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Origin of name

Kenya is named after a mountain of the same name. The Kikuyu people who lived around present day Mt Kenya referred to it as Kirinyaga or Kerenyaga, meaning ‘mountain of whiteness’ because of its snow capped peak. Mt Kirinyaga which was the main landmark became synonymous with the territory the British later claimed as their colony. However, the name Kenya arose out of the inability of the British to pronounce Kirinyaga correctly.

Origin of the people

Fossil evidence shows that man’s prehistoric ancestors roamed Kenya as early as 4 million years ago. However, the first people to settle in Kenya were indeginous African communities who migrated from various parts of the continent. Cushitic people from Northern Africa moved into present day Kenya around 2000 BC. The Bantu arrived and settled at the Coast at around 200 AD. Later between the 10th-14th centuries Nilotic people from the North of Kenya, probably the Northern regions of modern Sudan, arrived and occupied the Rift Valley plains.

Early visitors

Arab traders started frequenting the Kenyan Coast in the first century A.D. By 700 A.D. Arab settlements had sprouted along the coastline giving way to intermarriages between the Bantu and Arabs. This formed the beginning of the Swahili culture and language we have in Kenya today. Then in 1498 Portuguese arrived and settled in Kenya’s coast ending the Arab dominance. It was during their stay at the coast that they built the famous Fort Jesus in Mombasa in 1593. The Portuguese lived in control of much of the coast until the late 1600s when the Imam of Oman defeated them, bringing the Coast under Islamic control. To ensure the Portuguese did not return, Sultan Seyyid Said of Oman moved his capital to Zanzibar and ruled the entire East African Coastline until the establishment of British rule.

Colonial Rule

During the 1884 Berlin Conference, the British acquired the land that is Kenya today. Under the name “British East African Protectorate“, Kenya was administered by the Imperial Brithish East African Company. On 1st July 1895, the British declared Kenya a Colony and Protectorate and posted the first Governor, Sir Arthur Hardinge, to establish a formal British administration. After 70 years of colonial rule, Kenya gained independence on December 12, 1963.

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