Peacock at Outspan Hotel, Nyeri
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Nyeri (officially known as Nyeri Municipality) is a town in situated in the Central Highlands of Kenya, which was the administrative headquarters of the country's former Central Province. Following the dissolution of the former provinces by Kenya's new constitution in 26 August 2010, Nyeri is now the largest town in the newly created Nyeri County.
The town is situated about 150 km (a two-hour drive) north of Kenya's capital Nairobi, in the country's densely populated and fertile Central Highlands, lying between the eastern base of the Aberdare (Nyandarua) Range, which forms part of the eastern end of the Great Rift Valley, and the western slopes of Mount Kenya.
The town's population according to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census was 125,357. There is however a significant population of mainly Government and corporate workers ordinarily resident in Nyeri but who chose during the census to be counted in their areas of origin or areas where their families are resident.
Nyeri's Town Centre is small. Its general appearance, owing mostly to a lack of footpath paving and the basic decoration of its buildings, is dusty and old, though there are some new construction developments and building renovations. While small business activities are vibrant, Nyeri is essentially a government administration town.
- 1 History
- 2 Demographics and Culture
- 3 Economy
- 4 Administration and Government
- 5 Notable Personalities
- 6 References
Towards the end of 1902, as the British were establishing their colonial presence, Richard Meinertzhagen marched a strong military column meeting spirited resistance from the native Kikuyu warriors led by Wangombe Wa Ihura. The Kikuyu were eventually defeated. After Meinertzhagen's victory, a decision was reached to site a British post close to a little hill on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. The Kikuyu called the hill Kia-Nyiri while their Maasai neighbours called the hill Na-aier. The post took its name from the little hill. On 18 December 1902, Nyeri was founded.
Shortly after the establishment of the post, a trickle of European settlers and missionaries and Indian merchants began to migrate into Nyeri and the surrounding areas. The town soon burgeoned into a trading centre for white settler farmers who produced cattle, wheat and coffee. The town became particularly associated with the Happy Valley set in the first half of the twentieth century. The Nyeri Golf Club, The White Rhino Hotel, Outspan Hotel, and the Aberdare Country Club at nearby Mweiga township are relics of those colonial days.
Demographics and Culture
Ethnicity and Language
The majority of Nyeri residents are members of Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, with residents generally being known as "Nyeri Kikuyu". The Kikuyu language is widely spoken, along with Kenya's official language, Swahili as well as Kenya's official language, English.
Nyeri's main entertainment activity is socialization at the town's many pubs. On a typical weekday evening, all day and night Saturday, or Sunday afternoon, groups of friends of both sexes will sit in pubs, socializing, enjoying alcoholic beverages (mainly bottled Kenyan beer) and meat dishes, watching TV sports and listening to music. Most of Kenya's terrestrial TV and radio channels, transmitting mainly from Nairobi, are available in Nyeri.
Most homes have at least one TV and radio. Foreign TV channels are also available, either relayed by local channels, or via satellite. Several entertainment spots, hotels and homes have satellite TV in addition to local television. DVDS, mostly counterfeit Hollywood movies imported from Asia, are cheaply and widely available for purchase or rental.
Though the depth of belief and dedication to religion varies, most people in Nyeri express belief in God. Following the national pattern of Kenya being a predominantly Christian country, Christianity is the main religion. The main Christian denominations are Catholic, Presbyterian, Anglican, Pentecostals and indigenous denominations, in that order. The older residents, who tend to attend the mainstream churches, are invariably more religious than the younger ones. Muslims, traditional African believers and Hindus, in declining order, make up a small minority.
About 5 km from the Town Centre is the Mathari Mission settlement, a complex of several Catholic buildings and institutions, established by Italian missionaries at the beginning of the 20th century. The mission is composed of convents for nuns, schools, a teacher training college and other vocational colleges. It also hosts the Consolata Hospital and School of Nursing, which is staffed largely by nuns of the Consolata order.
In addition to its two home-grown universities, Kimathi University College of Technology and the recently upgraded Karatina University College, Nyeri hosts satellite campuses of various Kenyan public universities such as University of Nairobi, Kenyatta University.
The National Police Training College is situated in Kiganjo, 10.8 km from the town. There is a Medical Training College, a government nursing school, two polytechnic colleges, and several private and public secondary and primary schools. The Roman Catholic Church Archdiocese of Nyeri runs several schools, colleges, and hospitals  in Nyeri.
The largest formal employer in Nyeri, being until recently the administrative headquarters of the former Central Province, is the Government of Kenya. The local Municipal Council and utility providers are also significant employers. The various sectors of the service industry, including retail, hospitality, banking, insurance, the charity industry, religious bodies especially the Catholic Church and professionals are also significant employers.
