Early Kenya history
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.