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Witu Protectorate (Kenya)

Pre-independence Kenya

Last modified: 2022-10-22 by bruce berry
Keywords: kenya | witu protectorate |
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image by António Martins, 28 Nov 1999.  First hoisted on 31 July 1893 See also:

Witu Protectorate flag

The Witu protectorate had been part of German East Africa (Tanganyika) but was annexed in 1890. It is the hinterland area inland from the coast. The coast of Kenya with Mombasa etc... was nominally a possession of the Sultan of Zanzibar, and so was officially a British Protectorate. However Kenya Colony and Protectorate were administered as a single unit with a single flag-badge. This sort of arrangement was quite common in British African territories, although it was more usual for the Colony to be on the coast and the Protectorate inland. My references to the books on Africa should have been to Byron Farwell's "Scramble for Africa", an excellent overview of the colonization, and "The Great War in Africa". The Jubaland location was correct, and it was given to Italy as part of the rewards for jointing the Allies in WWI. It was never administered as a separate colony, only as part of British East Africa and then Italian East Africa.
John Fetzer, 20 Feb 1996

The Witu forest lies within the protectorate of British East Africa. Its flag is a red field upon which is centered a Union Jack, about half as long and half as wide as the field itself.
Josh Fruhlinger, 20 Feb 1996

Witu was a protectorate established c.1890 on the coast of East Africa. It was part of the mainland territories of the Sultan of Zanzibar that came under British control as a result of the Anglo-German Heligoland Treaty. It was probably the territory that became known as the Protectorate of Kenya when the East Africa Protectorate became Kenya Colony in 1920. The flag may not have come into use until c.1905. A letter of that year in PRO file ADM 116/1063B reported that the Consul General at Zanzibar had adopted a red Arab flag with a small Union Jack in the centre for the Protectorate of Witu.
As drawn, the flag was 37:57 with a central Union Jack of 15:27.
David Prothero, 8 May 1999

According to a Philatelic Atlas I have, Witu includes the off-shore islands of Patta, Manda and Lamu. The atlas depicts the territory as bordering Zanzibar (coastal possessions) to the south. The territory at the north of Kenya, that was ceded to Italy, and called Oltre Giuba in Italian (across the Jiuba river = Transjubaland) is farther north. A contemporary atlas shows the three islands, and the city of Lamu, as well as a small town Witu, on the north coast of Kenya.
Herman De Wael, 2 Dec 1999

There are coloured prints of the jack and ensign of "German government vessels engaged in East African trade", in the 1892 amendments to the Admiralty Flag Book. The jack is the merchant flag with a plain blue anchor in the centre of the white band, and the ensign a Reichskriegsflagge with a plain blue anchor in the lower hoist. [National Archives (PRO) ADM 116/353]

"The German civil ensign - a horizontal tricolor black white red - flew over Witu and was carried by askaris."
A photograph shows the German flag being dipped to the Sultan of Witu when he reviewed askaris in front of his palace c1882.
[Article "The Forgotten Flags of Witu" by James Marill in (probably) an issue of the Flag Bulletin]
David Prothero, 28 Oct 2003

I have now found out that the flag, design of which was agreed by the Sultan of Zanzibar's First Minister and the Imperial British East Africa Company Representative at Lamu, was first hoisted on 31 July 1893.
Source: National Archives (PRO) ADM 116/1063D.
David Prothero, 6 Dec 2003

Wasn't the Protectorate in the coastal strip much more than the former Witu? Witu had formerly been a small German protectorate, exchanged in 1890, along with Zanzibar, for Helgoland and the Caprivi Strip. As I understand it the remaining Kenyan coastal strip, which was formerly under the control of the Sultan of Zanzibar, had already become a British protectorate before the exchange. Mombasa and other parts of this protectorate had never been part of Witu as far as I can see.
Ned Smith, 26 Sep 2005

After 1920 the interior of the country was a colony, but the coastal strip and the formerly separate Protectorate of Witu, remained a protectorate. Witu was a relatively small area to the north of the coastal strip leased from the Sultan of Zanzibar by the Imperial British East Africa Company.
Under the terms of the 1890 agreement with Germany, Witu was to remain separate from other British territories.  This seems to have been observed until the Colonial Office took over from the Foreign Office in 1905, and was not formally abandoned until 1920.
David Prothero, 27 Sep 2005