By George Okore:
The East African nation of Kenya, whose constitutional making process dominates the world agenda, has had interesting and intriguing history since it officially became into existence.
The territories’ political formation climaxed with 1885 Berlin Conference to divide African colonies among competing European colonial powers. The Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA) under William Mackinon but Britain took over the ineffectual IBEA, declared the Territory a Protectorate and posted the first Commissioner Arthur Henry Hardinge on July 1, 1885 to establish formal British administration.
Upon the building of Kenya Uganda railways, the administration headquarters moved from Mombasa and to as swampy area known by Masais as Nyorobi and in 1900, the spelling changed to Nairobi. The second Commissioner Charles Norton Edgecumbe Elliot was appointed in December 1900 and was instantly impressed by favorable climate and fertile soils of the Highlands and encouraged settlement of as many Europeans as possible in the fertile lands.
What followed was the Great Land Grab, with White adventures acquiring huge tracks of land for little or nothingThe third Commissioner Donald William Stewart arrived amidst controversy over allotment of land . The fisrt Legislative Council (LEGICO) sat on August 17, 1907 with seven members . The administration of the Protectorate shifted from Foreign to Colonial office and commissioner renamed Governor.
The first Governor Edouard Percy Giroaud Cranwill was posted on September 16, 1909 and replaced in October 1912 by Henry Conway Belfield who became an advocate and chief supporter of Settler’s political and land demands. These conditions transferred cultural differences into ethnic animosities and established stand off between Europeans and other races. A military man Edward Northey took over as Governor on July 22, 1919 and Europeans desire to entrench domination resulted into reorganization of Protectorate to Crown Colony and officially renamed Kenya on July 23, 1920.
Strong opposition grew and Africans organized themselves into political organizations, offering strong opposition to colonial rule. A political organization Young Kikuyu Association (YKA) formed towards the end of 1919 by four chiefs-Mbiyu Koinange, Josiah Njonjo, Philip Karanja and Waruhiu wa Kungu. In December 1921, another political organization Piny Owacho Young Kavirondo Association began at Lundha in Gem District.
The two organizations mainly representing Luos and Kikuyus, mobilized mass protest, demonstration and other non- violent gestures to prevent further land alienation. After somehow peace during the world wars, African political agitation picked up with the formation of Kenya African Sturdy Union (KASU) as a first political party in October 1944.
From then emerged African radicals like, Francis Khamisi, Albert Owino, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Ambrose Ofafa, Walter Odede and Achieng Oneko. Africans’ political progress began with nomination of Eliud Wambu Mathu as the first LEGICO representative, followed by Beneah Apollo Ohanga in 1947. These leaders toured the whole country, lecturing and condemning racial discrimination and unfavorable land policies.
The struggle culminated in 1948 with formation of Mau Mau, which comprised of young militant insurrectionist who sought to achieve independence through violence. Under new Governor Evelyn Baring, Africans frustrations exploded into Mau Mau rebellion against colonial government on Sunday night of October 19, 1952. With several African leaders under arrest, British Secretary of State for the Colonies Oliver Lyttleton visited Kenya in March 1954 and series of negotiations culminated into Lyttlelon Multiracial Constitution Arrangement.
It was out rightly rejected and fresh negotiations began. The negotiations by new Secretary of State for the Colonies Allan Lennox eventually outlined various constitutional proposals to allow, among others, direct election of Africans representatives. The proposals were accepted and first direct election of African representatives done in March 1957. The eight elected representatives were Thomas Joseph Mboya (Nairobi), Ronald Gideon Ngala (Coast), Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (Rift Valley), Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (Central Nyanza), Lawrence Oguda (South Nyanza), Henry Pius Masinde Muliro (Nyanza North), Bernard Mate (Central North) and James Nzau Muimi (Kitui).
Despite personal differences, all Kenyan leaders attended the three phases of Lancaster Constitutional Conference midwife by leading British officials including Malcolm John McDonald, Duncan Sandys, Erick Griffith-Jones, Harold Macmillan and Patrick Muir Renison. The talks eventually produced federal (Majimbo) constitution under which Kenya attained Internal Self Government (Madaraka) on June 1, 1963 with Kenyatta as Prime Minister. Barely a year later, was Majimbo constitution scrapped and on December 12, 1963, Kenya became Republic (Uhuru) under President Kenyatta, becoming 34th African country to do so.