Fossils found in East Africa suggest that protohumans roamed the area more than 20 million years ago. Recent finds near Kenya"s Lake Turkana indicate that hominids lived in the area 2.6 million years ago.
Cushitic-speaking people from northern Africa moved into the area that is now Kenya beginning around 2000 BC. Arab traders began frequenting the Kenya coast around the first century AD.
Kenya"s proximity to the Arabian Peninsula invited colonization, and Arab and Persian settlements sprouted along the coast by the eighth century. During the first millennium AD, Nilotic and Bantu peoples moved into the region, and the latter now comprises three-quarters of Kenya"s population.
The Swahili language, a mixture of Bantu and Arabic, developed as a lingua franca for trade between the different peoples. Arab dominance on the coast was eclipsed by the arrival in 1498 of the Portuguese, who gave way in turn to Islamic control under the Imam of Oman in the 1600s. The United Kingdom established its influence in the 19th century.
The colonial history of Kenya dates from the Berlin Conference of 1885, when the European powers first partitioned East Africa into spheres of influence. In 1895, the U.K. Government established the East African Protectorate and, soon after, opened the fertile highlands to white settlers.
The settlers were allowed a voice in government even before it was officially made a U.K. colony in 1920, but Africans were prohibited from direct political participation until 1944.
From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the "Mau Mau" rebellion against British colonial rule.
During this period, African participation in the political process increased rapidly.
The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963, and the next year joined the Commonwealth. Jomo Kenyatta, a member of the large Kikuyu ethnic group and head of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), became Kenya"s first