History of Kenya dating back to 2000 B.C

4 min


Ancient Kenya History dictates that early forms of man once roamed Kenya approximately 4 million years ago. These ancient life forms were probably some of same life forms that roamed Tanzania and other areas of East Africa.

Activity builds up in Kenya

At the wake of 2000 B.C, Cushitic people of Northern Africa moved into Kenya. Two millenniums later, around 200 A.D, the Bantu made an entry into Kenya and settled along Kenya’s coast. They were later followed several hundred years later (10th-14th century) by the Nilotic people, who occupied the Great Rift Valley plains.

Did you know?

  • Despite the Cushites’ early arrival into Kenya, they are still a minority group today.

Of the Arabs and the Portuguese

These two groups arguably contribute to some of the most defining moments of Kenyan history. It was a Game of Thrones, a battle for power, as these two groups were engaged in constant wrangles over leadership and power in the coast.


  • Came in earlier than the Portuguese (as early as 700 A.D)
  • Forged the Swahili culture and language. This was done through intermarriages with the Bantu along the coast.


  • They came in at the outset of 1500 A.D and immediately took power from the Arabs.
  • Built the illustrious Fort Jesus in 1593.

The Portuguese were later stamped out of power by the Imam of Omam at the fall of the 1600s. This reinstated Islamic control over the coast.

Kenya Colonial History

The colonial history of Kenya starts with the Berlin Conference of 1885 when European nations divided Africa among themselves. In 1894, the British government declared the East African Protectorate over Kenya and Uganda and, in 1920, the protectorate became a colony. The Kenya historical events timeline below highlights key events of the colonial period.

1944: Kenyan African Union (KAU) formed to campaign for independence.

1947: Jomo Kenyatta becomes KAU leader.

1947: The Mau Mau rebel movement is born.

1952: Mau Mau activities intensify. The colonial government declares a state of emergency. Kenyatta, Achieng Aneko and others are arrested.

1953: Kenyatta is sentenced to seven years imprisonment on charges of leading the Mau Mau.

1959: Kenyatta is released from prison.

1960: The state of emergency ends. Britain begins preparing Kenya for majority African rule. James Gichuru, Oginga Odinga and others form Kenya African National Union (KANU)

1963 June 1: Kenya achieves internal self-government (Madaraka).

1963 December 12: Kenya gains independence. Jomo Kenyatta becomes Prime Minister.

Post-Independence Kenya History

Kenya under President Jomo Kenyatta

On December 12, 1964, Kenya became a republic. Jomo Kenyatta was named Kenya’s first president, with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga as his vice-president. Odinga later had ideological differences with Kenyatta and, in 1966, he left KANU and formed the opposition party – Kenya People’s Union (KPU).

Kenyatta banned KPU and, in 1969, KANU became Kenya’s only political party. Kenyatta remained president of Kenya until his death on August 22, 1978.

Kenya under President Moi

Upon Kenyatta’s death, Vice-President Daniel Arap Moi became Kenya’s second president. In June 1982 parliament amended the Constitution, officially making Kenya a one-party state. This marked the start of the clamor for a “second liberation”.

In August 1982, a section of Kenya’s air force attempted to overthrow President Moi’s government. The army suppressed the coup attempt. Between 1982 and 1990, the suppression spread to the democratic space in Kenya. People who were believed to oppose the government were banned from KANU. Many were detained or exiled while others were tortured in the dreaded Nyayo House torture chambers.

The fight for the “second liberation” intensified culminating in the formation of Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) in 1991. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was one of the main leaders of FORD.

Multiparty Democracy is born

In 1992, parliament revoked the section of the Constitution that made Kenya a one-party state. In December of that year, Kenya held its first multi-party elections. Kenya’s President Moi won the elections, beginning his first five-year term under the new constitutional amendments. In the next multi-party elections, held in December 1997, Moi won his second and final five-year term.

In 2002, the main opposition parties united under one coalition – the NARC. NARC candidate Mwai Kibaki, who was backed by Presidential aspirant Raila Odinga, defeated Uhuru Kenyatta of KANU. This was the fall of KANU’s thirty-nine-year reign.

The NARC government dramatically reversed the negative economic growth and hardship once experienced in Kenya during President Moi’s tenure. However, in 2005, internal conflicts caused the NARC coalition to break up. A splinter group teamed with KANU to successfully campaign against a government-backed proposal for a new constitution. This splinter group became the Orange Democratic Movement of Kenya (ODM-K). ODM-K has since split into two parties – ODM-K and ODM.

Following the disputed December 27, 2007 elections, Kenya was thrown into turmoil. The country’s peace was compromised as Kenyans were not clear on who had won the elections.

The two main leaders at the time, Raila Odinga and the then president Mwai Kibaki, saved the situation through brokering a peace deal. This was facilitated through the National Reconciliation Accord. Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga were to share power equally through a grand-coalition government.

Kenya today

After a peaceful General Elections that took place in March 2013 and a landmark Supreme Court ruling that upheld Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential victory against his defeated rival Raila Odinga, Kenya has its first president elected under the new constitution, President Uhuru Kenyatta. He is mandated to rule Kenya for five years until the next election.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

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