This latter stone age technology carried on until the arrival of East Africa’s first food producers who were Cushitic pastoralists migrating from Ethiopia, and Bantu farmers emerging from the equatorial forests of the Congo Basin. Even before the time of Christ, the Kenya Coast, particularly Mombasa and Malindi were thriving centres of trade. It was then we assume that the Swahili language was established as a hybrid of Arabic and the local vernacular. Ptolemy was the authority on the geography of Africa until the Middle Ages. It was he who spoke of the true source of the Nile and the Mountains of the Moon seventeen centuries before they were officially discovered. There are few records of Greeks and Arabs trading with this east coast although the Arab Christians continued to settle and trade in and around Malindi and Mombasa. It was with the emergence of the Prophet Mohammed that the immigrants flooded in, fleeing south from Islamic political and religious dissension of the time. The Arabs settled in Mogadiscio, Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu.
The traditional mud and coral houses made way for buildings of architectural merit. The people were well dressed and agriculture flourished. In the 8th and 9th centuries the Hegira Arabs began trading with an empire extending, from the South of France through the Mediterranean and Red Sea as far as India and China. Such distances were made possible by the lateen sail which enables vessels to sail into and across the wind. This same sail is still in use today on the dhow of the coast. Times were relatively peaceful in this part of Africa for five or six centuries until the arrival of the Portuguese.
The ports were thriving from trade with the large sailing dhows, and the slaves were in plentiful supply to carry out the physical labour. But in 1498 Vasco da Gama, sent by Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’ to round the Cape and find the sea route to India, arrived at Mombasa to be met with hostility and had his anchor ropes cut by the locals. Da Gama retreated to Malindi where he was welcomed by the Sultan, and after many days of entertainment and festivities the Portuguese ships left restocked with meat and vegetables, along with a pilot who was to show them the route to India. Whilst the relationship between the Portuguese and Malindi continued for almost two hundred years, the other ports of the cost suffered many attacks due to their unfriendliness to the Europeans. Mombasa was plundered in 1500, 1505, 1528, and in 1593 the Portuguese began constructing Fort Jesus overlooking Mombasa Harbour.
The Portuguese spread along the coastline demanding the payment of levies and punishing severely any retaliation. The soldiers suffered and gradually died from malaria and other diseases and finally in 1696 the Arabs and allies began a siege of Fort Jesus and in 1720 the defeated Portuguese left the Kenya coast for good.
The Iman of Oman was then ruler of the coast along with his appointed governors from the important families of the area. The Governors quarreled amongst themselves, and the people suffered and trade dwindled and disappeared. It was only with the arrival of a new Omani ruler Sayyid Said in the early 19th century that the coast began to recover its wealth again. Seyyid transferred his court from Omani to Zanzibar and began to lay out the clove plantations which still today bring considerable wealth to the island.
The coast began to prosper once a gain and within a few years the East African coast became tin acknowledged dominion of the Sultan. At this time the German. British and American merchants began establishing themselves, and slave trails were run up through the interior as far as Lake Victoria. It wasn’t until Seyyid’s death in 1856 that France, Italy and Germany began to show interest in colonization of the coast. In 1886 an administrative and trading concession was granted to the ‘British East Africa Association’ who by 1895 had gone bankrupt. So the British Government acquired the company’s assets for 200,000 Sterling Pound and took over what is now Kenya as ‘British East Africa’. Meanwhile in 1882 in the interior of the country the Germans attempt to colonize East Africa was led by Gustav Fischer who reached Like Naivasha with his well armed force. However they were ambushed in a gorge (Hell’s Gate) by the Maasai, and Fischer lost the battle and was forced to retreat back to the coast. The tall obelisk of basalt rock around which the fight took place still carries his name, ‘Fischer’s Column’.
By 1883 it was a Scot, Joseph Thomson, who was the only willing experienced African hand to approach the Maasai. With his 143 men, they reluctantly made their way as far as the north of Kilimanjaro. Here they tried a peaceful approach with the Maasai but even after three days and ten loads of supplies it seemed that the Maasai were preparing to take revenge. So they returned to the coast where Thomson began refitting for yet another more confident approach into Maasailand. He accompanied an Arab caravan as far as Kilimanjaro and then headed north toward Lake Victoria. He was harassed on more than one occasion by the Moran, but made himself a reputation among the Maasai as a wizard by removing his false teeth and frothing at the mouth with the help of Eno fruit salts. Finally in December 1883 he reached Lake Victoria and redrew the map of Eastern Africa, adding more water surfaces than there were.
He explored Mount Elgon in the northwest, renamed the Satima range (the “Aberdares” due to the resemblance to back home, and mapped the country north of Lake Baringo. But here he fell to a severe attack of dysentery and was carried by litter to Mombasa, arriving May 1884. Then James Hannitigton, an Anglican Bishop left in 1895 to start a diocese in Uganda. On his way he found a lake that Thomson had missed just below Baringo, later named Hannington and today Bogoria. He continued on to the Nile where he was killed thus ending the Catholic Bishop’s mission. In 1886 a 700 strong force was set up by the wealth Austro – Hungarian Count Samuel Teleki Von Szek, to penetrate the Kikuyu lands and further north to Lake Turkana then called Embasso Narok (black lake) by the Maasai.
