40 Districts and Nairobi in 1963

 

 

Homogeneous. Unequal. Unsustainable

 

Content
Introduction

Why 40?

The Royal Boundaries Commission came up with 40 Districts in an effort to ensure that there was 'equal' representation in the Senate for the smaller tribes. Thus these boundaries were largely marked along tribal areas.

Were they Equals?

The result of tribal Districts meant that some had well in excess of half a million inhabitants while others could barely master seventy thousand people.

Did they Prosper?

Historians are divided on whether these boundaries made the people think of themselves as just tribes rather than one Nation. Some assert that these divisions have been exploited by the political elite resulting in the present disunity and tensions in the Country.

  

Introduction

 

As Kenya was getting ready for self-rule, several political events were taking place. One of these was the work by the Royal Boundaries Commission to delineate electoral boundaries for the people's representation in the coming bicameral Parliament. Meanwhile, the larger tribes in KANU appeared destined to run away with power subsequent to the coming elections. The smaller tribes had no choice but to come together and did so under the Kenya African Democratic Union, KADU, and other groups, to push for a representation formular that would ensure they would not be swallowed up by the bigger tribes in KANU come independence under one nation and government. 

 

 

Boundaries

 

The 40 boundaries subsequently defined in the 1963 Independence Constitution were largely based on ethnic boundaries confirmed by political positions taken at the Lancaster House conferences.

Before the colonialists came, the peoples of the land known today as Kenya, were made up of several dozen language groups, each homogeneous group living in one general area. The pastoralists/nomads such as the Maasai occupied expansive areas, but nevertheless were trading and interacting with other neighbouring groups. Sometimes, of course, there would be skirmishes and wars, as would be expected of such an ecosystem. The Royal Boundaries Commission believed that it was prudent to keep rival tribes within their own administrative and political boundaries for the sake of peace and belonging, and this is what led to legislating for the 40 Districts, which were long in use by the colonialists anyway.

 

Figure 1. The 40 Districts at Independence in 1963

 

 

In the years preceding independence, the fears of an unstable and unequal infant nation were in no way unfounded; they were real and widespread. Speaking during a visit to Kenya in 1961, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Rt. Hon. Reginald Maudling, advised the political players thus: "The great danger I see is fear; fear of discrimination, fear of intimidation, fear of exploitation. I have seen enough to be convinced that there is truth underlying these fears. No country can prosper in these circumstances. What Kenya needs is confidence, calm and common sense, an end to inflammatory speeches, and above all, an end to intimidation and violence. I call solemnly upon the leaders of the political parties to do all in their power to bring this about. If they do not do so, they will be failing in their duty to Kenya ........" (Report of the Kenya Constitutional Conference, 1962).

With each District electing one Senator, the de-facto representation in the Senate at the time was really about tribes and nothing more. Proctor captures this well: "The effect of these changes was to make the Senate constituencies more homogeneous tribally and thus provide more nearly— although still not perfectly— for the representation of tribes as such in the upper chamber. In thirty-five of the fortyone constituencies, one tribe constituted an absolute majority of the population and in seventeen districts over 90 per cent were of the same tribe." (J.H Proctor, 1965).

The work of the Boundaries Commission did not stop with the creation of the 40 Districts and Nairobi. These Districts were also grouped into larger units known as Regions by 1963 and incorporated into the Constitution. Excerpts from Chapter 6 - Regions, Part 1 - Establishment of Regions:

91. Kenya shall be divided into the Nairobi Area and the following Regions whose respective boundaries shall ....... be those specified in Part II of Schedule 11 of this Constitution: (a) the Coast Region; (b) the Eastern Region; (c) the Central Region; (d) the Rift Valley Region; (e) the Nyanza Region; (f) the Western Region; and (g) the North-Eastern Region.

Unlike the Districts, the Regions were created based on larger boundaries of the people of Kenya as either Bantu, Nilotic, Cushitic, etc. The following tables give details of the Districts so affirmed for the 1963 independence elections using the language groups criteria adopted by the  Boundaries Commission.

 

Table 1.1: Districts in Central Region in 1963

 

District
Group

1

Fort Hall

 Bantu

2

Kiambu

 Bantu

3

Kirinyaga

 Bantu

4

Nyandarua

 Bantu

5

Nyeri

 Bantu

6

Thika

 Bantu

 

 

Table 1.2: Districts in Coast Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Kilifi

Bantu

2

Kwale

Bantu

3

Lamu

Bantu/Arab

4

Mombasa

Bantu/Arab

5

Taita

Bantu

6

Tana River

Cushites

 

 

Table 1.3: Districts in Eastern Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Embu

Bantu

2

Isiolo

Cushites

3

Kitui

Bantu

4

Machakos

Bantu

5

Marsabit

Cushitic

6

Meru

Bantu

 

 

Table 1.4: Districts of Nairobi Region

 

 
District
Group

1

Nairobi Extra-Regional Area

Cosmopolitan, with large numbers of African migrants/workers, Europeans and Asians

 

 

Table 1.5: Districts in North-Eastern Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Garissa

Cushites

2

Mandera

Cushites

3

Wajir

Cushites

 

 

Table 1.6: Districts in Nyanza in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Central Nyanza

Nilotics

2

Kisii

Bantu

3

South Nyanza

Nilotics

 

 

Table 1.7: Districts in Rift-Valley Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Baringo

Nilotics

2

Elgeyo Marakwet

Nilotics

3

Kajiado

Nilotics

4

Kericho

Nilotics

5

Laikipia

Nilotics

6

Nakuru

Nilotics

7

Nandi

Nilotics

8

Narok

Nilotics

9

Samburu

Nilotics

10

Trans Nzoia

Bantu

11

Turkana

Nilotics

12

Uasin Gishu

Nilotics

13

West Pokot

Nilotics

 

 

Table 1.8: Districts in Western Region in 1963

 

 
District
Group

1

Bungoma

Bantu

2

Busia

Bantu

3

Kakamega

Bantu

 

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