Key events that have changed Kenya's history

A graffiti mural of Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge on a wall on Kenyatta Avenue in Nairobi on December 29, 2019. PHOTO |

What you need to know:

  • For some, the introduction of new currencies was not a welcome move as the disruption contributed to a decline in their businesses.
  • The spread of misinformation and fake news became more prevalent as con-artists and online scammers found easy prey on these platforms.

Introduction of new generation banknotes

The year 2019 saw the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) introduce new banknotes to replace the old ones and weed out monies that were obtained using corrupt means.

The move elicited mixed reactions, with some Kenyans being intrigued and others confused.

Some were caught unawares by the CBK deadline for returning old Sh1,000 notes and were left wondering what to do with the expired notes.

Up to date, some Kenyans are still coming across old notes in their long forgotten outfits and safes.

According to a section of the business community, the introduction of new currencies was not a welcome move as the disruption contributed to a decline in their businesses.

“For the last three months since the introduction of new notes, the number of transactions using M-Pesa at my shop has declined,” said Pauline, a shop owner operating in Nairobi’s central business district.

Similar sentiments were shared by a Mr Kariuki and Ms Jennifer, both laptop and electronic vendors operating on Kimathi Street.

Six months down the line, the demonetisation frenzy is not over, only now the conversation has shifted to ''how durable are the new notes?''

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Worst terror attacks

The year 2019 marks the end of a decade in which the country experienced its worst terror attacks in history since Kenyan troops invaded the war-torn Somalia.

The move agitated the insurgents who, in retaliation, continue to plan attacks in Kenya.

In 2015, an attack at Garissa University College that left 148 people dead and close to 100 others injured is today ranked as the worst incident since the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Nairobi that left over 200 locals and foreigners dead.

The university’s attack happened barely two years after al-Shabaab attacked Westgate Mall and killed 69 people. Close to 200 others were left injured.

On January 15 this year, the country yet again experienced another major attack at Dusit D2 Complex, where 21 people were killed and 17 injured, according to the government.

Other major attacks that happened in the decade include 2014’s Mpeketoni attack that targeted a police station, government offices and hotels, and the Koromey attack in Mandera the same year that left 36 quarry workers dead.

While the country remains under active terror threat especially along the Kenya-Somalia border, efforts by the government to combat terrorism have significantly improved.

The Westgate attack took four days to contain compared to the 19 hours it took to neutralise the threat and rescue over 700 civilians at the Dusit complex.

While announcing the end of the security operation at the complex, President Uhuru Kenyatta credited the swift response by elite officers to increased strengthening of the country’s security systems.

He promised that the government would make the country inhospitable to terror groups and their networks.

The attack was, however, followed by a series of IED attacks in the northeastern region, mainly targeting police officers and non-locals.

On December 7, 10 non-locals, including police officers, were killed after al-Shabaab militants attacked a bus in Wajir.

Last Sunday, a Toyota Land Cruiser carrying four local staff and three children was hit by an IED and sprayed with bullets at Jabbi area.

Kenya’s efforts to have al-Shabaab listed as a terrorist group under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1267 of 1999 following the abduction of two Cuban doctors attached to Mandera County Referral Hospital on April 12 was again rejected this year following accusations that its soldiers were involved in illegal charcoal trade in Somalia.

While addressing a regional conference on counter-terrorism in Gigiri in June, National Counter-terrorism Centre Director Martin Kimani said Kenya has adopted county action plans aimed at empowering communities to fight violent extremism.

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The rise and rise of social media

One of the key highlights of this past decade was more and more people getting connected to and talking through social media.

Many social networking sites gained popularity, with some failing to take off or losing relevance over time.

In Kenya today, about 9.9 million people access Facebook monthly, half of whom access the platform daily, according to Facebook.

This is largely thanks to the proliferation of internet-enabled mobile devices, the increasing coverage of 3G and 4G networks as well as the availability of affordable data plans.

