Press Center | Freight Shipping Logistics News

The Kenyan nation is a result of colonial adventures. Perhaps without them, the map would look radically different from what we have.
It started with a scare — more or less.
The Kenyan nation is a result of colonial adventures. Perhaps without them, the map would look radically different from what we have.
It started with a scare — more or less.

In 1884, Carl Peters, a 24-year-old German historian, carried on a hammock, had crisscrossed east Africa armed with a revolver and forcing chiefs to append “signatures” into some pieces of paper that he carried.

Back in Berlin, these papers meant that the “chiefs” had ceded their territory to Germany, which was still reluctant to take colonies.

Thus, the papers were meant to force Germany’s Foreign Office to support Carl Peter’s venture, the same way William Mackinon’s Imperial British East Africa was supported.

For the British, who had laid grand schemes to build a Cape to Cairo Empire, this was a new distraction in between their dream.

They realised quickly that Peters, who returned with the treaties as he turned 28, wanted to stir trouble at home and force Germany to take over some territory in Africa via the fraudulent treaties he had signed.

The German Parliament (the Reich) was not prepared for this expansion and it was a surprise in February 1885, when Kaiser Wilhem I put some 140,000 square kilometres of land only known to Carl Peters as Deutsch-Ostafrica.

German Chancellor Otto von Bismark knew that Carl Peter’s claims were fraudulent. But in 1885, the Berlin Conference was called to divide Africa between the separate colonial powers who had already claimed stake.

The British founded the East African Protectorate that year. The Conference had set the rules that were to be followed on how to stake any claim.

The story of Kenya’s artificial boundaries thus appear to have started 127 years ago, in October 1886, when the German Chancellor Otto Von Bismark sent to London a senior official of his Foreign Affairs Ministry, Dr Friendrich Krauel, to discuss a few sticking points on the future of a German Protectorate in East Africa. The discussions between Krauel and UK’s Sir Percy Anderson were to inform the future of Kenya.

Bismark wanted to agree on what region would be recognised as British, what was for the Sultan of Zanzibar, and what was his. This is partly because what Carl Peters seemed to have acquired seemed not to make sense. But the other aim was to create new nations that could be colonised as one entity by Germany.

When Carl Peters returned to Germany, he had signed several treaties in East Africa and wanted his acquisitions approved via an imperial charter by Kaiser Wilheim I, and with endorsement of the Reich, the German Parliament.

Bismark had for his part approved the claims in Tanzania but while he had no problems with the extension toward Congo, he was at a loss at where the border between his claims in modern day Tanzania and the British East Africa (Kenya and Uganda) lay. By this time there were emerging disputes on the extent of claims by the Sultan.

It was this 1886 London meeting that agreed that the Sultan’s claims would only be restricted to the coastal strip from the mouth of Tana River to the delta of River Ruvuma in Tanzania.

Having determined the coast boundaries, the London talks now shifted on the border between British East Africa and German East Africa.

In order to avoid any conflict, they reached a compromise that the border was going to be a straight line running from Lake Victoria to the Indian Ocean to allow both sides to have access to the fresh water lake.

The fate of Kilimanjaro

In January 1886, discussions between Peters and some British traders, William Mackinnon, a Scottish shipping magnate, and Sir Donald Currie, had centred on the fate of Kilimanjaro, which Peters had apparently told Berlin belonged to Germans, yet the Sultan of Zanzibar considered Kilimanjaro part of his territory.

In this meeting Peters wanted the Britons to invest in his company and thus help him take Kilimanjaro, but Mackinnon was pursuing a Royal Charter for his own company to administer East Africa.

Unknown to Peters, Bismark had got interested in Kilimanjaro, which he considered “lucrative enterprise than any other acquisition”. The British argued that if the Germans were to keep Kilimanjaro, they would have to give other concessions.

Mombasa was put on the table as the quid pro quo as it was a gateway to Nyanza, which was strategic as the Victoria was the source of the Nile. The Germans agreed and swapped Mombasa for their total control of Kilimanjaro.

