Kenya African National Union

Political Party


The Kenya African National Union (KANU)

Founded: 1960

Key Figures: Uhuru Kenyatta, , Oginga Odinga, Jomo Kenyatta, Tom Mboya. Daniel Toroitich arap Moi

The Kenya African National Union, better known as KANU, ruled Kenya for nearly 40 years after its independence from British colonial rule in 1963, until its electoral loss at the end of 2002. It was known as Kenya African Union before it was renamed in 1960.


From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the "Mau Mau" rebellion against British colonial rule. During this period, African participation in the political process increased rapidly. The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957.

The Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) was founded in 1960, to challenge KANU. KADU's aim was to defend the interests of the tribes so-called KAMATUSA (an acronym for Kalenjin, Maasai, Turkana and Samburu), against the dominance of the larger Luo (Kenya) and Kĩkũyũ tribes that comprised the majority of KANU's membership (Kenyatta himself being a Kĩkũyũ). KADU pressed for a federal constitution, while KANU was in favour of centralism. The advantage lay with the numerically stronger KANU, and the British government was finally forced to remove all provisions of a federal nature from the constitution.


KANU's leadership structure consists of a national chairman, a secretary general and several national vice chairmen. All these officials are elected at a national delegates conference (The last full election was in 2005 and it saw Uhuru Kenyatta confirmed as party chairman). The structure is an alteration of the original, which saw party delegates elect a single vice chairperson, in a move that was seen as a move to ostracise the then vice chairman, Oginga Odinga, by politicians allied to Jomo Kenyatta and Tom Mboya. Delegates who participate at the national elections are selected through the party's constituency level branches.


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