History of Governments in Kenya



Open. Accountable. Responsible




How much power was wielded by previous Governments in Kenya, including the Governments that each of the 42 language groups in Kenya established to rule over them?


The number of Government systems we've had in Kenya are probably as many as there are language groups in the country. The same can be said of the Governments the Country has had since independence from Colonial Rule. 



With every type of Government that has existed in Kenya, we will examine its structure and membership. 






Government is not a new phenomenon in Kenya. Historical accounts, folklore, language and cultural beliefs of the 42 or so different linguistic people groups in Kenya point to the fact that they all had functioning forms of government to oversee their lives and affairs. These governments were charged with inter alia, the management of public affairs, law and order and foreign relations (including wars). Various forms of government were largely defined by the way of life of the language group. Thus pastoralist groups had specific government structures different from those of the hunter-gatherers and those of the agriculturalists, etc.

In the scope of this discussion we intend to list historical details of colonial rule in Kenya, careful to highlight the fact that that administration was acquired through invasion and expansionist force and maintained through the same and other means such as coercion. We will retrace the paths undertaken by the changing faces of colonial administration and mention that Kenya's Constitution at independence was largely based on the British Westminster style of government and by extension was the foundation on which the ideology of the day in so far as government was concerned, was premised.

Thereafter we will echo what is generally agreed on by most historical accounts- namely that post-independence governments of Kenya, have perpetuated inequalities and centralization of power and resources. This (mis)governance became the cause of the present social tensions and suspicions and at its tipping point, caused the clamour for a New Constitution and specifically, devolution, which is become an unstoppable process unlikely to slow down any time in the near future. Where necessary in these discussions, we will attempt to compare and contrast the forms, the structures and operations of pre- and post-independence governments of Kenya with those promised by the New Constitution, to provide a balanced analysis and perspective.

Going forward then, the key question for Kenya would therefore be: Does our New Constitution sufficiently embrace and aggregate the over 42 different language groups' styles of government, culture and beliefs in order to define the State and aspirations of its diverse people, or is it a cut-and-paste copy of Western-style democracy or other civilizations? Or as Kiriro wa Ngugi asks, "........ does it reflect how we want to live?" The correct answer to this question should not only be a pointer of what lays ahead for Kenya, but also act as an enlightened guide to future amendments to the New Constitution. "During the implementation stages, Kenyans will inevitably meet the challenges of whether or not we accurately captured the people's will, their manifest values, or their sacrosanct traditions. Did we merely borrow from elsewhere and are now attempting to ram it down our throats?" (Ngugi, K wa 2012). This is because any account of government in Kenya cannot be said to be complete if it fails to examine the way of life of each of the 42 different linguistic peoples of Kenya. However, that discussion will be covered under the link Peoples and Places. For now, we will concern ourselves only with the rise of colonial administration in the early years of the 19th century up until independence in 1963. 





1. Constitution of Kenya, 2010. National Council for Law Reporting. The Attorney General.

2. Ngugi, K wa. "The law should reflect how we want to live." Daily Nation Opinion. Accessed October 10, 2012. 

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