While the ports were now under the Sultan, the British were allowed to lease them for their use. The Sultan of Zanzibar would also have to abandon his claim over Kilimanjaro.

For some years, some historical works say, Mt Kilimanjaro was on the Kenyan side until Queen Victoria gave it to her grandson, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, as a birthday present. But that is hardly supported by facts.

The 769km line was to pass by Kilimanjaro to the southern tip of Lake Jipe which was divided into almost two equal portions to allow both sides have access to it. The same was to happen in determining the border in Lake Chala, which was divided between the two.

Kenya also got a share of the northern tip of Lake Natron but its bit dried up. That has left the remaining chunk of Lake Natron wholly in Tanzania.

With these generally accepted, the Germans had during the London conference agreed not to make any further concessions on the British side. Britain was happy to keep the source of River Nile to itself because they wanted to secure Egypt where the construction of the Suez Canal, an artificial waterway that would forever change the sea trade, was underway.

In 1890, some changes were done to the boundaries after the Anglo–German agreement of 1890, which saw the boundary between the Indian Ocean to east of Kilimanjaro change from Ras Jimbo.

There was another joint Anglo–German commission which carried out further survey work between 1902 and 1906 to determine and demarcate the land between Lake Jipe and Lake Victoria.

This saw both Germany and Britain sign an agreement in Berlin on July 18, 1906. With these the Kenya-Tanzania boundary was settled and this is what the current maps show.

In 1920, when Kenya became a Colony, the coastal strip part held on behalf of the Sultan remained as Protectorate of Kenya.

While Britain had leased the Sultan territory on the Kenyan coast, and paid an annuity of £16,000 per annum, the 10-mile coastal strip was one of the controversial subjects on Independence in 1963.

While there were some opponents to the handover of this territory to Kenya, the 10-mile coastal strip was ceded by the Sultan to Kenya. This saw independent Kenya get a coast line.

The Kenya-Uganda boundary also had its share of history, mostly informed by pasturage and security of the pastoral communities.
Initially, the Uganda protectorate extended up to west of Lake Naivasha while the British East Africa Protectorate covered the rest of what is Kenya.

After the completion of the railway in 1902, it was decided that the railway should be in one Protectorate for smooth management. Thus, the Eastern Province of the Uganda Protectorate was incorporated into British East Africa Protectorate, thereby pushing the border towards Victoria to accommodate the railway administration concerns.

The Kenya-Ethiopia boundary was agreed upon in 1907 and utilises several straight lines. In 1902 Captain Maud had traversed the area between British territories and Ethiopia and came up with what is today known as the “Maud Line”, which is now recognised as the official border between Kenya and Ethiopia after the 1907 agreement.

The Maud Line had its problems of cutting through community grazing lands and an attempt in 1908 to come up with a new line, the Major Gwynn Line, failed to get approval.

The Clifford Line

In 1946, the British Foreign Office suggested to the Ethiopian government on the need for boundary changes, but after a series of conferences between UK and Ethiopia, the latter refused to ratify the new Clifford Line and it was only after independence that Haile Selassie and Jomo Kenyatta used their friendship to settle the boundary question with a demarcation of several segments. An agreement was signed on November 15, 1963 and the treaty signed on June 9, 1970.

The Kenya-Sudan border was the most problematic. The key question was the determination of Turkana grazing grounds, and Sudan’s access to Lake Turkana through the Ilemi Triangle.

Britain was still unwilling to invest in troops north of Lake Turkana after Ethiopians armed the Nyangatom and Dassanech people with guns after the First World War.

That complicated the border issue. In order to protect the Turkana, it was decided in April 1924 that Sudan should hand over the territory north of the 1914 line in. Since Britain administering Sudan, Kenyan military units were allowed to cross the 1914 line to protect the Turkana against the Dassanech and Nyangatom, at a huge cost.

