Social economic and political background

1. Laws and policies

Were forced to pay taxes

Were forced to carry identities i.e. Kipande system; this was to ensure that Africans had to work in the white settlers firms.

They were forced to offer labour to the white settlers firms.

Land alienation policies

Africans were moved from their fertile lands and forced to settle in reserves leaving their land for white settlers.

The white settlers also forced the African squatters to reduce the number of livestock and size of plots they used to cultivate; those were served as labourers lived in pathetic conditions and suffered from malnutrition since they rarely had a balanced diet.

Labour laws

Africans were forced to work for European settlers under little or no payment

They also worked in order to acquire money for the payment of taxes.

Agricultural policies

Africans were not allowed to cultivate cash crops in their farms.

They were not allowed from breeding and rearing livestock

Cultural policies

Some African cultures were outlawed i.e. Female genital mutilation

Some practices such as witchcraft were barred from happening.

Educational policies

Africans were denied chances of attending same schools with the whites

They were denied elementary education services i.e. accounting instead they were forced to rudimentary services i.e. carpentry

Early political organization

The Kikuyu Association

There was the first political organization in Kenya formed in 1920; its founders were concerned with the continued grabbing of African land for European settlement.

Reduction of African wages and introduced the Kipande

It was made up of local chiefs

It was not very aggressive in defending African rights

They were not able to get any meaningful concession by the Government.


  • Was made up o loyal chiefs
  • Was not aggressive in demanding for African rights
  • Never wanted to lock horns with colonial government
  • Could not be recognized by the Government


It attracted some African converts from Central and Nairobi i.e. labourers, messengers and even Harry Thuku. However, Harry Thuku later disagreed with the Kikuyu Association and founded the Young Kikuyu association which later became the East African Association.

Founder members of Kikuyu Association

  • Kinyanjui wa Githarimu
  • Koinange wa Mbiu
  • Philip Karanja
  • Josaiah Njonjo

The Young Kikuyu Association/East Africa Association

Was established in 1921; was first referred to as Young Kikuyu Association

The most founders were Harry Thuku, Mwalimu Hamisi, and Mohammed Sheikh etc.

Most of these original founders have been educated in Kambui mission school at Kiambu; one of their main motive of its formation was the fact that the Kikuyu Association was made up of mostly of colonial chiefs who were not aggressive enough impressing the colonial government for African demands.

The Young Kikuyu Association had more radical approach because it was composed of young men. They demanded for:-

  1. For better working conditions for Africans
  2. Reduction of taxes
  3. Withdrawal of the Kipande
  4. Increased wages

The Young Kikuyu Association composed of members from different ethnic communities e.g. Kikuyu, Kabas and many other Africans who were working in Nairobi which were attracted to radical ideas.

Later when the founders of YKA felt to in cooperate the Africans from other communities in the Association they changed the name to East Africa Association; its members came from different parts of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika.

Asian politicians such as M.A Desai were also helpful to the Association; through its chairman Harry Thuku, the Association shared its contact with the leaders of the political associations and the Pan Africa, the Kavirondo tax payers Association etc. their demands included:-

  1. The revocation of the colonial status of the country
  2. The organization of legislation council election on common role for all races.
  3. The abolition of hut tax that was exclusively paid by the Africans
  4. Return of land which was absconded from them
  5. An end to the forced labour
  6. Increase in African labour wages
  7. The provision of better education for Africans
  8. The abolition of the Kipande system

The Kikuyu Central Association

This formed by the remnants of Harry Thuku’s i.e. Joseph Kan’gethe and

It was formed in Muran’ga with leaders like James Beauttah and Henry Gichuru. Its main demands were the return of Kikuyu land; reduction of taxes; end of racial discrimination; lifting the ban from growing cash crops.

Later Kikuyu Central Association relocated to its headquarters in Nairobi; it was then joined by other young educated men of Africa like Jomo Kenyatta who became its general secretary in 1988. Thereafter, its other demands included the introduction of free primary education, provision of secondary education and higher education for Africans; abolishing of Kipande law on Africans; appointment of African representatives to the Legco, the release of Harry Thuku, the granting of title deeds to Africans to prevent further land alienation, the rejection of the proposed East Africa Federation.

