Kenyan Precolonialism

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The first people who settled in Kenya in the pre-colonial time were indigenous African communities who migrated from around the world. During the pre-colonial era, Kenya’s social mobility depended very much on pastoral and agrarian groups, the agrarians depended very much on crops and plowing lands and on the other hand, the pastoral groups believed that the livestock was given to them by God. According to Peter O Ndege’s research, a professor of History and Political Science from the Moi University, “The kinship system in pre-colonial Kenya was the basis of ownership of factors of production, which included land, livestock and labour […]Classes, if they existed, were largely incipient. Reciprocity and the egalitarian ideal ensured that individuals never slid into abject poverty.” (1) In addition, ethnicity found in pre-colonial Kenyans was very fluent. “Trade, intermarriages and limited and intermittent warfare characterized inter-ethnic interactions. The histories of migrations and settlement were about continuous waning and waxing of the various ethnicities. Society was anything but static. Colonialism only gave new shape, meaning and direction to the communities’ inherent dynamism.” (O Ndege 2). Therefore, it is hard to speak of a “pure” ethnic group in Kenya. Furthermore, there was not an established political structure back in that time, mainly, they had governments represented by a council of elders but no centralized government.

When the Europeans began to settle in the African territories, they began to create barriers amongst other African lands. They also began controlling most of the trades and the economy of what is now Kenya, because of this, Africans controlled hardly any money. The British established a colony in Kenya primarily because they had raw materials such as ivory, and they saw this as an economical potential. In the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, we see how a man, Okwonko, struggles with the arrival of the Europeans in his...
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