In 1931, Sudan agreed to finance the Kenyan troops to occupy the Ilemi Triangle, which was demarcated with a Red Line and was commonly known as Glenday Line.

After independence in 1956, Sudan failed to administer Ilemi, leaving it to Kenya.

While these lines marked the limit of the Turkana grazing grounds, President Kenyatta in 1967 asked for British help to have the triangle ceded to Kenya. While Kenya later redrew the maps to indicate Ilemi as part of its territory, it is not clear whether any future talks will be on the 1914 line or the Red Line, both which replaced the provisional straight line.

Between 1929 and 1934, the Governor-General of the Sudan and the Governor of Kenya had agreed that the Red Line would be accepted as the boundary.

With the Dassanech still armed, Kenya’s response has been to arm the Turkana as well. With the independence of South Sudan in 2011, the Sudanese claim to the Ilemi Triangle was transferred to the new national government in Juba. But the Illemi Triangle remains cold.
The Kenya-Somalia border was demarcated with scant use of social and cultural concerns.

The Northern Frontier District (as the Somali inhabited Kenya was known) had its border demarcated in 1920s and a treaty signed in July 1924 between Britain and Italy. The rest of Somalia was ceded to Italy as a reward for its support of the Allies during World War I.

British Somaliland (now the unrecognised State of Somaliland) was dissolved in the 1960s and merged with Italian part to form the State of Somalia.

An attempt by the British to have Kenya’s NFD relinquished to Somalia was resisted by Kenyan nationalists during the Lancaster talks. This provoked the secession Shifta war of the 1960s.

Thus, Kenyan nation occupies an area shaped by various geo-political issues and adventures.

Kenyans celebrate when the flag was hoisted by the army at Uhuru gardens on December 12, 2013 to commemorate Kenya at 50.

First, Kenya was ‘owned’ by a company called IBEA

December 12 was not a coincidental date when Kenya got indepence in 1963. It was arrived at for good reason.

It was on December 12, 1944, when Sir Phillip Mitchell was appointed the first Governor of the Kenya colony. Exactly 19 years later, the same date was chosen to be the country’s iconic day.

Before then, Kenya had travelled a long bumpy road marked by many events, among them racial hatred and segregation, land grabbing, Mau Mau war, and the clamour for self-rule.

First, Kenya was ‘owned’ by a company — the Imperial British East Africa (IBEA), in the 19th Century. The vestiges of the company still remain on Moi Avenue, in the IBEA Building. The country later became a protectorate of the British Empire before being declared a colony.

Racially structured

British settlers had already entrenched themselves in the White Highlands, having started their own Legislative Council (Legco) in Nairobi’s Haille Selassie Avenue in 1907.

It was the racial hatred coupled with the seizing of tracts of fertile land in the highlands that made the fight for independence.
Segregation at jobs fuelled emotions that had already peaked. Kenya’s population was racially structured. The Whites were at the top followed by the Asians. Placed third were the Arabs, and then Africans came at number four.

What infuriated the black community was that they were being treated by the British community as second class citizens. Emotions ran high with people retreating into forests to fight the Mau Mau war. Though the war did not immediately chase away the white rulers, it left a bitter taste in the British colonial office. The colonial government had to re-think on Kenya’s future.

It came with blood and detentions. Dedan Kimathi was captured and hanged. Jomo Kenyatta was arrested a suspected leader of Mau Mau.

Besides armed struggle, mainly in Central Province, political parties were taking shape with the formation Kenya African Union, the precursor to Kanu. While some agitators were incarcerated, a group of powerful politicians fought from outside.

A section of the white community feared that if Kenyatta were released and allowed to take power, he would seek revenge. This was captured by Governor Sir Evelyn Baring, who described Kenyatta as “a leader unto darkness.”

Until the formation of political parties, the trade union provided a platform to push for independence. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga led the pressure for Kenyatta to be released, arguing that there would be no independence without him.

Thereafter, the activists aligned themselves to political parties, mainly Kanu and the Kenya African Democratic Union (Kadu).

