Eldoret is a major city in Kenya’s Rift Valley region and serves as Uasin Gishu County’s capital. The town is also known as ‘Sisibo.’ As per the latest Kenya Population and Housing Census, Eldoret is Kenya’s fifth most populated urban area after Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, and the tourist loving Ruiru. Extending south of the Cherangani Hills, the regional elevation varies from around 2000 meters at the airport to more than 2500 meters in nearby areas (5000–9000 feet). The population was just under 300,000 in the 2009 CE Census, and it is currently the fastest flourishing town in Kenya with over 450,000 civilians according to the 2019 Kenya population Census.
History of Eldoret
The Sirikwa had occupied Eldoret and the hills around it for many centuries before the Maasai ascendancy era. Reform in weaponry was introduced in the Maasai period of the early 18th and 19th centuries. With new forms of governance and weapons, they swept down from their first homelands in the north, nearer to Lake Turkana, down to their present-day lands south of Kenya. The Maasai class that took over the Plateau was known as the Ilwasin Kishu, after whom it is named.
In August 1908 CE, fifty-eight families of Afrikaners (displaced after the war) left Nakuru for the Uasin Gishu hill after a long journey from South Africa by rail and sea Mombasa. Managed by Jan van Rensburg, they moved using medieval wagons that would often get stuck in the mud, finally arriving at their destination, Sergoit Hill, on the 22 October of that year. Jan Ernest Kruger would own the 5,000-acre Sergoit farm, now owned by Sergoit resort.
A certain van Breda had earlier surveyed the land, and the new arrivals took up leaseholds of between 800 and 5,000 acres ( 320 and 2,020 hectares) on condition that they would improve and develop the region within five years. Each family put up fences, built a shack, in-spanned oxen to simple plows, and turned the first furrows. They sowed maize, wheat, and other green vegetables. These promising actions laid the groundwork for the Plateau transformation into a flourishing agricultural region.
The farms were later officially registered, and the government gave each a number.
Eldoret was installed amid the farms they built on what was known to the settlers as “Farm 64”, “64,” or “Sisibo” to the locals because, at that time, it was 64 mi (103 kilometers) from the newly built Uganda Railway railhead at Kibigori. Willy van Aardt owned the farm. Sadly, the Central Lounge in Eldoret is all that remains of Willy’s farm.
The official townsite commenced in 1910 CE with the addition of a Post Office at “Sisibo.” This was followed quickly after by the arrival of 60 more promising Afrikaner families in 1911 CE. The governor decided to build an administrative center in the area in 1912 CE, and thus the Post Office was renamed from “64” to a new standard town name: “Eldoret.” Becoming an administrative center caused an immense increase in trade within the growing city. The locals built a bank and several new shops.
In the 1950s CE, the city was split into two, along the main street (now called the Uganda Road), the British on the south and with the Afrikaans on the north. The former took their kids to Highland School (now Moi Girls High School) and the latter to Hill School. Recreation was also along the divide – ‘Brits’ used the Lincoln Hotel and the Race-Course surrounding the now “Chinese Area” while the Afrikaans gathered at the Wagon Wheel for weekly recreation.
Daniel Arap Moi was born in the surrounding Baringo District, and under his presidency, the town was developed further. The country’s second college of higher learning, Moi University, was built by the official government institution in 1984 CE and the third international airport was subsequently constructed, significantly boosting the fortunes of the town.
By 1987, only 2 Afrikaner households settled in Eldoret, with the rest having traveled back to South Africa in the 1950s and late 1960s, in the aftermath of the Mau Mau rebellion and in the hope of freedom.
The town was impacted by the 2007–2008 CE Kenyan crisis when violence covered Kenya in the aftermath of questionable General Elections. Lucas Sang, a promising athlete, was murdered about 10 kilometers away from the town while home to Chepkoilel. On 1 January 2008 CE, a mob attacked and set fire to a church located near burnt forest town, an Eldoret satellite town. Hundreds of people had taken refuge during the Kenyan slaughter. As a result, about sixty-five people, mostly Kikuyu, were sadly burnt to death.