The British colonial presence in Kenya officially began in 1895, when white settlers were granted vast tracts of productive farmland. Kenya became a British colony in 1920.
Settlers began arriving in ever-increasing numbers as stories of Kenya’s cocktail-hour “Happy Valley” lifestyle reached British shores. It was a time of dispossession and violence for the Kenyan people. Calls for Kenya’s independence grew – led by the anti-colonial Mau Mau party, meaning “Get out, get out.”
In 1952, the British declared a state of emergency after a spate of strikes and violent attacks.
In one month alone, up to 80,000 Mau Mau supporters were arrested and it is estimated that up to 25,000 people died as Kenyan militants rose against the British Empire in their quest for self-rule.
According to the United Nations, more than half a million Kenyans from the Kericho region suffered serious human rights violations, including unlawful killings and displacement, during British colonial rule that ended in 1963.
During the uprising, British authorities set up internment camps. Some historians refer to it as “Kenya’s Gulag.”
At the height of the rebellion, an estimated 71,000 Kenyans were held in prison camps. The vast majority were never convicted in court.
Kenyans were beaten and sexually abused by British government officials trying to suppress the Mau Mau uprising.
In 2013, Britain agreed to a multimillion-dollar compensation deal for Kenyans tortured by colonial forces during the uprising.
Many Kenyans continue to suffer economic consequences of the theft of their land, even as that land has become profitable for multinational companies, according to the United Nations.
On December 12, 1963, the African country of Kenya gained its independence from the British.
According to Britannica, African demands for greater participation in the political process were rejected until 1944, when an African was admitted to the legislature.
Nevertheless, disputes over land and cultural traditions continued, the movement against colonial rule grew, and the uprising of the militant nationalist group Mau Mau in the 1950s led to the country being declared a state of emergency.
However, African political participation increased in the early 1960s and Kenya gained independence in 1963. A year after the first Jamhuri Day, Kenya was admitted to the Commonwealth as a republic in 1964, with Jomo Kenyatta as president.