The Kavirondo tax payers Welfare Association started in Western (Young Kavirondo Association). It was founded by young men who were being educated at Maseno mission school; its first officials were mainly Luos and Luhyas who included

Jonathan Okwiri (chairman)

Simeon Nyiende (treasurer)

Benjamin Omulo

Their demands agitated for the:-

  • Abolition of Kipande system
  • An end to forced labour
  • An end to land alienation
  • Abolition of high taxes for Africans
  • Change of status revocation from protectorate colony
  • A separate legislation for Nyanza province
  • Establishment of more government schools in Nyanza
  • The creation of paramount chiefs for Nyanza
  • Every individual with a title deed for the land

Later on the government through Arch Deacon Owen for fear of radical nature of Young Kavirondo Association convinced the members to change its name to Kavirondo Welfare Association. From the roles there shifted their grievances to social concern i.e. better houses, food, clothing, education and hygiene.

From around 1944, the association following the disagreement between Luos and Luhyas split with the Abaluhya forming the North Kavirondo Central Association; later many of the leaders of the Kavirondo Welfare Association were employed by the government leading to weakening of the association and it’s extinct by 1946.

Uma members Association

It was founded by the Akamba under the leadership of Muindi Mbingu as the chairman; as the other early associations the Uma also had the following in their minds:-

  1. Destocking orders of the government as a result of the overstocking which had led to serious soil erosion by animals
  2. Forceful butchery of Akamba animals to supply a meat processing plant that had been established in Kamba land

In pressing for their demand the Uma in 1948 organized Akamba men, women and livestock walked along the way to Nairobi to protest over their animals; although the government listened to some of their demands, the Uma leaders (some) were arrested that pressing was illegalized.

The Coast Arab Association

Its formation was influenced by the Arabs and Asians who had already settled at the Coast. Some of its leaders include Noah Mwana Sele, Mohamed bin Mwuchade, Enock Benjamin and H. Harrison.

Their demands included:-

  • The removal of uneducated chiefs from the local-colonial council and replacement with educated persons
  • The appointment of African colonial officials
  • The elevation of Shimolatewa to high school
  • Establishment of evening classes in the region to help the Africans achieve literacy
  • Use of taxes collected from African drinks for the improvement of African activities and facilities.
  • A revocation of the land allocated to Arabs and Asians who owned large tracks of land at the expense of African communities (Mijikenda)

Taita Hills Association

Their grievances included:-

  1. Land alienation
  2. Forced labour with low wages specially in coffee plantations

Thi8s association was initially led by Daniel Mapinga before his demise in 1947; his course was taken up by Woresho Kolandi Mengo, Jimmy Mwambichi and Paul Chumbo who established the Taita Hills Association in 1957.

The Taitas relied mostly in the use of letters to protest to the colonial government

Their other weakness was that they failed to attract prominent personalities.

Their close kin the Taveta and the Sugale refused to join hands with them.

Problems faced by the Early Political Associations/Organizations

  1. Most of the members were harassed by the colonial government e.g. arrested and detained.
  2. There were political wrangles among the members
  3. Many of the leaders had little experience in running political parties and therefore mismanaged their offices.
  4. Most of them faced financial difficulties due to financial problems faced by most African communities.
  5. The presence of disunity as most of them were community/ethnicity based.
  6. Most of the associations were banned by the government by 1940.

Characteristics of Early political organizations

  1. They were led by mission educated young men for example, Jonathan Okwiri, Harry Thuku etc.
  2. Most of them were confined to one or two communities.
  3. Most of them were supported morally and materially by the Asians.
  4. Most of their grievances were similar.
  5. Most of then advocated for better living conditions
  6. Most of them rejected European exploitation and expansion.
  7. Membership was not large because of their ethnic concerns.


  1. They provided political education to the African communities
  2. They were able to communicate to their communities’ feelings to the colonial government through publications, speeches and memoranda.
  3. They were able to defend African culture against erosion by the European culture.
  4. They re awakened the masses by making them conscious of the political situation in the country.
  5. They fought for the welfare of workers in the colonial government
  6. Made the international community aware of their grievances
  7. They helped to promote nationalism by strengthening inter community relation in the struggle.
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