The paper explores the extent to which other domestic political matters and post-colonial ties to Britain shaped the Kenyan Government's actions in northern Kenya between independence in 1963 and the death of President Jomo Kenyatta in 1978. The paper has a particular emphasis on the Shifta War of 1963–1967. Disputes between rival nationalist leaders at independence and doubts about the loyalty of the armed forces meant Kenyatta concentrated on protecting his regime from the threat of coups and other challenges than he was with using violence to extend state authority in north-eastern Kenya. That same calculation meant Kenyatta looked to Britain for support, in particular in the form of military backing for his government in the event of a coup or invasion from Somalia. The paper argues that the compromises made between British and Kenyan actors allow us to understand the particular nature of the Kenyan state's actions in north-eastern province over this period.