Kenya Prehistory and History

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At the sites of Kanapoi and Allia Bay some remains of Australopithecus have been found (between 2 and 3 million years ago; Australopithecus anamensis). The genus Paranthropus (1.5-1.9 million years ago), with a much more robust chewing apparatus than that of Australopithecus, is present on the shores of Lake Turkana, where (Koobi Fora) remains of Homo have also been found habilis or, according to B. Wood, of Homo rudolfensis. In Nariokotome, the reconstruction of a skeleton allowed to identify the Homo ergaster species(1.9 million years ago), which is associated with a more evolved lithic industry, the Acheulean, which lasted until about 100,000 years ago. Between 400.00 and 200.000 years ago it is also stated in Kenya Homo rhodesiensis (sites of Olorgesailie, Kariandusi). The industry is characterized by double-sided and hachereaux (type of hatchets) and by small tools (scrapers, polyhedral spheroids, etc.).


According to, the coastal strip of Kenya was related to the Arabs and the Persians (from the 8th century), then to the Portuguese, who in 1505 conquered Mombasa and in 1509 founded the Province of Ethiopia, with Melinda as its capital. In the 17th century. the sultan of Zanzibar extended his dominion on the coast of Benadir, Kenya and Tanganyika. In 1890, following the European penetration in Africa, Great Britain extended its protectorate over the entire territory, which was organized as a colony and protectorate of British East Africa (since 1920, Cologne and Protectorate of Kenya, under a single resident governor in Nairobi). The subdivision of the territory into lands for Africans, lands for Europeans and white highlands , lands of the Crown, led to a growing hostility of the indigenous element, especially Kikuyu, against the English. This widespread discontent was channeled into the Kenya African Union (dissolved in 1941), headed by J. Kenyatta . Although the British had provided for the establishment of a ministry with the participation of the black element, part of the Kikuyu (and above all the religious sect of the Mau Mau) broke into open armed revolt, to which the British responded with an initial harshness, which later resulted in the concession of self-government. In the elections of 1963 the KANU (Kenya African National Union) party, in favor of a policy of centralism, won the majority, against the KADU (Kenya African Democratic Union), which was inclined to federalism. Prime Minister was Kenyatta, who in 1964 – when the country, which had gained independence on 12 December 1963, proclaimed itself a republic (within the Commonwealth) – became president. The policy of the independent Kenya was characterized from the beginning in a moderate and centralistic sense, with a foreign policy with a pro-Western tendency. This provoked the birth of a ‘radical’ opposition around O. Odinga who in 1966 formed the KPU (Kenya People’s Union), a mainly Luo-based party, which was hit by government repression, opening the way to one-party system. In those same years, relations between ethnic groups worsened and the prevalence of the Kikuyu was questioned; in a climate of tension the minister was assassinated T. Mboya (1969) and political leader JM Kariuki.

On Kenyatta’s death (in 1978) D. Arap Moi was elected president which during the 1980s consolidated its power by having the National Assembly approve a series of constitutional changes, strengthening the presidential prerogatives with respect to Parliament and the judiciary. At the same time, a reform of the electoral system was launched that accentuated the control exercised over public life by KANU, making it clear the vote in the primary consultations to select the candidates in the elections. The discontent aroused by the new system favored the emergence of conflicts within the ruling party itself, increasingly under the control of the ruling group. The political crisis that erupted in the late 1980s was aggravated by violent clashes between the different ethnic groups in the country. The call for profound reforms, advanced by the opposition organized above all in the FORD (Forum for the Restoration of Democracy), it was also endorsed by Kenya’s international creditors, who suspended aid to the country, subordinating them to a rapid democratization of political structures. The multi-party reform of the Constitution, approved at the end of 1991, did not, however, improve the internal situation. Although from 1992 it had formally assumed the characteristics of a democracy, the country was still governed through a system in which old personalism and patronage were predominant. Protests against Moi’s policy intensified, but the government responded to them with increasing harshness, so much so as to attract complaints and condemnations from international organizations for the protection of human rights. In the presidential and legislative elections of December 1997 it was once again the weakness of the opposition, which presented itself to the test divided into nine different parties with an overwhelmingly ethnic prevalence, that kept KANU the majority and determined Moi’s fifth confirmation as president. Among the candidates of his opponents, both in 1992 and in 1997 was presented, as head of the Democratic Party founded after the introduction of multi-partyism, M. Kibaki, former minister of Kenyatta and for ten years, from 1978 to 1988, deputy of the his successor. Presenting himself as a candidate in the 2003 elections, Kibaki was finally able to prevail thanks to the support of a united opposition in the same front, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). In 2005 Kibaki proposed a new Constitution which was rejected by a popular referendum, a sign of a marked loss of support that manifested itself dramatically in the aftermath of the 2007 elections, when his re-election triggered a spiral of violence, which caused dozens of victims. An agreement for the formation of a national unity government between Kibaki and his first opponent R. Odinga ended the civil war in 2008.

In 2010 a new Constitution was approved by Parliament and by a popular referendum which maintains the presidential system, but provides for the devolution of some powers and prerogatives at the local level, the creation of an upper house of Parliament in order to monitor the management of affairs. local authorities, the introduction of a Charter of Rights and the establishment of a Supreme Court.

As already happened for the consultations of 2007, the presidential elections held in 2013 were also held in a climate of strong social tension: serious inconveniences were recorded in the phase of counting the votes due to the malfunctioning of the electronic data transmission systems, and repeated Accusations of fraud were launched by Prime Minister Odinga, leader of the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (CORD), who was narrowly beaten by the Deputy Prime Minister and candidate of the Jubilee Coalition U. Kenyatta (50.7% of the votes). The same result was recorded in the consultations of 2017, to which the outgoing president imposed himself (54.3%) on Odinga (44.7%), being reconfirmed in the office, but the following month the Constitutional Court accepted the appeal of the challenger, who had reported serious irregularities, and arranged a new electoral round; held in October, it confirmed the result of the previous one, with Kenyatta obtaining 98% of the votes also thanks to the boycott of the vote put in place by the opposition led by Odinga.

On the international level, the problems encountered in relations with Western governments, which also did not seem to have found alternative interlocutors to Moi, and with international organizations (IMF and World Bank reopened in 2000 the credit lines interrupted in 1997, to suspend them again in 2001 due to the failure to implement the promised anti-corruption measures), was reflected in the maintenance of good relations with Tanzania and an improvement in those with Uganda, marked by a decade of serious difficulties (the three countries in 1994 gave birth to a standing commission to increase cooperation in the area).

Kenya Prehistory

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