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Kenya

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Major Cities of Kenya in the continent of Africa

NairobiMombasaNakuruEldoretKisumuRuiruThikaKitaleMalindiGarissaKakamegaBungomaNyeriMeruKilifi

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THE KENYA COAT OF ARMS
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Location of Kenya within the continent of Africa
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Flag Description of Kenya:The Kenya flag was officially adopted on December 12, 1963. The black is said to represent the Kenyan people; red symbolizes the blood they spilled fighting colonialism; green the country's landscape and white means peace.

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Official name Jamhuri ya Kenya (Swahili); Republic of Kenya (English)
Form of government unitary multiparty republic with two legislative houses1 (Senate [682]; National Assembly [3503])
Head of state and government President: Uhuru Kenyatta4
Capital Nairobi
Official languages Swahili; English
Official religion none
Monetary unit Kenyan shilling (K Sh)
Population (2013 est.) 44,038,000
Total area (sq mi) 224,961
Total area (sq km) 582,646
Urban-rural population

Urban: (2011) 24%
Rural: (2011) 76%

Life expectancy at birth

Male: (2012) 61.6 years
Female: (2012) 64.6 years

Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate

Male: (2008) 90.3%
Female: (2008) 82.8%

GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2012) 840

1A new constitution promulgated Aug. 27, 2010, provided for the establishment of a 68-seat Senate in 2013.

2Includes 16 nonelective seats reserved for women, 2 reserved for youth, 2 reserved for people with disabilities, and 1 ex officio member.

3Includes 12 nonelective seats and 1 ex officio member.

4The 2010 constitution abolished the post of Prime Minister effective from the 2013 presidential election.

Background of Kenya

Fossils found in East Africa suggest that protohumans roamed the area more than 20 million years ago. Recent finds near Kenya's Lake Turkana indicate that hominids lived in the area 2.6 million years ago.

Kenya, country in East Africa famed for its scenic landscapes and vast wildlife preserves. Its Indian Ocean coast provided historically important ports by which goods from Arabian and Asian traders have entered the continent for many centuries. Along that coast, which holds some of the finest beaches in Africa, are predominantly Muslim Swahili cities such as Mombasa, a historic centre that has contributed much to the musical and culinary heritage of the country. Inland are populous highlands famed for both their tea plantations, an economic staple during the British colonial era, and their variety of animal species, including lions, elephants, cheetahs, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses. Kenya’s western provinces, marked by lakes and rivers, are forested, while a small portion of the north is desert and semidesert. The country’s diverse wildlife and panoramic geography draw large numbers of European and North American visitors, and tourism is an important contributor to Kenya’s economy.

The capital of Kenya is Nairobi, a sprawling city that, like many other African metropolises, is a study in contrasts, with modern skyscrapers looking out over vast shantytowns in the distance, many harbouring refugees fleeing civil wars in neighbouring countries. Older neighbourhoods, some of them prosperous, tend to be ethnically mixed and well served by utilities and other amenities, while the tents and hastily assembled shacks that ring the city tend to be organized tribally and even locally, inasmuch as in some instances whole rural villages have removed themselves to the more promising city.

With a long history of musical and artistic expression, Kenya enjoys a rich tradition of oral and written literature, including many fables that speak to the virtues of determination and perseverance, important and widely shared values, given the country’s experience during the struggle for independence. Kikuyu writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o, one of the country’s best-known authors internationally, addresses these concerns in his remarks on one folkloric figure:

Hare being small, weak, but full of innovative wit, was our
hero. We identified with him as he struggled against the
brutes of prey like lion, leopard, and hyena. His victories
were our victories and we learnt that the apparently weak
can outwit the strong.

Kenya’s many peoples are well known to outsiders, largely because of the British colonial administration’s openness to study. Anthropologists and other social scientists have documented for generations the lives of the Maasai, Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, and Kikuyu peoples, to name only some of the groups. Adding to the country’s ethnic diversity are European and Asian immigrants from many nations. Kenyans proudly embrace their individual cultures and traditions, yet they are also cognizant of the importance of national solidarity; a motto of “Harambee” (Swahili: “Pulling together”) has been stressed by Kenya’s government since independence.

