Discover Kenya's History at its First Courtroom

Step inside Nyeri Museum

By National Museums of Kenya

Welcome to the Nyeri Museum

The Nyeri Museum is a national monument, which was once used as a 'Native law court'. It was built in 1924 and started functioning in 1925.

The main objective was to deal with customary law cases, previously dealt with by clan elders in the villages. As these cases increased, one courtroom could not handle the volume and thus another hall was built.

The cases were divided among the two courts, with the first court dealing with civil cases like pregnancy and debtor cases, and the second one dealing with criminal cases like theft and murder. Nyeri museum was gazetted as a national property on 9th March 2001.    

The first law court is unique in the sense that the seats are inbuilt and concrete, with those on which the judges used to sit on being slightly raised, giving the sense of authority.

A journey through time

A temporary exhibition highlights the milestones of the country from pre-independence to the present day. Photographs showcase some of the key people and moments in the history of Kenya.

On 12th December 1963, the British imperial flag was lowered and the Kenyan independence flag was hoisted. It marked the end of colonial rule and the beginning of a new chapter of self rule under the leadership of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

Kenya’s independence was achieved after a long and hard struggle for political and social freedom from clutches of colonial oppressions by Britain.

“Where there has been racial hatred, it must be ended. Where there has been tribal animosity, it will be finished. Let us not dwell upon the bitterness of the past. I would rather look to the future, to the good new Kenya, not to the bad old days. If we can create this sense of national direction and identity, we shall have gone a long way to solving our economic problems"  Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya.

Attainment of independence meant different things to different people. Many saw it as an opportune time to rid themselves of the master-servant relationship established by settlers, an end to racial segregation, and the establishment of an equal and just society.   

Other advocated Kenya’s return to its original owners and the expulsion of white settlers. However, Kenyatta singled out poverty, disease and ignorance as the new enemies of development.

In the Kenyatta era many schools and institutions of higher learning, including hospitals, and health centres were constructed in the spirit of Harambee.

The economy grew at a rate of 5%, reaching 8% by 1980 – well above that of the Asian tigers. Kenya was then a notable producer of pyrethrum, sisal, wheat, tea and coffee. In the regional economic block, Kenya helped to establish the East African Community in 1967. Kenyatta died in 1978.

The new Moi administration promised to follow in Kenyatta’s footsteps (Nyayo). With a philosophy that had Love, Peace and Unity as its three pillars.    

Moi introduced the 8.4.4 system of education, and stressed on the importance of environmental conservation through the developing of the Nyayo tea zones, tree planting campaigns, and construction using bamboo to prevent soil erosion. Daniel Toroitich arap Moi retired in 2002.

The Kibaki administration came into power by a popular vote after the re-introduction of multiparty rule. Priority was given to reviving the ailing economy, improving the dilapidated infrastructure, and giving the nation a new constitution.

The gains of this administration were almost ruined by the post election violence that followed the disputed results of the 2007/2008 general elections.

Kibaki then formed a unity government with Raila Odinga as Prime Minister. Their greatest achievement was the promulgation of a new constitution.

Kenya celebrated its golden jubilee under the leadership of Uhuru Kenyatta, who was elected into office in March 2013 under the New Constitution. His government is now devolved with 47 counties.

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