The main industrial plants are a Coca-Cola bottling plant, a water and fruit juice bottling plant, a number of tea and coffee processing factories, a milk processing and packaging factory owned and run by the Kenya Co-operative Creameries Ltd, and a number of maize millers. There is also a wide range of largely unsophisticated light industries, including motor vehicle repair garages, electronics repair shops, furniture workshops, tailoring shops, and bakeries.
A major industry in Nyeri is farming, which is mostly unmechanized. The town area is actually part of the surrounding rural areas of greater Nyeri County, with farms within the municipality blending seamlessly into the rural area. The main cash crops are Coffee and tea, grown mainly by smallholders who are organized into quasi-private state-supported and supervised co-operatives or companies for farm input distribution, basic processing and marketing purposes.
The main food crops are maize, the staple food in most of Kenya, legumes (especially beans and peas), tubers (mainly potatoes), and vegetables (especially tomatoes, cabbage, spinach and kale). Livestock, mainly dairy cattle, goats, sheep, and chicken are also widely kept. Food crop and livestock farming are also done by smallholders, with marketing and distribution of surplus produce (after farmers' own consumption) being done privately.
Tourism is also significant, as there are many tourist destinations nearby, including the Aberdare and Mount Kenya National Parks, and a number of hotels offering conference tourism and short upcountry holidays.
Nyeri's roads, a good number of which are tarmacked, still require much improvement, as do street lighting, street marking, sidewalk paving and parking services.
Water provision services are quite good, with well-distributed clean and safe drinking water being available straight from the tap.
The sewage system is growing at a good pace, though the use of soak pits, pit latrines and septic tanks is still widespread. The town's topography allows nature and gravity to take care of most of the town's storm water drainage.
Phone services, especially mobile telephony, and internet services are widely available, increasingly affordable and reliable, with internet speeds and bandwidth improving rapidly following the continuing laying of a fibre optic cable network around the town linking the town to offshore submarine cables recently landed on Kenya's coast; and continued improvement and increasing affordability of phone operator internet provision services.
Electricity provision is also adequate, affordable and reliable.
Nyeri is served by a reasonably well-maintained tarmac road network connecting it to Nairobi, Nakuru, Nanyuki, Othaya and other surrounding towns. Most transportation of cargo to and from Nyeri is by road, although the town has a largely underutilized railway station at Kiganjo (about six kilometers out of town towards Nanyuki) on the branchline of the railway from Nairobi to Nanyuki.
Two airstrips serve the town: one at Mweiga (about 15 Kilometers out of town towards Nakuru) and another at Nyaribo, off the Nanyuki - Naromoru highway. The main mode of public passenger transport to, from, and within Nyeri is by way of fourteen-seater minibuses (matatu), though un-metered salon car taxis are also widely used.
Nyeri is a popular destination for relaxation, business, entertainment, and educational/cultural tourism. Its pubs offer lively entertainment, the farms in and around it offer pristine scenery.
Nyeri is the burial place of Lieutenant-General Lord Baden-Powell, a commander in the Boer War and the founder of the Scouting Movement, who once wrote "the nearer to Nyeri the nearer to bliss". He and his wife, Olave, Lady Baden-Powell, G.B.E., are buried in the town cemetery. Lord Baden-Powell, often referred to simply as B-P, had a cottage built, which he called "Paxtu". He lived there until his death, and it is now a small museum; it stands in the grounds of The Outspan Hotel. Nyeri remains a place of pilgrimage for the worldwide Scouting and Guiding Movements, with members congregating in the town from time to time for various activities and functions.
The Italian War Memorial Chapel, located at Mathari, was built in honour of the fallen Italian soldiers and their African recruits from the Second World War. It is used not for regular worship, but only to celebrate a special Mass on every 2 November in memory of the fallen soldiers. On the entire walling of the main church building are memorials for the many Italian servicemen who died during WWII. Each memorial is in the form of a small oblong plaque indicating the name of the soldier, the battalion he served in, and the place where he died. At the far front, before the altar, is the grave of a senior Italian Royal Army officer.
The most imposing landmark around Nyeri is Mount Kenya, some 30 miles to the North East. Starting from about twenty kilometers out of town is the Mount Kenya National Park. Mount Kenya is an imposing extinct volcano lying strategically astride the Equator. The mountain has two main snow-covered peaks - Batian (5 200 m) and Nelion (5 188 m). It is the highest mountain in the country and the second, after Kilimanjaro, in Africa.
Its slopes are cloaked in forest, bamboo, scrub and moorland giving way on high central peaks to rock, ice and snow. Its U-shaped glacial valleys, rugged snow-capped peaks, Afro-alpine desert, thirty lakes and eight different natural forest types and a variety of wildlife species make it a convergence of natural attractions. The wildlife found in the park include giant forest hog, tree hyrax, white tailed mongoose, black leopard, bongo, elephant, black rhino, suni, black-fronted duiker, mole-rat and over 130 species of birds.
