White Settlers in Kenya
White settlers in Kenya: Britain started administering Kenya in 1886 after the Anglo-German Agreement and a year later adopted the East Africa Land Regulations that allowed the British Protectorate authorities to alienate land for would-be settlers.
In 1888, the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEA) signed an agreement with the Sultan of Zanzibar, who ceded his rights to the 10 mile coastal strip, except privately held land. This meant that IBEA could effectively administer the strip that ran from Tanzania to the Somali border.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the building of the railroad and the need to pay its operating expenses had led colonial officials to adopt a policy of encouraging white settlers by offering large blocks of cheap land; also, retiring army officers were offered land as a pension. A few of those who came, such as Lord Delamere, had high social status and connections.
The ﬁrst settlers arrived in Kenya following the building of the Kenya-Uganda Railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria. The construction saw the ﬁrst major seizure of private land for the project in the interior by the government.
The Commissioner for the Protectorate invoked the Land Acquisition Act of India (1894), which allowed the appropriation of a mile on either side of the railway for the European settlers to farm the “idle” land to repay the investment.
The British Government, acting under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act of 1890, promulgated the East African Lands Order in Council in 1897, which inter alia, empowered the IBEA Commissioner to expropriate available land.
This was followed by a series of laws enacted to expropriate land and encourage colonial settlements. The first was the 1902 Crown Lands Ordinance, which gave the Crown the right over any undeveloped land and powers to sell or rent any land vacated by “natives” to Europeans.
Another law, the Land Titles Ordinance, was passed in 1908 to cover the land formerly under the Sultan at the Coast. Those with claims were asked to present them to a land registration court or the land would be deemed Crown land.
The two sets of laws operated in the country until 1915 when the Crown Land Ordinance of 1902 was repealed, declaring all land including that occupied by Africans as Crown land.
The new law turned Africans into “tenants at will” of the state, and therefore beneficiaries of a trust established by the state to administer the land they occupied.
As a result, the British Protectorate authorities assumed full ownership over all land. Thus customary tenure of land was disregarded and the legislations that followed hardly incorporated customary laws. From the start, the land law was designed to serve the interests of white settlers, who were lured to Kenya to support the Uganda railway infrastructure, and who were rewarded for World War I and II escapades.
It is these laws that partly became the grounds for Kenya’s demand for independence later on.