Geography of Kenya

The Land

Bisected horizontally by the Equator and vertically by longitude 38° E, Kenya is bordered to the north by South Sudan and Ethiopia, to the east by Somalia and the Indian Ocean, to the south by Tanzania, and to the west by Lake Victoria and Uganda.

Relief

The 38th meridian divides Kenya into two halves of striking contrast. While the eastern half slopes gently to the coral-backed seashore, the western portion rises more abruptly through a series of hills and plateaus to the Eastern Rift Valley, known in Kenya as the Central Rift. West of the Rift is a westward-sloping plateau, the lowest part of which is occupied by Lake Victoria. Within this basic framework, Kenya is divided into the following geographic regions: the Lake Victoria basin, the Rift Valley and associated highlands, the eastern plateau forelands, the semiarid and arid areas of the north and south, and the coast.

The Lake Victoria basin is part of a plateau rising eastward from the lakeshore to the Rift highlands. The lower part, forming the lake basin proper, is itself a plateau area lying between 3,000 and 4,000 feet (900 and 1,200 metres) above sea level. The rolling grassland of this plateau is cut almost in half by the Kano Plain, into which an arm of the lake known as Winam Gulf (Kavirondo Gulf) extends eastward for 50 miles (80 km). The floor of the Kano Plain merges north and south into highlands characterized by a number of extinct volcanoes. These include Mount Elgon, rising to 14,178 feet (4,321 metres) at the Ugandan border on the extreme north of the basin.

The Rift Valley splits the highland region into two sections: the Mau Escarpment to the west and the Aberdare Range to the east. The valley itself is 30 to 80 miles (50 to 130 km) wide, and its floor rises from about 1,500 feet (450 metres) in the north around Lake Turkana (Lake Rudolf) to over 7,000 feet (2,100 metres) at Lake Naivasha but then drops to 2,000 feet (600 metres) at the Tanzanian border in the south. The floor of the Rift is occupied by a chain of shallow lakes separated by extinct volcanoes. Lake Naivasha is the largest of these; the others include Lakes Magadi, Nakuru, Bogoria, and Baringo. West of the valley the diverse highland area runs from the thick lava block of the Mau Escarpment–Mount Tinderet complex northward to the Uasin Gishu Plateau. East of the Rift the Aberdare Range rises to nearly 10,000 feet (3,000 metres). The eastern highlands extend from the Ngong Hills and the uplands bordering Tanzania northward to the Laikipia Escarpment. Farther east they are linked by the Nyeri saddle to Mount Kenya, the country’s highest peak, at 17,058 feet (5,199 metres). The relief of both highlands is complex and includes plains, deep valleys, and mountains. Important in the historic and economic development of Kenya, the region was the focus of European settlement.

The eastern plateau forelands, located just east of the Rift highlands, constitute a vast plateau of ancient rocks gently sloping to the coastal plain. They are a region of scattered hills and striking elevated formations, the most prominent being the hills of Taita, Kasigau, Machakos, and Kitui. These hills, containing the area of more favourable climate, are surrounded by regions historically prone to famine.

The semiarid and arid areas in the north and northeast are part of a vast region extending from the Ugandan border through Lake Rudolf to the plateau area between the Ethiopian and Kenyan highlands. (The area from Lake Magadi southward, though not as arid, has the same characteristics.) Although tree and grass cover is scanty there, the areas of true desert are limited to the Chalbi Desert east of Lake Rudolf. The movement of people and livestock is strictly limited by the availability of water.

The coastal plain proper, which runs for about 250 miles (400 km) along the Indian Ocean, is a narrow strip only about 10 miles (16 km) wide in the south, but in the Tana River lowlands to the north it broadens to about 100 miles (160 km). Farther northeast it merges into the lowlands of Somalia. The excellent natural harbours include that of Mombasa, which is one of the best in East Africa.