Activities carried out in the park include game drives, nature walks, mountain climbing, wildlife viewing, camping and cave exploration.
About fifteen Kilometers out of town on the opposite side to Mt. Kenya is the Aberdare National Park.
Its unusual vegetation, rugged terrain, deep ravines cutting through its forested eastern and western slopes, clear water streams and waterfalls combine to create an area of great scenic beauty. Its major attractions include the Lesatima and Kinangop peaks and many waterfalls, including the magnificent Karuru falls which drop 272 meters,zaina falls which drops about 140mtrs and the Gura Falls which drop 305 meters.
The park is home to many endangered species including the rare bongo, giant forest hog, packs of the now very rare wild dogs, and endemic mole-rat and mole shrew. Other game include a large population of black rhino, leopard servile, endemic bird species, reptiles and insects.
Activities include game drives and nature walks. Both brown and rainbow trout abound in the cool mountain streams and provide excellent angling. Within the Park, the Ark and the Treetops Lodges, which are located next to watering holes, offer close proximity night game viewing. It was at Treetops Lodge that The Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh (now Elizabeth II) was advised of the death of her father while on a honeymoon retreat, and her own ascent to the throne. The park is also known for the Kimathi hideouts, the Mau Mau Caves, and the Kimathi "post office" where agents used to drop messages for Mau Mau fighters during the guerrilla wars for Kenyan independence.
Close to the town are several privately owned ranches, many of which also serve as private wildlife sanctuaries like Solio Ranch and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy. Many higher-end tourists stay at these ranches, including celebrities such as Prince William  and Bill Gates.
Administration and Government
Nyeri is now, as an administrative center, currently in transition as the new governance and administrative structures created by the new Kenyan Constitution are in the early stages of implementation.
- Provincial Administration
Nyeri, as aforesaid, had been the Provincial Headquarters of the now defunct Central Province. The fate of the Provincial Administration is now the subject of intense national debate as the country transits to the new Constitution's new governance structure. In the interim,the Central Provincial Commissioner (PC) remains in Nyeri. Under him remain the District Commissioner, Nyeri Central District (DC), the Divisional Officers (DO), the Locational Chiefs and the Assistant Chiefs.
- Government Departments
Various Central Provincial and Nyeri Central District departments of the various ministries of the Government of Kenya, and central provincial offices of several Kenya Government departments and State Corporations are also still based in Nyeri.
The Central Provincial Police Officer (PPO) of the Kenya Police Service, and under him, as one of the police divisional heads, the Nyeri Divisional Police Commander (OCPD)are based in Nyeri.
Nyeri is administered as a "Municipality" (a larger town yet to attain "City" status) by the elected Municipal Council of Nyeri, which is composed of elected and nominated Councilors led by a Mayor and administered by a central government appointed Town Clerk and other Chief Officers. The Council is based at the Nyeri Town Hall.
Nyeri Municipality is a Parliamentary constituency known as Nyeri Town Constituency represented in Parliament by an elected Member of Parliament.
A number of people have hailed from Nyeri County. These include:
- Dedan Kimathi (The Mau Mau resistance leader)
- Waruhiu Itote aka General China (The Mau Mau war general )
- Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize winner, 2004)
- Mwai Kibaki (Kenya's former president)
- Muthui Kariuki ( Former Goverment Spokesman)
- Catherine Ndereba (Olympic marathon Silver Medalist, world marathon champion, four time Boston Marathon winner and multiple time winner of Chicago and other marathons).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Nyeri.|
- Kenya Engineer Journal Online
- Business Daily
- S. Wachira, S. Muteithia Kibira, Nyeri Showcase, Acken media, Nairobi, 2004; p. 18
- Kenya Information Guide
- "Accreditation status of universities, 2013"
- University of Nairobi website
- Kenyatta University website
- Kenya Wildlife Service – Overview Parks and Reserves
- Kenya Wildlife Service – Mount Kenya National Park
- Michael Hodd "East Africa handbook: the travel guide" Pages 127-130 ISBN 1-900949-65-2, ISBN 978-1-900949-65-1
- World Waterfall Database
- World Waterfall Database
- Michael Hodd "East Africa handbook: the travel guide" Page 131 ISBN 1-900949-65-2, ISBN 978-1-900949-65-1
- Kenya Tourist Board: KENYA’S CROWNING GLORY
- English, Rebecca, "Wills in the wilderness - with Kate AND Jecca", Daily Mail, London, 19 July 2005. retrieved 2011-1-21
- Cyrus Kinyungu, Cyrus "Simple lodge that won the heart of richest man",Bushdrums News, 30 August 2006. Retrieved 2011-1-21
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2009)|