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Nyeri, Kenya

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Nyeri, Kenya

Not to be confused with Nyeri County.
Location of Nyeri

Coordinates: 0°25′S 36°57′E / 0.417°S 36.950°E / -0.417; 36.950Coordinates: 0°25′S 36°57′E / 0.417°S 36.950°E / -0.417; 36.950

Country  Kenya
County Nyeri County
Population (1999)
 • Total 98,908
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)

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.[1] Following the dissolution of the former provinces by Kenya's new constitution in August 26, 2010,[2] 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 as at 2010 according to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census was 119,273 with 36,412 households.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.

The town has a relatively low cost of living in comparison to Nairobi and other major towns in Kenya. Located in Kenya's fertile highlands, food and water[3] are plentiful and relatively cheap.[4]


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.[5] 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.[5]

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".[6] 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.[7][8]

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,[9] Nyeri hosts satellite campuses of various Kenyan public universities such as University of Nairobi,[10] Kenyatta University.[11]

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 [12] 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,[13] 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 good hotels offering conference tourism and short upcountry holidays.[14]


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.[3]

The sewage system is growing at a good pace, though the use of soak pits, pit latrines and septic tanks is still widespread. The towns slopy 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.


In Town

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, and the grave of the scouting Movement's founder, Lieutenant-General Lord Baden-Powell, and his cottage, called Paxtu, are popular attractions.

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 November 2 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.

Nyeri is the burial place of 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's Paxtu cottage, now a small museum, stands on the grounds of The Outspan Hotel. Nyeri remains the home of the worldwide scouting movement with members of the scouting movement congregating in the town from time to time for various activities and functions.

Nyeri is also the burial place of the legendary hunter/conservationist Jim Corbett, the author of Maneaters of Kumaon (1944) who also spent his final years in Kenya.

Mount Kenya

The most imposing landmark around Nyeri is Mount Kenya, and 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.[15]

Activities carried out in the park include game drives, nature walks, mountain climbing, wildlife viewing, camping and cave exploration.

The Aberdares

About fifteen Kilometers out of town on the opposite side to Mt. Kenya is the Aberdare National Park.

The Aberdares is an older volcanic mountain range with shorter peaks due to longer erosion. It offers views of Mount Kenya and the Great Rift Valley.

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.[16] Its major attractions include the Lesatima and Kinangop peaks and many waterfalls, including the magnificent Karuru falls which drop 272 meters,[17] and the Gura Falls which drop 305 meters.[18][19]

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.[16]

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.

Private Ranches

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 [22] and Bill Gates.[23]

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.

Central Government

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.[24] Under him remain the District Commissioner, Nyeri Central District (DC), the Divisional Officers (DO), the Locational Chiefs and the Assistant Chiefs.[25]

Government Departments

Various Central Provincial and Nyeri Central District departments of the various ministries of the Government of Kenya,[26] 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.[27]

Local Government

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.

Parliamentary representation

Nyeri Municipality is a Parliamentary constituency known as Nyeri Town Constituency represented in Parliament by an elected Member of Parliament.

Notable Personalities

A good number of renowned people have hailed from Nyeri County. These include:


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