- Download our Moving to Kenya Guide (PDF)
- Prehistoric evidence suggests that the region now known as Kenya has been inhabited by humans for millions of years.
- Hunter-gatherer communities, such as the Cushitic-speaking people, lived in the area around 10,000 BC.
- Bantu-speaking communities began migrating into Kenya from West Africa around 2000 BC, bringing agriculture and ironworking skills.
- From the 1st millennium AD, various Bantu kingdoms and city-states emerged in different parts of present-day Kenya, including the Kingdom of Mombasa and the Kingdom of Pate.
- Arab traders started establishing trade routes along the East African coast in the 1st century AD, leading to the development of Swahili culture and the growth of prosperous coastal city-states.
- As well as trading in gold, ivory and other goods, Arab traders also engaged in the capture, transportation, and sale of enslaved Africans, driven by demand for labour and concubines in Arab-dominated regions.
- The arrival of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 marked the beginning of European contact with Kenya. Portuguese influence in the coastal region increased, leading to the establishment of Fort Jesus in Mombasa in 1593.
- In the 17th century, the Omani Arabs overthrew the Portuguese and gained control over the coastal trade routes, establishing the Sultanate of Oman in Zanzibar. They continued to influence the region, engaging in trade and expanding their influence inland.
- From the late 18th century, several indigenous African communities, such as the Maasai, Kikuyu, and Luo, began to form larger political entities and engage in territorial disputes.
- The Maasai, known for their warrior culture, controlled a vast area of land in present-day Kenya and Tanzania.
European exploration and colonisation
- In the late 18th century, European explorers, primarily from Britain, started venturing into the interior of Kenya. They were motivated by the desire to find the source of the Nile and to exploit the region's resources.
- The British established a presence on the Kenyan coast in the late 19th century, with the signing of treaties with coastal leaders that gave them control over trade and administration.
- The British East Africa Company was formed in 1888 to oversee British interests in the region. It acquired a royal charter in 1889, leading to the establishment of the East Africa Protectorate.
- In 1895, the protectorate was renamed the East Africa Protectorate and came under direct British administration. The capital was established in Nairobi in 1899.
- British colonisation brought significant changes to Kenya, including the introduction of cash crops such as coffee and tea, the construction of railways, and the establishment of settler farms.
- The East African slave trade declined as a result of British naval patrols, treaties, and the spread of Christianity, which advocated for the abolition of slavery.
- Many indigenous communities resisted British rule, leading to sporadic conflicts and uprisings. One notable uprising was the Maasai resistance against British land seizure in the early 20th century.
- During World War I, Kenyan soldiers, known as the Carrier Corps, fought alongside the British forces in East Africa against German colonial forces.
- In 1920, Kenya became a British crown colony, administered directly by the British government.
- The colonial period was marked by racial segregation and discrimination, with the white settlers enjoying privileged status and access to land, while the African majority faced various forms of oppression.
- In the 1940s and 1950s, the nationalist movement gained momentum, led by figures like Jomo Kenyatta and the Mau Mau rebellion against British colonial rule. The Mau Mau uprising was a violent struggle for land and freedom, resulting in significant casualties and repression.
- Kenya achieved independence on December 12, 1963, with Jomo Kenyatta becoming the country's first Prime Minister. He later served as the first President of Kenya.
- Post-independence Kenya faced challenges such as tribal divisions, economic disparities, and political instability, which influenced the country's history in subsequent decades.
- In 1964, Kenya became a republic and Jomo Kenyatta continued to serve as the President.
- In the 1970s and 1980s, Kenya experienced political and economic turbulence, including widespread corruption and economic decline.
- Jomo Kenyatta passed away in 1978, and Daniel arap Moi succeeded him as the President.
- Moi's rule was characterized by authoritarianism, repression of dissent, and political instability.
- In the 1990s, Kenya underwent a period of political liberalization and multi-party democracy was reintroduced.
- In 2002, Moi's 24-year rule ended when Mwai Kibaki was elected as the President in a peaceful transition of power.
- Kibaki's presidency focused on economic reforms, infrastructure development, and the fight against corruption.
- However, his administration was also marred by allegations of corruption and failure to implement key reforms.
- In 2007, a disputed presidential election led to widespread violence and ethnic clashes, resulting in the loss of many lives and the displacement of thousands of people.
- Kibaki was re-elected amidst controversy, but a power-sharing agreement was later reached with the opposition leader Raila Odinga.
- The power-sharing government implemented constitutional reforms and initiated a process of national reconciliation.
- In 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Jomo Kenyatta, was elected as the President, becoming the youngest President in Kenya's history.
- Kenyatta's presidency has focused on infrastructure development, economic growth, and regional integration.
- However, his administration has also faced criticism for issues such as corruption, inequality, and human rights concerns.
- In 2017, Kenyatta was re-elected for a second term, but the opposition disputed the results, leading to political tensions and protests.
- Kenya has successfully established a diverse and dynamic economy but has continued to face challenges related to governance, corruption, poverty and ethnic divisions.
Are you an expat living in Kenya?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Kenya. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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