The Great migration to Kenya


Kenyan Communities as we know them today travelled from different regions between 2000 BC and 1500 BC to settle here. They were attracted to the country by good climatic conditions.


They are the largest group in Kenya and entered the country from the east and south. The Agikuyu, Chuka, Mbeere, Ndia and Aembu migrated from West Africa, probably Nigeria.

The Abaluhya are said to have come from Asia and travelled through Egypt, Congo and Uganda into South Nyanza.

The Akamba believe they travelled northwards from Tanganyika although some historians are of the view that they branched off from the coastal Bantu.
By 100 AD, the Bantu had intermarried with Arab Traders who had set base at the coast. Kiswahili, which was to become the lingua franca of the Coast and Eastern Africa, was the result of the union. Towns such as Mombasa and Malindi also emerged.

With the coming of colonialists and subsequent control of the region in the early 1900s, some groups were displaced. The Bukusu, a sub-group of the Luhya, were separated from their cousins, the Bagishu, now in Uganda. The Kenya-Tanzania boundary separated the Maasai who today live in the two countries.


Cushitic communities in Northern Kenya migrated southwards from the Ethiopian Highlands. One group remained in Turkana (El Molo), while another (comprising the Boni and Somali) travelled southwards and occupied Marsabit and all the way to the coast.
They lived off Camel and Cattle.


They include the Luo and Kalenjin and were pushed out of the Sahel region in the Sudan about 4000 years ago and trekked southwards.

This was a time when rainfall had decreased and climate changed. The conditions sparked conflicts among communities over control of resources, especially pastures. The weak were forced out. The Nilotes (both lake and highland) followed the shores of Lake Turkana and the hills bordering the Kerio River.

The Tsetse Fly menace may have made it difficult for them to settle in Turkana and Kerio. The Kalenjin may have split from the River-Lake Nilotes near the Sudan-Ethiopia Border 2000 years ago or more.


If there was a period so epochal for Kenya, it was the coming of the Europeans. As early as the 1850s, African Prophets had predicted the invasion of their land by Europeans. The prophets included Masaku of the Akamba, Kiariga of the Imenti in Meru, Mugo wa Kibiru of the Agikuyu, Mbatian of the Maasai and Kimnyole of the Kipsigis.

They foresaw “the coming of a White Man and his iron train that would belch smoke and traverse the land from east to west.”

Missionaries and Explorers

Missionaries Ludwig Krapf and Johann Rebman came to the coast and started a church in 1844. By the 1880s, explorers Joseph Thompson, Count Samuel Teleki and Ludwig Von Hohnel had Criss-Crossed the country, from the coast to Mt.Elgon in the west, assisted by the Swahili and Mijikenda. They were on an intelligence gathering mission.

They drew maps of areas they passed through, assessing the strength of the local people and potential for agriculture.

In 1891, George Whitehouse, an Engineer, started survey work for a railway line to Uganda. Much earlier, in 1947, a Portuguese, Vasco Da Gama, who was on his way to India, stopped in Mombasa and built a prospective landmark called Fort Jesus, whose ruins at the coastal town is stark reminder of the trip.


The British opened up Kenya to commercial estate farming. Settlers seized the so-called ‘white highlands‘, exclusive fertile agricultural land in the southern half of the country. Africans were isolated in small reserves that were pools of Labour for the European Farmers.

Later, the loss of land and population explosion in the reserves brewed discontent among Africans, by the early 1950s, the Clamour for Freedom that had started in the 1920s hit a new pitch. Africans formed political parties and later under a liberation movement, Maumau, stood up against British Rule.
The ensuing conflict was bloody. It claimed thousands of lives. Come the 1960s, the colonial regime grudgingly agreed to hand over the country to majority rule. On December 12, 1963, Kenya’s new National Flag replaced the Union Jack.

Since then, Kenya has had successive three administrations – Jomo Kenyatta (1963 -1978), Daniel Moi (1978 -2002), and H.E Mwai Kibaki (2002 -2013). For the first time in Kenya’s history, a coalition government was formed in 2008 following an election dispute over the 2007 general election results.

Indeed, Kenya’s history is dramatic. Independence President Kenyatta called Kenya, “a country on the run.” Louis Leakey, the famed Archaeologist who broke new grounds in the study of human ancestry through his findings in Turkana and other parts of East Africa, called it “a land of contrast.” JF Lipscomb, Pre-Independence Colonial Agricultural Officer, called it a “land of the future.”

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