Kanu was seen as grouping of bigger communities, mainly the Kikuyu and Luo, led by Kenyatta, Odinga and Mboya.

Kadu brought together smaller tribes who feared domination. The party president was Ronald Ngala from Coast. Its vice-president was Masinde Muliro from Western. Daniel arap Moi was the chairman.

Paul Ngei came with the Third Force, the African Peoples Party (APP), which was at times ridiculed as Akamba Peoples Party. This brought the country to the next two crucial stages – the Lancaster constitutional talks and the real political campaigns that split it along tribal lines.

From the outset, Kanu wanted independence under unitary central government, while Kadu pressed independence with strong regional governments known as majimbo (federal) system.

Still, there was the group of white settlers who argued that independence should be delayed for the next 10 years up to 1973, saying that the country was not ready for self-rule.

Both the colonial office in London and the last Governor in Nairobi, Sir Malcolm Macdonald, were not on their side.

Meanwhile in London, two editions of Lancaster talks struck a middle-level form of government in readiness for independence.

Two lawyers, Chiedo-Mar-Gem Argwings-Kodhek and Jeam Marie Seroney, plus Tom Mboya, are credited with the drafting of the first Constitution.

There was a thorny issue raised by the Arabs in the 10-mile coastal strip, which was ruled by the Sultan of Zanzibar. They wanted their separate state or remain under Zanzibar. Any of these would have made Kenya a land-locked country.

In exchange to be part of Kenya, Kenyatta assured them that they would continue with their Islamic law, where a constitutionally recognised Chief Kadhi would have courts. The courts would adjudicate all matters of Islamic nature, hence the existence of Kadhi courts.

It was the political campaigns pitting Kanu and Kadu ahead of independence that provided drama and fights, some of which were comical.
For instance, Kanu’s symbol was a cockerel, while Kadu was a raised clenched fist of the right hand.

Politician Martin Shikuku, then Kadu secretary-general, was captured with a cockerel and a knife during a meeting in Nairobi’s Kamukunji grounds, preparing to slaughter it.

On their part, Kanu politicians chided Kadu’s clenched fist that it was a party of fights, and could therefore not be trusted.

The country was also politically zoned into Kanu and Kadu friendly areas.

The provinces where party leaders hailed from were friendlier to their respective parties.

Kanu won by a landslide in the first election that ushered in independence and Kenyatta formedg the first government in independent Kenya.

The elaborate hand over involved Prince Phillip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, presenting the golden pen with which the Queen had signed the declaration that transformed Kenya from a colony to a republic. The pen is still kept in a bullet proof glass closet at Parliament Buildings.

The anxious waiting, the jubilation as excited Kenyans waved the miniature forms of the new flag and the road shows in Nairobi, marked the birth of a new nation.

The small parade
Half a century on, the people who travelled this road and witnessed it have become a small parade. Many of those who fought in the forests, in detention camps and on political platforms, have gone to their maker.

Retired Presidents Moi and Mwai Kibaki, the people who saw it live, will be remembering this day with great nostalgia.
And even the remaining three who went to Lancaster to negotiate the first Constitution – Moi, former Minister Ngala Mwendwa and former Kamukunji MP George Nthenge – will be reflecting with fond memories.

Joseph Daniel Otiende, Dr Njoroge Mungai and Charles Njonjo, who were part of the first cabinet, have since retired from active politics, although Mr Njonjo occasionally appears in few political functions. The rest of the 15-member first cabinet have since died.

Duncan Ndegwa, the country’s first Head of Public Service, would cherish those moments he grappled with the challenges of a new civil service from the white dominated personnel.

Ndegwa went on to establish the country’s Central Bank after the collapse of the East African Monetary union.

The former British colony will be celebrating the momentous day with second generation population.

This picture is evidenced by the composition of both Houses of Parliament where the generation that saw independence as political practitioners has become extinct.

That is why this particular December 12 will be different from previous ones.