Drainage

Kenya’s drainage pattern originated when a large oval dome of rock arose in the west-central part of the country and created the Central Rift. This dome produced a primeval watershed from which rivers once drained eastward to the Indian Ocean and westward to the Congo River system and the Atlantic Ocean. Still following this ancient pattern are the Tana and Galana rivers, which rise in the eastern highlands and flow roughly southeast to the Indian Ocean. West of the Central Rift, however, the major streams now drain into Lake Victoria. These include the Nzoia, Yala, Mara, and Nyando rivers. Between the eastern and western systems, the rifting of the dome’s crust has created a complex pattern of internal streams that feed the major lakes.

There are no major groundwater basins, and, apart from the Tana River, most of the rivers in Kenya are short and often disappear during the dry season. Lake Victoria, with a surface area of 26,828 square miles (69,484 square km), is the largest lake in Africa, the second largest freshwater body in the world, and a major reservoir of the Nile River. Lake Rudolf, some 150 miles (240 km) long and 20 miles (30 km) wide, is the largest of the country’s Rift Valley lakes. Other lakes are rather small, and their surface areas fluctuate considerably.

Soils

In the Lake Victoria basin, lava deposits have produced fertile and sandy loam soils in the plateaus north and south of Winam Bay, while the volcanic pile of Mount Elgon produces highly fertile volcanic soils well known for coffee and tea production. The Rift Valley and associated highlands are composed of fertile dark brown loams developed on younger volcanic deposits.

The most widespread soils in Kenya, however, are the sandy soils of the semiarid regions between the coast and the Rift highlands. To the north of the Rift are vast areas covered by red desert soils, mainly sandy loams. Kenya’s soils are subject to widespread erosion largely because of the lack of forest cover; overgrazing and cultivation, especially in the arid and semiarid regions, also contribute to soil loss.

Climate

Seasonal climatic changes are controlled by the large-scale pressure systems of the western Indian Ocean and adjacent landmasses. From December to March, northeast winds predominate north of the Equator, while south to southeast winds dominate south of it. These months are fairly dry, although rain may occur locally. The rainy season extends from late March to May, with air flowing from the east in both hemispheres. From June to August there is little precipitation, and southwest winds prevail north of the Equator as southeast winds prevail in the south.

In the Lake Victoria basin, annual precipitation varies from 40 inches (1,000 mm) around the lakeshore to more than 70 inches (1,800 mm) in the higher elevations in the eastern areas. The lakeshore has excellent agricultural potential because it can expect 20 to 35 inches (500 to 900 mm) in most years. Daily maximum temperatures range from 80 °F (27 °C) in July to 90 °F (32 °C) in October and February.

In the Rift Valley, average temperatures decrease from about 84 °F (29 °C) in the north to just over 61 °F (16 °C) around Lakes Nakuru and Naivasha in the south. The adjacent highlands are generally moderate, with average temperatures ranging between 56 and 65 °F (13 and 18 °C). The floor of the Rift Valley is generally dry, while the highland areas receive more than 30 inches (760 mm) of rain per year. The reliable precipitation and fertile soils of the Mau Escarpment form the basis for a thriving agricultural sector.

In the eastern plateau region, annual precipitation in most areas averages 20 to 30 inches (500 to 760 mm), although agriculture is hampered by extremely variable precipitation. The semiarid and arid regions of northern, northeastern, and southern Kenya have high temperatures but very erratic precipitation. Most places experience average temperatures of 85 °F (29 °C) or more, while annual precipitation is only about 10 inches (250 mm) in the north and less than 20 inches (500 mm) in the south.

In most parts of the coast, average temperatures exceed 80 °F (27 °C) and relative humidity is high year-round. From the humid coast, where annual precipitation is between 30 and 50 inches (760 and 1,270 mm), precipitation decreases westward to about 20 inches (500 mm) per year. Only on the southern coast is precipitation reliable enough for prosperous agriculture.

Plant and animal life

In the highlands between elevations of 7,000 and 9,000 feet (2,100 and 2,700 metres), the characteristic landscape consists of patches of evergreen forest separated by wide expanses of short grass. Where the forest has survived human encroachment, it includes economically valuable trees such as cedar (Juniperus procera) and varieties of podo. Above the forest, a zone of bamboo extends to about 10,000 feet (3,000 metres), beyond which there is mountain moorland bearing tree heaths, tree groundsel (a foundation timber of the genus Senecio), and giant lobelia (a widely distributed herbaceous plant). East and west of the highlands, forests give way to low trees scattered through an even cover of short grass.

