Kenya: Colonization



Louisa Frye
World History- Hjelmgren

5/7/09, pd. 4

Kenya: Colonialism

As a whole, Africa has had a tough past.  The race for Europeans to colonize Africa began in the 1400’s.  This time may be hard to look back at for many native Africans.  Their ancestors were kicked out of their own kingdom by new coming egocentric Europeans.  One country that went through such a brutal time was the East African’s Kenya.  Kenya was dominated and overpowered quickly by the domineering Europeans.  The Europeans had no intentions to treat the natives fairly; they had little power and money compared to what the wealthy Europeans had (Ochieng).  Kenya was once a powerful thriving country in Africa with many opportunities (Ochieng).  But once the Europeans came, they destroyed that existing power and made Kenya into much less than it was (Middleton, 157).

Kenya had many resources to offer.  Its fertile highlands attracted many European farmers (Middleton, 158).  The British, the Europeans who wanted Kenya, wanted it mainly because it gave way to Uganda, which was a strategic source of the Nile River (Middleton, 158).  Uganda was important for the control of the Suez Canal and Egypt, so having authority over Kenya made it all the easier to control the state of Uganda, which led to much more possibilities for the British (Middleton, 157).  And that is why Britain felt the urge to take over and control the land of Kenya (Middleton, 157).  British established control in Kenya through the Imperial British East Africa Company; the administrator of all of British East Africa.  Furthermore, Kenya was established a British protectorate in 1895 giving Britain complete control and protection over the state of Kenya.  The colonizing of this state began with completely reconstructing the indigenous ways of life. The British appointed new chiefs and got rid of the old traditional leaders (Ochieng).  These new chiefs had complete control over Kenya and possessed administrative, executive, and judicial powers.

When comparing Britain’s size and power to Kenya’s, one might understand how Kenya quickly became to be in the hands of Britain.  Although Kenya resisted the settlement of the British, Britain easily won control over all of Kenya in 1885 (Ochieng).  British settlers fenced off much of the land on which natives had lived off of.  This conduct forced many natives to move into the dry areas around the Rift Valley.  To establish a clear difference of rights between the British and the Natives, the new British authorities of Kenya divided this country up into independent districts separating the British from the Natives.  The British took land from the Kenyan’s and created large white plantations for themselves.  In some cases, the British also forced the Africans to live and work on their plantations (Middleton, 159).  Eventually, the ill treatment of the British towards the Africans got to the point where may Africans could not take it anymore.  An organized peasant uprising called the MAU MAU occurred in Kenya from 1952 to 1960.  Followers of different revolt groups formed this rebellion.  The Kenyans finally achieved their Independence in 1963.     

Every individual who lived in Kenya was affected by the act of colonialism (Ochieng).  Whether it may have been that they were positively affected, or negatively, everyone had their own story to tell.  One such individual was Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, a native Kenyan who felt the need to express his feelings on the issue of European Colonialism.  Thiong’o wrote eight short stories, two novels, and many plays all concerning the issue of colonialism.  Thiong’o had very strong feelings on this matter and he expressed them publicly.  However, one of his plays didn’t turn out for the best.  This play, called “I Will Marry When I Want” was about all of the inequalities and injustices in the society of Kenya.  These included the limited freedom Africans were given such as not having the right to free speech or free action (Thiong’o).  Accused of standing up for and fighting for those ordinary Kenyans, Thiong’o was arrested and imprisoned in December 31, 1977.  When Thiong’o was released a year later, his record of imprisonment in jail followed him throughout life.  He was declined by a number of colleges and jobs just because he stood up for what many ordinary people of Kenya and he believed in (Thinog’o).

Kenya has gone through many tough and brutal times and has achieved its right to be its own country (Middleton, 158).  However, it is not what it was hundreds of years ago; a thriving African country with many opportunities.  Although it may have gained its independence from the British, Kenya’s past is something many will never be able to forget.  It is unknown where Kenya may be today if the British had not interfered and ruined all of Kenya’s resources, and more importantly, many Kenyan faiths and beliefs.  European colonization delayed Kenya’s independent growth as a country (Ochieng).  Although Kenya has developed a significant amount since it was granted its freedom in 1963, there will always be that feeling of loss to what Kenya could have been.  Britain had not only damaged Kenya’s past, but also its present and future.



Middleton, John. “Colonialism in Africa.” Africa: An Encyclopedia for Students. 4

vols. Charles Scribbners sons: New York, 2006.

·   From this source I had retrieved a lot of information concerning how colonialism in Africa started.  It explains how the Europeans took over parts of Africa and why they wanted to control the continent.  It also goes a little into why the British specifically had a desire for taking control of Kenya.


Ochieng, Zachary. “Kenya’s Long Road to Independence.” News From Africa.

2007.  30. Jan. 2009


·  From this specific site I gathered a lot of information concerning what Britain did when it successfully conquered and had complete control over all of Kenya.  It also gave me some information concerning how the British treated the native people who lived in Kenya when the arrived.  It helped me realize how inconsiderate the British were towards the Kenyans.


Thiong’o Wa, Ngugi. “Ngugi Wa Thiong’o: A Profile of a Literary and Social

Activist.” NGUGI WA THIONG’O. <>.

·   From this source I gathered a lot of information concerning Thiong’o’s life and the impact British colonization had on his life.  This website helped me understand how much pressure their may have been in this hard time.  One would feel the need to express their thoughts on such a serious and personal matter, however, if they did they were risking the possibility of going to jail or possibly they were risking their life.


Last Updated by Louisa Frye on May 22, 2009