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How Chief Kivoi WA Mwendwa Coined Kenya’s Name 200 Years Ago

Chief Kivoi WA Mwendwa was born around the 1780s in the present day Kitui. He was a long distance trader who guided the first missionaries to Kenya to trespass the interiors of the country.

Naming of Kenya

Kenya was initially known as the British East Africa Protectorate, or British East Africa. It was not until 1849 that the name changed. This is what happened.

Kivoi met Johann Ludwig Krapf and Johannes Rebmann of the Aglican Church Missionary Society (CMS) while in Mombasa and travelled with them to Ukambani (Kitui County). While here they happened to see the then Mountain of Mystery known as Kere-Nyaga on December 3, 1849.

Krapf through an interpreter asked Kivoi the name of the mountain and he responded in a Kamba accent, Kiima ki nyaa. Krapf heard Kiinya and named the mountain Kenya which later became the name of the nation. 

Although Kivoi died a few years later he is highly celebrated as the man behind the naming of the great nation of Kenya todate. 


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