All Things Kenyan

Early Migrations To Kenya

Kenya was not an independent country until 1963 and the name Kenya did not come into use until the 1800’s. A lot was going on in the land that is now Kenya between 500 A.D. and 1600 A.D. People were migrating all over Africa and the first Europeans came to Kenya during this period.

The Bantu Migrations

Bantu Migrations The Bantu peoples originally occupied areas in Cameroon and Zaire. Some of these people migrated south the to west coast of Angola and then across the Congo to Tanzania and eventually up the coast into Kenya. Some of these people settled around the Mt. Kilimanjaro and Indian coast areas. Later, in the 1200’s, some moved north along the coastal region and settled into hilltops just beyond the coast. While others moved west into the highlands of Kenya. This group of people became what are now called the Taveta, Dawida, Akamba, Mijikenda, Kikuyu, Embu, Chuka, Tharaka, and Meru tribes.

Others moved across Sudan and into the Rift Valley region. They settled in and around Mt Elgon and Lake Victoria these were the ancestors of the Luhya, Gusii, and Kuria tribes.

The Cushitic Migrations

Cushitic Migrations Around 1000 A.D. Western Kenya was inhabited by some food gatherers and hunters along with Southern Cushites. These people are believe to have moved into Central Tanzania.

The ancestors of the Garre tribe are believed to have migrated from southern Ethiopia to Northern Somalia. Eventually, they began to migrate south and westwards down the Somali coast and into Kenya. The Garra now live in the north eastern part of Kenya.

The Nilotic Migrations

Nilotic Migrations One group of Nilotes, the ancestors of the Kalenjin, moved from the west of Lake Turkana (Lake Rudolf) south to the Eldoret area of Kenya.

Another group, ancestors of the Luo moved west our of Kenya towards the Nile River. Later around the 14th century they began to move east and south back into Kenya. By the 16th century they had displaced the Luhya from the Lake Basin.

The Portuguese and Arabs

From about the 8th century on the Arabs and Persians regularly visited the Kenyan coast to trade glass, textiles, and wine for ivory, rhinoceros horn, and slaves. They weren’t interested in settling Kenya.

In 1498, a Portuguese explorer named Vasco de Gama landed in Kenya. He was trying to get to China. The sultan at Mombasa didn’t want de Gama there and kicked him out. The sultan at Malindi, the rival of Mombasa, welcomed de Gama. Within a few years the Portuguese had ransacked and looted several Swahili coast cities. They built Fort Jesus in Mombasa in 1593. This became the main port of call for Portuguese vessels. you can still visit this fort today. The Portuguese remained there for 200 years and spent their time trading gold from the interior and exporting slaves to North America and the East Indies.

Throughout the 1600’s the Arabs tried to regain control of the Kenyan coast and finally managed to oust the Portuguese by 1720.