History of Machakos

In 1888, the IBEA Company first established an upcountry station at Nzoi then moved it to Machakos, which was named after the local Kamba Chief, Masaku, a big hairy man who lived on Kilima Mimwe, a lone hill on the Ivetti range east of the current town.

A legend foretold by Syokiman, a local prophet, spoke of the coming of strangers with fire in their pockets, and also the coming of fire-eating snake (the railway) . Masaku, in an effort to frighten away the Europeans, initially instructed his people to extinguish any attainable fire, thus to deprive the newcomers of their bore necessity.(Muthaiga)

Raid On Fort Machakos (By HistoryKe)

In 1892, Fort Machakos had an administrator, George C. Leith.

The Kamba didn’t like him one bit.

Leith, a man who loved his whisky, was loathed because he had a habit of grabbing supplies from the Kamba and making no payments for them.

Then he did something that the Kamba considered to be absolutely sacrilegious: he felled an Ithembo tree at the summit of Iveti hills.

See, the Ithembo was a hallowed tree, a shrine of sorts, that was to the Kamba what the Mûgumo was to their neighbours the Agîkûyû.

The Kamba reacted angrily. A few hundred warriors assembled and attacked Fort Machakos. The few European offices at the Fort scattered the warriors with rifle fire, killing an unknown number of Kamba men.

The attack rattled the Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) who, following a quick probe in the aftermath of the skirmishes, decided that Leith was no longer needed at Fort Machakos.

That same year, John Ainsworth, took over the reins at Fort Machakos.

The last photo, taken circa 1912, is of a Kamba elder that the photographer, Gerhard Lindblom, referred to as Chief Kitui. I wonder if this is the man who gave Kitui County its name.

Fort Machakos gate with Sudanese Guard-1897. Machakos (originally called ‘Masaku’ in the Kamba language) was established as IBEA’s first inland trading station and became the site of the first up-country. European settlement in 1894. Until the Uganda Railway selected Nairobi as their terminal, Machakos was destined become the primary city of the Protective. By 1899, most commercial activities had relocated to Nairobi.(Muthaiga)..


Colonial relic that defines county’s powerful centre of administration

The roughly hewn wooden planks standing at the heart of the ancient town hint of a glorious past when it had an impenetrable fort.