How Did Kenya Gain Independence

On 12 December 1963 Kenya gained long-awaited independence from Britain, after nearly 80 years of British colonial rule. 

British influence in the area was established by the Berlin Conference of 1885 and the foundation of the Imperial British East Africa Company by William Mackinnon in 1888. In 1895, with the East Africa Company floundering, the British government took over the administration of the region as the British East African Protectorate.

How Did Kenya Gain Independence

A decade before, in 1952, a rebellion known as the Mau Mau Uprising had shaken the British colony. Not only did the British spend an estimated £55 million suppressing the uprising, but they also carried out massacres of civilians, forced several hundred thousand Kenyans into concentration camps, and suspended civil liberties in some cities.

The war ended in the imprisonment and execution of many of the rebels, but the British also understood that things had permanently changed. The colonial government introduced reforms making it easier for Kenyans to own land and grow coffee, a major cash crop previously reserved for European settlers. Kenyans were allowed to be elected to the Legislative Council beginning in 1957.

With nationalist movements sweeping across the continent and with Britain no longer financially or militarily capable of sustaining its empire, the British government and representatives from the Kenyan independence movement met in 1960 to negotiate independence.

The agreement called for a 66-seat Legislative Council, with 33 seats reserved for Black Kenyans and 20 for other ethnic groups. Jomo Kenyatta, a former leader of the Kenya African National Union whom the British had imprisoned on false charges after the Mau Mau Uprising, was sworn in as Kenya’s Prime Minister on June 1, 1963, in preparation for the transition to independence. The new nation’s flag was modelled on that of the Union and featured a Masai shield at its centre.