Kenya’s social media usage has taken shape in many forms this past decade.

The period saw a rise in online activism, netizens rallying support for a particular agenda or asking the government to act in a certain manner like in the case of #JusticeForBabyPendo on Twitter.

During this period as well, Kenya’s social sphere saw the rise of influencers. These are individuals with significant following on social media platforms earning money through marketing.

News consumption on social media also took centre-stage during this period. Availability of handsets that can shoot high resolution images and videos significantly boosted citizen journalism.

The platforms also became a place where employers can connect with job seekers on available job openings, such as #IkoKaziKe.

But it hasn’t been all rosy. While it has provided a platform for free speech and activism, social networking sites have become safe havens to those with ill-motives.

The spread of misinformation and fake news became more prevalent as con-artists and online scammers found easy prey on these platforms.

Granted, some platforms like Facebook are doing a lot to stem the spread of fake news on its platforms, but we still have a long way to go.

The platforms have also been used to run smear campaigns against individuals and corporations, a case of ''influencers'' turning into guns for hire.

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New curriculum replaces 34-year-old 8-4-4 system

The last decade saw a momentous change in the education sector with the introduction of the new Competency Based Curriculum to replace the 8-4-4 system - which has been in place since 1985.

The government started implementing the new system in January this year starting with early childhood up to Grade 3.

When the schools reopen next week, the new system will enter Grade Four.

Under the new system, learners will spend two years in pre-primary, six in primary, three in junior secondary, three in senior secondary and another three in higher learning.

The major difference between 8-4-4 and the new system is that, unlike the former, the latter offers a wide range of non-academic subjects and puts emphasis on life skills that are taught throughout the school system. It will be driven by a continuous assessment system as opposed to the summative method of the 8-4-4.

Some of the life skills include communication and collaboration, self-efficacy, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and imagination, citizenship and digital literacy.

These will be taught as part of the usual subjects. Learning is envisaged to be interactive and comprises group work, debates and various creative activities.

Transition from primary to secondary and tertiary will be through a formative evaluation, which will carry 70 per cent of the final grade while the remaining 30 per cent will be from a national test administered by the Kenya National Examinations Council.

This, however, has not been concluded and a task force comprising education experts is already at work to specify how transition will happen. The Teachers Service Commission is also retraining teachers to make them conversant with the new curriculum.

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Kipchoge’s star shone brightest in ground breaking record

There couldn’t have been a better way to end the decade, and century, than Eliud Kipchoge’s historic sub-two hour marathon on October 12 at The Prater Park in Vienna, Austria.

Undoubtedly, the final year of the decade belonged to Kipchoge in as far as long distance running is concerned.

The Olympic champion and world record holder “graduated” to the marathon in 2013 with victory over the 42-kilometre distance at the Hamburg Marathon in two hours, five minutes and 30 seconds.

This was after an illustrious track career that saw him grab the world title in the 5,000 metres at the 2003 World Championships in Paris as a teenager, defeating fancied legends Hicham El Guerrouj (Morocco) and Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) in the process.

Kipchoge has gone on to win 11 of his 12 marathons, the only “blot” on his impeccable resume coming in 2013 when he finished second to compatriot Wilson Kipsang at the Berlin Marathon and, even then, in a fast race which Kipsang won in a then-world record time of 2:03:23.

Having won the Olympic gold medal in 2016 at the Rio de Janeiro games, Kipchoge raised the bar and attempted to become the first human being to run the 42-kilometre distance in under two hours, running against the clock in a race specially organised by his shoe sponsors, Nike, in Monza, Italy, in 2017.

Kipchoge fell short of target by just 26 seconds, running the fastest ever marathon (2:00:25) in the race popularly known as the “Breaking2” attempt, after which he was inspired to shatter the world record a year later, blasting to 2:01:39 at the 2018 Berlin Marathon.


