About Kenya History

Initial Settlers

The first major European presence in East Africa was the Portuguese who arrived in 1498. There was resistance to the Portuguese presence, with many rebellions against them. The Portuguese were finally kicked out of the Coastal towns.

Colonial Rule

A British trading company was set up to administer Kenya. The company could not contain Kenya’s hostile communities. The British declared the country a colony with a formal British administration.

Pathway to Independence

Between 1944 and 1960 African political activity and pressure intensified. Several political associations formed to express African grievances.

In 1944, the first countrywide nationalist party, Kenya African Union (KAU) was established. The slow pace of political and economic change led to the breakdown of law and order in the early 1950s. Governor Sir Everlyn Baring declared a state of emergency following the outbreak of the Mau Mau rebellion. Kenyans’ demands for independence intensified, forcing the colonial government to propose constitutional changes.

Under the 1954 constitution, Africans were allowed to directly elect representatives to the Legislative Council. A mass organization was formed to mobilize the people for the final assault on colonialism. In 1960, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) was registered as a mass political society.

In 1963, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was elected president of an independent Kenya.

Source: About Kenya History
©Kenya Embassy Washington, D.C.

Back to top