History Kenya

The Imperial British East African Company (that was located in Kenya).


To the British, the East African Coast had stakes of “perhaps higher political importance than that of the West Coast.” it had a splendid coastline, had missionary bases and economic interests in the Hinterland.

Already, the Coast had Arab Power Bases. “Any argument founded on our position on the west coast and ignoring our status on the east coast will be liable to tell with injurious effect on our position on the latter. The geographical position of the East Coast lies more within the general area of our Foreign Policy than that of the West Coast.”

TOhe Germans in the present day Tanzania and the British entered into an agreement, the so-called Anglo-German Treaty of 1886, through which they partitioned the region among themselves. For corporate interests, German East African Company and IBEA, formed on April 18, 1888, struck deals with the Sultan of Zanzibar and other local leaders over spheres of influence. As much as they purported to recognize the Sultan’s Control and Power, the deals were a Precursor to the invasion of the Mainland.

The deal gave what is now Kenya to the British and Tanzania, in the south, to the Germans. The scramble for a region that would later be called Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania had begun in earnest.

The IBEA acquired tracts of land (through coercion or bilateral agreements with chiefs and community elders) and exercised control over them. One objective was “to Levy Taxes, Customs, Imports and other dues of any sort or kind” over the land. It undertook to setup administrative control over the regions and to trade.

IBEA chairman William Mackinnon (Mackinnon Road, a dusty stretch in Taveta named after him) owned the largest shares in the company, worth £25,000 (sh 3.273 million in the current exchange rate), 10 per cent of Capital Share-Holding).

Six months after incorporation, IBEA signed an agreement with the Sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Barghash, to acquire Land between Kipini and Wanga Kingdom (Land between the Tana River Delta and Western Province).

On august 4, 1889, IBEA signed a treaty with M’boli, Chief of Ivati, Ukambani. The treaty was in Arabic and English and stated in part: “Hereby declares that he has placed himself and all his Territories, Countries, Peoples and Subjects under the Protection, Rule and Government of IBEA, and has ceded all his sovereign rights of government over his territories… And extending to them the benefit of the rule and government of the company. And he undertakes to host and recognize the Flag of the Company.”

The Chief was illiterate, but was asked to place ‘X’ on the dotted line. All witnesses were IBEA Staff. About 18 months later, Witu fell to IBEA.

Intransigent Chiefs were coerced into ceding their land to the Europeans. IBEA officials, aided by Local Porters and Raiders, would ransack villages, kill and steal livestock and other properties of communities that resisted the brutality. In one of his accounts on October 22, 1893, Francis Hall, the IBEA superintendent at kikuyu, wrote of an encounter with Agikuyu Warriors: “Major S fired at a group of five men at 1500 yards and killed one and wounded two. This was the last chance they had for not a nigger dared show his face for miles. The next day, the Chiefs sued for peace. They said the White Men’s Rifles carried too far and shot straight for them.”

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