tax , and the landless were granted less and less land in exchange for their labour. A massive exodus to the cities ensued as their ability to provide a living from the land dwindled.

In 1951 , Sir Horace Hector Hearne became Chief Justice in Kenya (coming from Ceylon , where he had been Chief Justice and sat in the Supreme Court, Nairobi ). He held that position until 1954 when he became an Appeal Justice of the West African Court of Appeal . On the night of the death of George VI , 5 February 1952 , Hearne escorted the Princess Elizabeth , as she then was, to a state dinner at the Treetops Hotel , which is now a very popular tourist retreat. It was there that she "went up a princess and came down a Queen". She returned immediately to England , accompanied by Hearne.

From October 1952 to December 1959 , Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule. The governor requested and obtained British and African troops, including the King's African Rifles . In January 1953 , Major General Hinde was appointed as director of counter-insurgency operations. The situation did not improve for lack of intelligence, so General Sir George Erskine was appointed commander-in-chief of the colony's armed forces in May 1953 , with the personal backing of Winston Churchill . The capture of Waruhiu Itote (a.k.a. General China ) on 15 January 1954 and the subsequent interrogation led to a better understanding of the Mau Mau command structure. Operation Anvil opened on 24 April 1954 after weeks of planning by the army with the approval of the War Council. The operation effectively placed Nairobi under military siege, and the occupants were screened and the Mau Mau supporters moved to detention camps . May 1953 also saw the Home Guard officially recognized as a branch of the Security Forces. The Home Guard formed the core of the government's anti-Mau Mau strategy as it was composed of loyalist Africans, not foreign forces like the British Army and King's African Rifles . By the end of the emergency the Home Guard had killed no fewer than 4,686 Mau Mau, amounting to 42% of the total insurgents. The capture of Dedan Kimathi on 21 October 1956 in Nyeri signified the ultimate defeat of the Mau Mau and essentially ended the military offensive.

Post-colonial history

The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Despite British hopes of handing power to "moderate" African rivals, it was the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta , that formed a government shortly before Kenya became independent on 12 December 1963 . In 1963-64, the Kenyan army went into Northern Frontier District (NFD) which is a majority Somali province given to Kenya by the British. The people identified with their kin in Somalia and wanted the right of self-determination. As well, the Somali, as other Africans in Kenya, have suffered tremendously under British colonial rule and the authoritarian ways of the post-colonial government. The army committed atrocities in attempting silence Somali calls for secession. Thousands of men and boys were taken to air fields and were shot. Many Somali women were also raped by Kenyan army officers. Somali Kenyans have never forgotten those crimes as well as for some years of martial law. The region is the least developed in Kenya. It suffers from chronic drought, lack of services and Somalis still refuse to identify with the rest of the country. With time, some of them have moved to major cities and continue to live in mulsim enclaves of the cities. [ citation needed ]

In 1963, Kenyatta became Kenya's first president. At Kenyatta's death in 1978 , Daniel arap Moi became President. Daniel arap Moi retained the Presidency, being unopposed in elections held in 1979, 1983 ( snap elections ) and 1988, all of which were held under the single party(KANU) constitution. The 1983 elections were held a year early, and were a direct result of an abortive military coup attempt on August 1, 1982. The abortive coup was masterminded by a lowly ranked Airforce serviceman, Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka and was staged mainly by enlisted men in the Air Force. The attempt 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. This event led to the disbanding of the entire Airforce and a large number of its former members were either dismissed or court-martialled. A year 2006 a biography on Raila Odinga, the son of the first Vice President of Kenya Oginga Odinga indicates that he was one master-mind of the mutiny that was hugely designed and executed by a group Airforce junior officers mainly Luos(his) tribes outfit. The mutiny cost a major turn around in the history of post-independence Kenya with Daniel Arap Moi's regime recouping itself and becoming a tyrany nation. It saw the disbanding of the whole Airforce and the rise of Moi Airforce, the detention of Major Kariuki Mwagiru(the airforce chief) who claimed to have alerted the President on the rumored mutiny but Moi as the Commander-In-Chief had failed to issue orders on suppression in time. Kariuki was put in for 4 years. A number of other key persons in the academia and military were also detained including their lawyers. Among those detained were Dr. Willy Mutunga, a University of Nairobi Law Lecturer, a reknowned Kenyan Human Rights Lawyer of undisputable professional credibility. Others detained were attorney Wang'ondu Kariuki of February 18 Movement(dedicated to the day Dedan Kimathi, the freedom fighter) was executed by the British colonialists; Muriîthi Ihiga, a former Director of Intelligence whose personal investment differences with Moi led to his detention and consequent job loss. Others were Titus Adungosi, the University of Nairobi Students Organisation chairman who had been elected on the basis of his strong Christian inclinations but ended up with the airforce officers announcing on the Voice of Kenya radio that the University Students have supported the mutiny. He was not only detained with many other students but also died in prison in the early 90's. Some of those threatened by Moi's government sought assylum abroad and remained there until after 1992 and the onset of multi-partyism. It was a start of a major brain drain, economic decline, ethnic quota system, loss of free medical services, excessive public nepotism, unplanned government projects and the infamous Goldenberg scandel that almost brought Kenya to its knees.

