Kenya: History

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Kenya History

In the centuries preceding colonisation, the Swahili coast of Kenya was part of the East African region which traded with the Arab world and India especially for ivory and slaves. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to explore the region of current day Kenya, Vasco da Gama having visited Mombasa in 1498. Their presence served the purpose of controlling trade within the Indian Ocean to secure the sea routes linking Europe to Asia.

Most historians however, 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 East African Company in 1888. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the governors of British East Africa and German East Africa agreed a truce in an attempt to keep the young colonies out of direct hostilities.

During the early part of the 20th Century, the interior central highlands were settled by British and other Europeans farming tea and coffee. In 1951 Sir Horace Hector Hearne became Chief Justice and on 5 February 1952 he escorted Princess Elizabeth to a state dinner at the Treetops Hotel, the same night that King George VI died. From 1952 to 1959 Kenya was under a state of emergency from the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule.

The first elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957, and it was the Kenya African National Union of Jomo Kenyatta that formed a government shortly before Kenya became independent on 12 December 1963. In 1964 Kenyatta became Kenya’s first President. At Kenyatta’s death in 1978, Daniel arap Moi became President. In democratic multi party elections in 1992 and 1997 Daniel arap Moi won re-election, but in 2002 Moi was constitutionally banned from running and Mwai Kibaki was elected President.