The Gikuyu, like the white settlers in the early twentieth century, were attracted to the Kenya highlands because of cool temperatures, fertile soils, and abundant rainfall.
The Land and Freedom Movement (referred to pejoratively as the "Mau Mau" Movement) during the 1950s was primarily a Gikuyu guerrilla war (a war fought without organized government troops) in response to British domination.
The British had taken farming lands from the Gikuyu and given these lands to white settlers.
Gikuyu were forced to work on these farms and to provide labor for cash crops such as coffee and tea.
The Gikuyu nationalist Jomo Kenyatta (1894–1978) became the first president of Kenya at its independence in 1963.
He is respected among the Gikuyu for his leadership against colonialism (outside rule) and for his status as is regarded as the father of his country.
Today, the Gikuyu, like other Kenyans, participate in a democratic political system.
Gikuyu are organized into two major political parties that are considered to be part of the opposition (to the ruling government) in Kenya.
These parties are the Democratic and the Ford-Asili Parties.
Political participation is primarily through election to a parliamentary (similar to a congressional) seat (of which there are 188 in Kenya) or through direct election to the national presidency. They number about 5 million among Kenya's total population of about 28 million.
The Gikuyu live throughout Kenya but primarily reside in Nairobi Province and Central Province, located in the central region of the country.
As Kenya's largest group, the Gikuyu occupy a central position in Kenyan social life.