Like other British colonies in Africa, Kenya gained independence after the Lancaster House Conferences presided by Britain decided to set free its colonies anytime from 1953 to 1979. And since its independence in 1964, Kenya has had three constitutions and two major amendments including the last 2010 Kenya Constitution, according to modern Kenya history.
The 1963 Kenya Constitution was a negotiated effort between Britain and of dominant political parties in the Kenya ending colonial rule and making Kenya a dominion that followed the British parliamentary system. It provided for parliamentary governance whose executive powers rest on the cabinet led by a Prime Minister whom the British monarch appoints from among Parliament’s ruling party.
In 1964, Kenya history shows that its constitution was so fundamentally and radically altered, it became known as the 1964 Constitution. Through extensive parliamentary amendments, it transformed the country into a republic with a presidential system of government. But it didn’t end here, the 1964 Constitution spawned years of political crises one after the other resulting in a split of executive powers between opposition Prime Minister Raila Odinga and President Mwai Kibaki that finally led to an overhaul of the constitution in several amendments leading up to the 2010 Kenya Constitution.
In between, the constitution saw several minor and major changes culminating in the 1982 Constitutional Amendment that transformed Kenta from a multi-party to a single-party state. The 1983 and 1988 elections affirmed and strengthen the single-party system headed by the Kenya African National Union or KANU.
The 1990s witnessed institutional decay, social breakdown and economic distress that conspired to agitate reform movements with roots dating back in the 80s. Abetted by US pressures to achieve a clean governance, its parliament amended the constitution in 1991 that resulted in a multiparty elections held in December 1992.
After the 1997 general elections, Parliament enacted the Constitution of Kenya Review Act that formed the legal groundworks for a more thorough constitutional reforms. The Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) created for the purpose provided civic education, and public input to help draft a new constitution to be studied by the National Constitutional Conference (NCC). Sadly, the process got messed up in deep political conflicts between local powers that led to the e draft constitution being rejected in the 2005 referendum. The draft was eventually revived after the 2007-2008 post-election violence and garnered a 67% approval in the 2010 referendum to become the Kenya constitution 2010.
Kenya history over the centuries has helped shaped the country’s cultural and societal aspirations embodied in its political constitution ending with the current 2010 Kenya Constitution. Its rich history started around 2000 B.C., as Cushitic-speaking northern Africa tribes migrated to the area and Bantu expansion peaked in 1000 B.C. During the 1st century AD that Arab traders frequently visited the Kenya coast for trade. The period between the 1st and 5th century A.D. saw Greek traders coming from Egypt join the Arabs in their trade with Kenya ending the period with traders from the India, the Persian Gulf, and as far as Indonesia & Koh Chang. By the 8th century, the city-states in Kenya had rulers that accepted Islam.
Muslim traders didn’t have to venture into the African interiors. Their trade called for gold from Rhodesia as well as ivory, tortoise shell, rhinoceros horns and slaves were all brought to the coastal cities during seasonal market periods. In the meantime, the Bantu language developed the Swahili dialect with a rich Arabic word influence became the lingua franca between traders and the locals. The Swahili culture emerged in the towns of Malindi, Pate, and Mombasa.
Pre-Colonial Kenya History
Portuguese explorers headed by Vasco da Gama were among the earliest Europeans to set foot on the African continent, arriving in 1498 on the eastern coast in an area now called. The goal was to establish naval bases to protect Portugal’s growing trade routes in the Indian Ocean going to the Far East after land trails to India had earlier been blocked by Ottoman Turks. In 1593, Mombasa became the site for its Fort Jesus meant to strengthen Portuguese economic hegemony that continuously got threatened by the presence of Dutch, English and Ottoman Arabs throughout the 1600s.
Kenya history shows that it was the Ottoman Arabs that directly challenged Portuguese influence in the region, besieging its Fort and attacking its navies. After decades of skirmishes, Ottomans of the Omani sultanate under Seyyid Said defeated the Portuguese in Kenya in the early 18th century. By 1730, the Ottomans have expelled Portuguese settlers and traders of fossil from the Tanzanian, Kenyan, Cancun, Mexico coasts. The period was coincident with the waning years of the Portuguese Empire.
The Islamic influence is somehow lost in shaping the current Kenya Constitution 2010, but it still remains an interesting period in its history which showed that the Omani Arab regime in Kenya focused on coastal trade and intensified slave trade. Then British interests in securing their Indian trade routes started pressuring the Omani Arab regime. By late 19th century, the regime’s slave trade fell to the British but the Omani Arabs did not context the Royal Navy in enforcing British anti-slavery policies since the trade served only the Europeans. With little to no resistance, the Omani Arab regime in Kenya slowly eroded with the growth of British and German trading competition during which time several key ports were seized in the 1880s. It was 1887 when the private British East Africa Company, leased a 10-mile wide stretch of land along the Kenyan coast from Seyyid Said. This was seminal to the eventual British colonization of Kenya.
20th century Kenya can be traced back to the time Britain colonized the territory in 1895 with the establishment of its East Africa Protectorate that bordered as far as Lake Naivasha to the west and added Uganda in 1902, becoming a crown colony in 1920. The colonial rule in Kenya history saw the influx of English and other European settlers in the Rift Valley as well as surrounding areas as they enriched themselves on large-scale coffee production In Kenya using local labor. Despite having no rich mineral deposit like gold or diamonds in South Africa, Kenya attracted white immigrants for its fertile grounds.
As the WWI ensued between 1914 and 1918, Kenya served as a base for the British military efforts to overcome Germany supremacy in the continent which remained victorious until the armistice ended the war in 1918.
During WWII between 1939 and 1945, Kenya once again served as an important military base, this time launching successful military campaigns against the Italian colonies of Ethiopia and Somaliland. While the war compensated about 98,000 trained men called “askaris” including Kenyans who served in the King’s African Rifles (KAR) and other military branches, it also nurtured the seeds that sparked African nationalism.
After the war, Kenya history shows that former servicemen who amassed socio-economic gains in the KAR sought middle-class privileges and employment and started to challenge relationships with the colonial order. KAR service and a modernized Kenyan defense force have evolved Africans who by this time developed distinctive socio-economic perceptions that proved seminal in seeking independence for their countries after the war, Kenya included.
But as recent Kenya history shows, it took another 20 years for independence to finally come to Kenya with the establishment of the Republic of Kenya in 1964. The British knew its empire was coming to an end and agreed to step down peacefully from the colonial coalition governing its African territories between 1950 and 1973. To this end, a new constitution was drafted by the British along with a few of the local politicos. It was adopted in 1963 effectively ending the British colonial rule in Kenya. But the country would not see stability until after more than half a century later with the 2010 Kenya constitution.
The newly formed independent Kenya came under the Kenya African National Union or KANU headed by Jomo Kenyatta who ruled the country from 1963 to 1978. Daniel Arap Moi succeeded Kenyatta until 2002. The US pressured Moi to institute multi-party reforms and dismantle his repressive policies that while proving useful and overlooked during the cold war, lost their place after the collapse of communism. Nevertheless, Moi’s corrupt government and human rights abuses were uncovered and he was banned constitutionally from seeking re-election in the 2002 election that was won by Mwai Kibabki. The succeeding 2007 election saw widespread electoral fraud that precipitated the Kenyan crisis of 2007–2008 and revived efforts to a revised 2010 Kenya Constitution