The crowning moment was in October in Vienna when Kipchoge — who, growing up, would cycle to his local market in Kapsabet to sell milk — became the first man to run the marathon in under two hours, clocking 1:59:40 at a specially organised race dubbed INEOS 1:59 Challenge and bankrolled by British petrochemicals company, INEOS.

Earlier in April this year, Kipchoge ran the second fastest marathon time ever (2:02:37) in winning the London Marathon and shattering the course record at the iconic race.

On Sunday, April 26, 2020, Kipchoge will be back on the streets of London, hoping to launch the new decade on a high with, perhaps, another course record.

Or perhaps a world record? This will be before he attempts to defend his Olympic title at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games on August 9.

You can’t rule anything out for distance running greatest of all time who was this year also named the World Athlete of the Year (for the second year running) by World Athletics, and decorated as Elder of the Order of the Golden Heart (EGH) by President Uhuru Kenyatta at the October 20 Mashujaa Day celebrations in Mombasa.

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Supreme court judge’s nullification of the 2017 presidential election

On September 1, 2017, Kenya grabbed international headlines after the Supreme Court nullified the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta for a second and final term in office.

It was an historic ruling and the first in Africa for the election and in this case re-election of a sitting President to be nullified, displaying a semblance of judicial independence in a continent where the ruling political class is known to control the bastion of justice — the courts.

President Kenyatta had on March 4, 2013, been elected Kenya’s fourth President since independence in 1963, and the first under the 2010 Constitution.

However, his bid to defend his seat during the August 8, 2017 General Election was a bumpy ride that would be etched on the world map.

The Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice David Maraga, ruled that the 2017 presidential election was marred by irregularities and illegalities after a petition by ODM leader Raila Odinga, Uhuru’s main challenger in the race.

Mr Kenyatta had been declared winner by 54 per cent, surpassing the 50 per cent plus 1 constitutional threshold.

The Supreme Court would order the electoral commission (IEBC) to conduct a fresh election within 60 days.


In the ensuing election on October 26, 2017, it was a clear case of President Kenyatta competing against himself after Mr Odinga boycotted the election citing lack of commitment from IEBC to conduct a free and credible election.

Such fears were laid bare after Dr Roselyne Akombe, one of the IEBC commissioners, on October 18, 2017, resigned saying the poll agency could not meet the basic expectations of credibility and fairness in the election.

As thousands of supporters in Mr Odinga’s strongholds of Nyanza, Western, Coast and parts of Nairobi filled the streets in jubilation, the contrast was in President Kenyatta’s Mount Kenya backyard.

President Kenyatta was shocked and annoyed with the Judiciary.

Losing a presidential petition was something he did not expect judging from his comments immediately after the ruling and the days after.

On the afternoon of the historic ruling, the President had his team hurriedly convene a political rally at the city’s Burma market where he lambasted the Judiciary for “going against the will of the majority Kenyans.”


However, with Kenya fresh from the ugly scenes of the 2007 post-election violence that saw over 1,300 people killed, hundreds of thousands displaced and property destroyed, the President urged his supporters to stay calm and accept the court's verdict.

During the Burma rally, his rage against the Judiciary was evidently captured in his infamous “we shall revisit” outburst interpreted as punishment against the Judiciary over the ruling.

The words are permanently etched on the minds of Kenyans and it could be the reason the Judiciary is facing a myriad of problems ranging from budgetary cuts and deliberate attempts to ground its operations by failing to appoint judges.

The President has been captured several times bashing the Judiciary ''for doing little to support his war against corruption'' -- informed by court orders to either release suspects on bail -- a constitutional guarantee or for lack of evidence due to poor investigations by the relevant bodies.

That the President has declined to formally appoint judges approved by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) to serve in the High Court and Court of Appeal is no secret.

Reported by Albert Mwazighe, Elias Makori, Kariuki Waihenya, Augustine Sang, Mary Wambui, David Mwere


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