They left the Coast in January 1887 and headed across the Taru Desert to Kilimanjaro, and by April had arrived at the Ngong Hills. His encounter with the Kikuyu was peaceful one and after much trading of gifts, the Kikuyu were prepared to protect Teleki within Kikuyu land. They continued through the Aberdares to Mount Kenya where the party split for a while with Teleki climbing Mount Kenya and his biographer Von Holinel going off to map the northern Laikipia shoulder of Mount Kenya and to follow the Uaso Nyiro (the “Brown river”) into Samburu country in the north. The safari continued from there to Lake Baringo and on to Lake Turkana. Then there were two Americans who surveyed the Tana River and the northern commiphora bushland, completing the reconnaissance of the main land structure of Kenya. Now it was for the British to continue their colonial process they had began in 1888. In 1896 construction of the railway out of Mombasa began, reaching Nairobi in 1999, and finally steaming into Port Florence (Kisumu) on Lake Victoria in 1901. The original purpose of the railroad was strategic, to get a permanent line of communication into Uganda ahead of the Germans who were coming from the south. So the scheme went ahead in 1896 with the import of 32,000 coolie labourers from the Punjab area in India. In all, the single track railroad covered 935 km (581 miles.) and cost the British tax-payer Sterling Pounds 9.500per mile!
Now the commerce began moving from Zanzibar to Mombasa with its railway terminus and ports. Steamships replaced sailing vessels from Europe although dhows remained for the Arabian and lndian trade routes. However soon the traders realised that their future lay in Nairobi, and eventually the Government moved along with them. In 1902 there was a daily paper in Mombasa. Electricity came in 1908 along with the motor car, and the official currency was the Indian Rupee. When the British Crown took over in 1895 the natives were restless, and detachments of the British Army in India were bi-ought over to help persuade the various tribes to accept British administration. Only the Maasai came to the protectorate of their own accord. Their population had dropped dramatically due to plagues of rinderpest and small- pox, and they were having difficulties dealing with the raids of the Kikuyu. So he protectorate helped them with cattle, and the Moran gradually replenished their tribes in reprisal raids against the Kikuyu. By the end of 1895 the British had decided the Maasai were a menace after they massacred half a caravan of 1. 100 men after some of the caravans crew paid too much attention to the Moran’s girlfriends.
The first farm settlers moved into the Aberadares with the cool climate and fertile valleys whilst the Asians were barred from owing land in the area, and the Kikuyu were either retained as labour or asked to move themselves to a reserve on the slopes of the range. Then came the 1914-1918 war in East Africa which saw about 3,000 settlers ride out after the Germans. As a consequence of the war the British were assigned to govern the larger part of Tanganyika. at the same time offering estates in the highlands to veterans of the European campaign in what was called (lie “Soldier Settlement Scheme”. By 1920 the while population was around 9,000 when the country was designated the “Colony of Kenya”, but most of this population were disillusioned with their objective of a white man’s Kenya. At this time the Africans were moving in, making the leap from the African bush to the European town with its complex lifestyle and cash economy. The Asians established themselves with a near monopoly in the sectors of trade, light industry and semiprofessional services. Government policies on land, labour and distribution of services favoured the European minority at the expense of the African majority.
By 1928, 26.420 square kilometres (10,200 Square miles) of the country’s most fertile soil was being ploughed, mostly by the European immigrants. In 1924 the Kikuyu Central Association was formed with Jomo Kenyatta as its secretary, and Kenyatta headed off to London to present the Africans case. The Africans gradually became more and more organized to confront the colonial government, forming “social organizations” within their tribes as well as intertribal. They presented their claim to an inquiry into disposition of Kenyan land but basic decision went against them saying that all African claim s to the “While Highlands” were disallowed.
In 1940 the KCA and other organisations were banned, however with the appointment of Eluid Mathu as the first African member of the Legislative Council a much stronger political association emerged, the Kenya African Study Union. So when Kenyatta returned in 1946 from Britain he was given leadership of this party which now changed its name to the Kenya African Union. The KAU grew in strength and stepped up confrontations with the government, including strikes in factories and at the docks. They pushed for increased education and greater rights for the Africans but none of their demands were met. Political fervour increased and supportive oathing spread among tribes like Maasai. Luo, Kamba and Kipsigi, until a wave of destruction began on settlers property and murders of chiefs and other Africans loyal to Government.
This was the beginning of the Mau Mau rebellion. In October 1952 a state of emergency was declared. and Kenyatta and eighty two other nationalists were arrested and detained. Military forces were flown into Kenya and war was declared on the Mau Mau. Kenyatta was sentenced to seven years in jail and soon afterwards the KAU was banned. The government recruited 20,000 Kikuyu “Home Guards” which together with the Christians opposition to the Mau Mau turned the rebellion into civil war. Then a multi-racial Council of Ministries was formed with the advice of the Colonial Secretary, which infuriated the settlers forcing them to divide into two separate political parties.
In June 1955 the government allowed the Africans to form political parties at district levels, but most of the settlers were far from accepting the Africans as partners in the government, whilst most of the Africans no longer cared what the Europeans thought. The following years saw another Constitution giving Africans another eight seats in the Legislative Council. In 1960 the state of emergency was lifted, but by then 13,577 were killed, 100 of who were Europeans. and 3,595 wounded. It was now clear that a settler dominated government could no longer be sure of maintaining law and order, and the British Government called the “Lancaster House Conference” on the future of the colony. The outcome was the principle of majority rule and ultimate independence for Kenya as an African – not a while man’s country. Haggling now continued between the Kenya African National Union, the ruling party and the Kenya African Democratic Union, in opposing group who had considerable support from the settlers.
Then Kenyatta was released in August 1961 to become the leader of KANU, and pushed the Colonial Office for two years until KADU and KANU were able to fix the date for the end of Colonial rule.
On December 12, 1963, the black, red and green ensign of the new Republic of Kenya was raised.