KENYA’S PATH TO ITS INDEPENDENCE

KENYA'S PATH TO ITS INDEPENDENCE

In the African continent, more specifically at the west coast right under the Equator line, in an area of 569,140 square kilometer of land, lies the Republic of Kenya, an independent sovereign country since 1963. It forms boundaries with Somalia to the east, Ethiopia to the north, South Sudan to the north-west, Uganda to the west, and Tanzania to the south. Its former capital, Mombasa, is a famous tourist destination because of its beach and natural beautiful landscape. Nairobi, the capital since 1905, with more than 3 million people, is one of the 47 counties that form the Republic of Kenya. The official language is English, Swahili and indigenous language. The country is also formed by 52 tribes, which are mainly from three main ones, the Bantu, Niloti and Cushiti. The Cushiti are majority Muslim with Arab influence. The Niloti are descendants from the Nile River region. The Bantu is the biggest major tribe and the one who fought for the independence of Kenya, which begins with the British Empire during the late 19th century.

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During the rush to claim territories by the European powers in the late 19th century, a peace treaty between German and British government agreed upon the dominance of the north of Mount Kilimanjaro, from the coast until the lake Victoria and the region today known as Uganda, to the British, and the south, known today as Tanzania, to the Germans. It was drawn a straight line of which still up to date dividing both Kenya and Tanzania. However, due to the focus of the British monarchy on acquiring more land in different areas of Africa and the world, the administration of the recent conquered land was left to the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC), a commercial association already installed there in an agreement with the Sultan of Zanzibar, the sovereign of the area until the independence of Kenya, involved in the trade of goods and agriculture. IBEAC was then also responsible for taxes, justice, treaties, or act as govern of the area after all. The company went bankrupt in 1894, thus having the British government as a full responsible of the area from this date onwards, dissolving IBEAC and naming the area as East Africa Protectorate, also known as British East Africa. With little bloodshed but not without a few troubles with the local tribes, the settlement of foreigners, named by local of Mzungo, increased. The capital was transferred from Mombasa to Nairobi in 1905 and was officially constituted as the Colony of Kenya in 1920.

The name of the country is after the highest mountain in the region and the second highest mount in Africa, Mount Kenya. It was stipulated in 1920 when the East Africa Protectorate was turned into a colony and renamed Kenya. However, the way the mount earned its name is rather interesting. In Kamba language, one of the tribes who inhabited the region, mount means «Kiima» and ostrich means «Kiinyaa». Due to the prehistoric volcanic eruptions from the now extinct Mount Kenya as well as its high height, the Kamba people assimilated its shape with an ostrich because of the black volcanic rocks and white snow on its peak, calling it then «Kiima Kiinyaa». When translated in the late 19th century, it became Mount Kenya, which is actually a misunderstanding of the Kamba meaning for ostrich.

mt kenyaostrich

In the period of the Colony of Kenya, particularly during the World War II, many Kenyans fought with the British, known as askaris, name based on the KAR service – King’s African Rifles. When the war was over, Kenyans fighters, mostly Kikuyus, looking for employment and privileges, realised they were again being segregated and not receiving the same rights as white British who fought the war. For those who came back from the war, now poverty and famine were their reality. Moreover, the Colony Authority wanted to modernise Kenya and to do so it was necessary to develop its infrastructure, thus the need of man force and funds. In order to do that, lands and rights of the population were taken, forcing them to work cheaper, exacerbating the segregation of white and local people and creating more poverty and famine amongst locals. A movement known today as Mau Mau, which has many controversial stories, begun to fight for expelling white people from Kenyan land. Apparently, the Mau Mau fighter preferred to be referred as Kenya Land and Freedom Army (KLFA) but adopted the name of the movement to go against colonial propaganda to diminish international legitimacy of the movement. Today, most Kenyans affirm that the name came from Swahili «Mzungo Aende Ulaya, Mwafrika Apate Uhuru», which means «white people go back to your land, let the African be free».

In 1952, when the Queen Elizabeth II arose to throne, Britain declared a state of Emergency in Kenya, stating that the revolutionaries were killing British settlers. So, camps were formed in order to convert convicted Mau Mau fighters into «honest» citizens. It is estimated that about 80.000 men were captured, mainly from Kikuyo lands, and forced into labour, were many died from beating. It was also convenient as they worked as free labour for the British infrastructure developing plan of the area, including the today’s airport and main roads. Ironically, it was just after the time when the British fought against the German Nazis and its concentration camps. There is a slightly controversial story stating that those revolutionaries were peacefully trying to form an independent country and no British were killed. The Mau Mau people initially did not expect the military intervention as well as a war against the British, but the propaganda and the military intervention of 1952 forced them to fight. Although the story may be controversial, during the emergency period the Mau Mau began fighting for the independency of the country, killing people who would not swear the oath or ally with British.

mau mau

The Mau Mau people were defeated in 1956 with the death of its leader Dedan Kimathi. But the legacy left led to the Kenyan independence in 1963, mainly because of the fear of the possibility of the British government to have to continue using extreme force to control its colony and thus bringing international attention, but also due to the high costs of maintain their colony. Jomo Kenyatta, president of the KANU party, the Kenya African National Union, who was sentenced to 7 years imprisonment from 1953 until 1960 on charges of being one of the leaders of the Mau Mau´s, became the first president of the Republic of Kenya in 1963.

The Kenyan flag of 1963 until today is then based on the colours of the KANU´s flag. It is a three stripped flag with each strip coloured black, red and green and two small white stripes in between them. In its middle it has a warrior shield and two crossed spears. The colour black of the flag represents the indigenous black population who has always inhabited the area. The red colour symbolises the blood shed during the fight for independence. The Green, though, means the beautiful and fertile landscape and the natural wealth of the country. The small white stripes in between them stands for peace and unity whilst the warrior shield from the Maasai tribe, who are the tribe who still keeping its pastoral and warrior traditions up to day, and the two crossed spears, symbolises the defence of freedom.

flag

Nowadays, Kenya has a mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law. A new constitution was drawn in 2010 during Kibaki´s leadership, which, after voted through a referendum and passed by a wide margin, eliminated the position of a Prime Minister and diminishes the power of the president. The current president is Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of the first Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta. Kenya was recently ranked as the 6th country to invest your money, particularly in infrastructure. In addition, the country was the one which developed the mobile banking system, M-Pesa, which Bill Gates stated as the revolution on the banking system which the developed world will adopt soon. M-Pesa stands for Mobile Pesa – money in Swahili – and begun in 2005 after years of people transferring their credits of their phones to one another in order to pay small bills.

mpesauhuru

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