The first direct elections for native Kenyans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Despite British hopes of handing power to “moderate” local rivals, it was the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta that formed a government. The Colony of Kenya and the Protectorate of Kenya each came to an end on 12 December 1963 with independence being conferred on all of Kenya.
The United Kingdom ceded sovereignty over the Colony of Kenya. The Sultan of Zanzibar agreed that simultaneous with independence for the Colony of Kenya, the Sultan would cease to have sovereignty over the Protectorate of Kenya so that all of Kenya would be one sovereign, independent state. In this way, Kenya became an independent country under the Kenya Independence Act 1963 of the United Kingdom. Exactly 12 months later on 12 December 1964, Kenya became a republic under the name “Republic of Kenya”.
Concurrently, the Kenyan army fought the Shifta War against ethnic Somali rebels inhabiting the Northern Frontier District, who wanted to join their kin in the Somali Republic to the north. A cease fire was eventually reached with the signature of the Arusha Memorandum in October 1967, but relative insecurity prevailed through 1969. To discourage further invasions, Kenya signed a defence pact with Ethiopia in 1969, which is still in effect.
On 12 December 1964 the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed, and Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya’s first president.
Moi era (1978–2002)
At Kenyatta’s death in 1978, Daniel arap Moi became President. Daniel arap Moi retained the Presidency, being unopposed in elections held in 1979, 1983 (snap elections) and 1988, all of which were held under the single party constitution. The 1983 elections were held a year early and were a direct result of an abortive military coup attempt on 2 August 1982.
Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second President, and George W. Bush, 2001
The abortive coup was masterminded by a low ranked Air Force serviceman, Senior Private Hezekiah Ochuka, and was staged mainly by enlisted men in the Air Force. The putsch was quickly suppressed by forces commanded by Chief of General Staff Mahamoud Mohamed, a veteran Somali military official. They included the General Service Unit (GSU)—a paramilitary wing of the police—and later the regular police.
On the heels of the Garissa Massacre of 1980, Kenyan troops committed the Wagalla massacre in 1984 against thousands of civilians in Wajir County. An official probe into the atrocities was later ordered in 2011.
The election held in 1988 saw the advent of the mlolongo (queuing) system, where voters were supposed to line up behind their favoured candidates instead of a secret ballot. This was seen as the climax of a very undemocratic regime and it led to widespread agitation for constitutional reform. Several contentious clauses, including one that allowed for only one political party, were changed in the following years. In democratic, multiparty elections in 1992 and 1997, Daniel arap Moi won re-election.
In 2002, Moi was constitutionally barred from running, and Mwai Kibaki, running for the opposition coalition “National Rainbow Coalition” (NARC), was elected President. Anderson (2003) reports the elections were judged free and fair by local and international observers and seemed to mark a turning point in Kenya’s democratic evolution.
In 2005, Kenyans rejected a plan to replace the 1963 independence constitution with a new one.
The toll of the 2007 Post-election violence included approximately 1,500 deaths and up to 600,000 people left internally displaced.
In mid-2011, two consecutive missed rainy seasons precipitated the worst drought in East Africa seen in 60 years. The northwestern Turkana region was especially affected, with local schools shut down as a result. The crisis was reportedly over by early 2012 because of coordinated relief efforts. Aid agencies subsequently shifted their emphasis to recovery initiatives, including digging irrigation canals and distributing plant seeds.