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Republic of Kenya

The Republic of Kenya was originally inhabited by hunter-gatherers related to the Khoisan-speaking people of the modern era. These people were probably pushed out of the region by migrating people from the Horn of Africa speaking Cushitic languages. Around 500 BCE Nilotic-speaking pastoralists migrated from what is today the southern part of Sudan, followed in the 1st century CE by Bantu-speaking tribes who introduced metal working and advanced agriculture. During the first few centuries CE, both Arab and Persian traders also made contact and set up coastal trading settlements, which encouraged a more maritime-based economy focusing on trade and shipbuilding. Mombassa became a major port city during the Middle Ages, with slaves and ivory being major exports.

In the mid-19th century, Germany established a protectorate over the coastal regions of present-day Kenya, but these were later ceded to Britain following the arrival of the British East Africa Company. Between 1895 and 1905, the British worked to establish the Kenya-Ugandan railway, fending off local resistance from several indigenous tribes. Subsequent emigration by British and other Europeans saw widespread establishment of prosperous farms and plantations, notably for growing coffee and tea.

Under British law, many native Africans (in particular the Kikuyu) gradually became landless and were forced into labor merely to subsist. By the 1950s, widespread dissatisfaction with the unfairness of the laws and a general resistance to colonialism brought about a popular uprising known as the Mau-Mau Rebellion (1952-1956). The counter-insurgency war, which employed both British and African troops against the tribal guerillas, cost more than 10,000 African lives. Despite defeating the Mau-Mau, Britain eventually conceded to popular elections resulting in a new government under the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta. In December 1963 Kenya achieved independence, and declared the new Republic of Kenya one year later, with Kenyatta as president. He was succeeded by Daniel arap Moi in 1978 after his death, who remained in office for 24 years. Mwai Kǐbakǐ was elected president in 2002, and remains in office today.

The armed forces of Kenya consist of the Army, Air Force, and Navy. The paramilitary forces consist of the specialist General Service Unit (GSU), Administration Police, Wildlife Service Guards (Game Rangers), and Forest Guards.

Kenyan Camouflage Patterns

  • The Kenyan Army has one Parachute Battalion, in existence since the 1970s. During its formative years, the Battalion wore a Denison smock in a brushstroke camouflage pattern copied from the original British 1959 pattern. The uniforms were produced in the United Kingdom.


  • Kenya's first national camouflage pattern was a copy of the British DPM pattern made for export by a British company. Variations of this design have been retained since, but with many color differences.


  • Variations of British DPM pattern have been worn by Kenyan forces since the 1980s. Obtained through outside manufacturers or produced locally from imported fabrics, there has been tremendous variety in colors and shades as well as fabric types over the years. It remains the standard combat pattern of the Kenyan Army, and is also worn by some Police and Wildlife Service anti-poaching units.

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  • A camouflage design similar to the Portuguese m63 "vertical lizard" pattern has been issued to elements of Kenyan Police and the General Service Unit (GSU) for a number of years. Although undoubtedly influenced by the Portuguese design, the Kenyan pattern does not appear to match the original exactly. The shapes do not match precisely and appear to be in much larger proportion as well.


  • The brushstroke design seen below is currently worn by Kenyan Army armored crews.


  • Introduced in the early 2000s, a variant DPM pattern with black, olive green and orange disruptive shapes on a dark lavender background is worn by the Kenyan Air Force.


  • The Kenyan Navy wear a different DPM variant, incorporating purple, violet and pea green disruptive shapes on a pale blue background, also introduced since 2000.


  • Some members of the Kenyan Navy, as well as Wildlife Service personnel, have worn a copy of the US m81 woodland camouflage pattern.


  • A four-color desert DPM pattern has been documented in use by the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) Guards. This now appears to be the standard working and operating uniform of the service.