The mutiny, the education sector and the loss of generations


By 1982, alot of young people born after the Mau Mau were able to go to school and build ambitions for Higher education because most of their parents knew it was one way towards good employment and the consequent economic returns that they themselves had missed. Unfortunately, by the time that Moi took over, the government retracted the KANU manifesto on free education. Students had to get loans repayable after graduation. This became an issue of confrontation between the university students and the government. The mutiny found a ready market in this community. Ironically, the military and the university students have never been good roommates or partners for that because the military together with the police has always been used as the tool of oppression and freedom of speech by politicians, whereas students saw themselves as the voice of the oppressed.

It is to be noted here that in 1992, mothers of political detaines staged a hunger strike in Nairobi(Kenya's capital) and Uhuru Park demanding the release of their children and this struggle went on for close to 11 months. They were supported by many people and politicians started to flock their Freedom Corner and it became not just a women struggle but an international campaign for Moi to release the detainees and also pave way for more freed om of expression. Irespective, the women were also repeatedly harassed and even taken back to their homes by the police. It is during this time that Raila Odinga, Koigi Wa Wamwere, George Anyona, Gitau, Thungu, councillor Karuiru Miano, Ngotho Wa Kariuki, Karimi Nduthu, Mîrûgî Kariuki, Kangethe Mungai, Arap Tirop, Rumba Kinuthia and others were released.

The election held in 1988 saw the advent of the mlolongo (queuing) system where voters were supposed to line up behind their favoured candidates instead of secret ballot. This was seen as the climax of a very undemocratic regime and it led to widespread agitation for constitutional reform. Several contentious clauses, including the one allowing only one political party were changed in the following years. In democratic, multiparty elections in 1992 and 1997, Daniel arap Moi won re-election through a widely denounced rigged elections. As Moi held onto power, the level of corruption in the country went up and became widely felt by the common person. Infrastructure maintenance was a bear minimum or none or sustandard. Poverty levels went up. Education and employment became the resource for the well connected despite Kenyans unmatched apetite for formal education. In 2002 , Moi was constitutionally barred from running, and Mwai Kibaki , running for the opposition coalition "National Rainbow Coalition" NARC , was elected President. The elections, judged free and fair by local and international observers, marked a turning point in Kenya's democratic evolution.


Main article: Politics of Kenya

Politics of Kenya takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic , whereby the President of Kenya is both head of state and head of government , and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly . The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Since independence, Kenya has maintained remarkable stability despite changes in its political system and crises in neighboring countries. Particularly since the re-emergence of multiparty democracy, Kenyans have enjoyed an increased degree of freedom.

A cross-party parliamentary reform initiative in the fall of 1997 revised some oppressive laws inherited from the colonial era that had been used to limit freedom of speech and assembly. This improved public freedoms and contributed to generally credible national elections in December 1997.

In December 2002, Kenyans held democratic and open elections, which were judged free and fair by international observers. The 2002 elections marked an important turning point in Kenya's democratic evolution in that power was transferred peacefully from the single party that had ruled the country since independence to a new coalition of parties

Under the presidency of Mwai Kibaki, the new ruling coalition promised to focus its efforts on generating economic growth, combating corruption, improving education, and rewriting its constitution. These promises have only been partially met, however, as the new government has been preoccupied with internal wrangling and power disputes. In November 2005, the Kenyan electorate resoundingly defeated a new draft constitution supported by Parliament and President Kibaki. Kibaki responded by dismissing his entire cabinet. Kibaki eventually appointed a new slate of faithful ministers.

The next general elections are set to be held in December 2007. President Kibaki is expected to rerun, but has not yet confirmed or denied it. Other opposition politicians who have announced that they will vie for the presidency include Kalonzo Musyoka, Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta.