Did you Know
By Daniel Karanja
New Bedford, MA
Who coined the phrase “Dark Africa”? The culprit was none other than Henry Morton Stanley, an American journalist and adventurer, who became famous when he founded ailing Scottish missionary and explorer, David Livingstone on the island of Ujiji. Stanley led expeditions along the Congo and the Nile from 1874 to 1877, earning a reputation as one of the most effective explorers in the world.
Stanley was a complex man and amongst the few to have fought on both sides of the America civil war. He seemed to have been fascinated with the phrase because in 1878, he published a book titled “Through the Dark Continent,” and in 1890, published another one titled “In Darkest Africa. In mid 1880s, Stanley helped William Mackinnon, a British business man acquire a land concession from the Sultan of Zanzibar.
The land was named British East Africa and was later renamed Kenya and Uganda.
That the architect responsible for Fort Jesus was not Portuguese but Italian? This designer was Giovanni Battista Cairati from Milan, also known to Portuguese as Joao Batista Cairato.
At the time, Portugal was part of Spain and the combined powers of the two nations created a superpower. Spain’s economic might and vast wealth attracted several immigrants, including Cairati to the country. Cairati came to Kenya because King Phillip II of Spain commissioned him to design a fort in Mombassa.
That St. Francis Xavier visited Kenya (or the land that would later be named Kenya)? In 1542 while on his way to India and the Far East where he spent the rest of his life, Xavier spent some time in Mozambique and later passed by Malindi. While on the sea at Malindi, his ship dropped anchor and Sultan of Malindi came onboard to greet the travelers. Xavier took the chance to go ashore to bury a man who had recently died on the high seas.
Who popularized the term “safari” in the English language? Richard Francis Burton, a restless lover of adventure and a foreign traveler visited Mecca while in disguise in 1853. Next, he visited Ethiopia and Somalia with a goal of reaching River Nile. Unfortunately while at Berbera, his camp was attacked by Somalis, and he lost four of his teeth while fighting in the Crimean war. He also received spear stabs on both cheeks, forcing him to return home to recuperate. Burton tried to join the Crimean war again after recovery, but was a little too late because the war was winding down. Burton gave up fighting and decided to return to the search of the source of River Nile. This time, he avoided going through Somalia and instead traveled through Zanzibar and Tanzania. Burton used the word “safari” in his writings about this expedition.
Who coined the phrase “Great Rift Valley” ? This was a British geologist called John Walter Gregory. In 1892, Gregory embarked on a journey to study East Africa geology. Starting from the coast, he moved inland and disappeared into the interior and after a long absence, he was presumed lost. But to everyone’s surprise, he showed up in Machakos in 1893. In his book, “The Great Rift Valley,” Gregory wrote that when he resurfaced in Machakos, his appearance was so disheveled that he had to announce to the guards that he was a white man. The phrase “The Great Rift Valley” gained prominence in 1896, three years after the publication of Gregory’s book and became a name of one of Kenya’s eight provinces.
When British East Africa changed its name to “Kenya”? The year was 1920. In the 1890s when the British government began administering East Africa as a protectorate, the entire area was called British East Africa. The region underwent a number of administrative changes over the next two decades, and on July 23, 1920, the region split into two. The western half became Uganda while the eastern half became the Colony of Kenya.
That the British offered the Kenyan Highlands as a Jewish homeland in 1903. The British government offered the sixth Zionist congress a homeland in Kenya in 1906 to relieve them of the systematic persecution they experienced in Europe, but they rejected it. Some local British administrators led by Governor Charles Eliot also opposed the move. The Britons did not seek Kenyans’ opinion. Because of the opposition, only a few Jews migrated to the region and a bigger number went to other parts of the world to find new settlements. A vast majority of them, however, remained in Europe to await the conflagration, which befell them during WWII.
That the British considered abandoning Kenya and Uganda for good in 1892. For a few years, the Imperial British East African Company ran Kenya and Uganda as a commercial enterprise. But the venture didn’t turn a profit and gradually declined. The company sought financial aid from home, but Britain didn’t respond to its pleas for help. As a result, the Imperial British East Africa Company folded its operations and returned home. At the time, Uganda had been experiencing serious unrest for about a decade and it was in a dire state, exposing its Christian population to grave danger. Led by protestant missionaries, the citizens pleaded with the British government to reconsider having Uganda as her protectorate. In 1893, the British government took control of the entire territory, comprising of present--day Kenya and Uganda. It also revoked the British East African Company’s charter in 1895 and paid it £250,000 in compensation.