Semidesert regions below 3,000 feet (900 metres) give rise to baobab trees. In still drier areas of the north, desert scrub occurs, exposing the bare ground. The vegetation of the coastal region is basically savanna with patches of residual forests. While the northern coast still bears remnants of forests, centuries of human occupation have virtually destroyed them in the south. In an effort to slow the processes of deforestation and desertification, the Green Belt Movement, an organization founded in 1977 by environmentalist Wangari Maathai (winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize), had planted some 30 million trees by the early 21st century.

Almost one-third of Kenya, particularly the western regions and the coastal belt, is infested with tsetse flies and mosquitoes, which are responsible for the spread of, respectively, sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) and malaria.

Kenya’s abundant wildlife population lives mostly outside the country’s numerous national parks and game reserves. Baboons and zebras can be found, for instance, along the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, close to human settlements and urban centres. This has created conflict between people and animals that sometimes has been resolved by relocating animals to areas where the human population is less dense. In an effort to ameliorate the problem, a “parks beyond parks” program was introduced in the mid-1990s by the Kenya Wildlife Service. The plan has attempted to draw local communities into the management and distribution of the income derived from wild animals in the vicinity, thus making people more tolerant of the animals’ presence. The program has been somewhat successful, and, with community involvement, incidents of poaching in the national parks and game reserves have declined.

There is a close link between the vegetation of each region and the differentiation and distribution of its wildlife. The highland rainforests support a variety of large mammals, dominated by elephants and rhinoceroses, although both species have been reduced significantly because of poaching and deforestation. Bushbuck, colobus monkeys, and, occasionally, galagos (bush babies) are also found. The bamboo zone contains varieties of duiker and some species of birds. Highland predators include lions, leopards, and wildcats.

The most-prolific animal populations are found in the extensive grasslands between the forest zone and lower areas, principally varieties of ungulates, such as the hartebeest, wildebeest (gnu), zebra, and gazelle. Others include the waterbuck, impala, eland, warthog, and buffalo. These are preyed on by lions, spotted hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs. Without the interference of the forest, birdlife is much richer there, and lakes and rivers are inhabited by swarms of fish and occasionally by hippopotamuses and crocodiles. A vast number of lesser flamingos—among the world’s largest populations—can be found in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley at Lake Bogoria, a soda lake (which is characterized by high salinity and alkalinity).

In the thornbushes and thickets of the arid regions are elephants, rhinoceroses, lions, leopards, giraffes, gerenuk, impalas, dik-diks, and various kinds of kudu; suni antelope, buffalo, and elephants are found in the coastal forest. Hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and many varieties of fish are found in the large rivers, while the coastal waters contain abundant marine life, including butterfly fish, angelfish, rock cod, barracuda, and spiny lobsters.


Demography of Kenya

The People

  • Ethnic groups and languages

The African peoples of Kenya, who comprise virtually the entire population, are divided into three language groups: Bantu, Nilo-Saharan, and Afro-Asiatic. Bantu is by far the largest, and its speakers are mainly concentrated in the southern third of the country. The Kikuyu, Kamba, Meru, and Nyika people occupy the fertile Central Rift highlands, while the Luhya and Gusii inhabit the Lake Victoria basin.

Nilo-Saharan—represented by the languages of Kalenjin, Luo, Maasai, Samburu, and Turkana—is the next largest group. The rural Luo inhabit the lower parts of the western plateau, and the Kalenjin-speaking people occupy the higher parts of it. The Maasai are pastoral nomads in the southern region bordering Tanzania, and the related Samburu and Turkana pursue the same occupation in the arid northwest.

The Afro-Asiatic peoples, who inhabit the arid and semiarid regions of the north and northeast, constitute only a tiny fraction of Kenya’s population. They are divided between the Somali, bordering Somalia, and the Oromo, bordering Ethiopia; both groups pursue a pastoral livelihood in areas that are subject to famine, drought, and desertification. Another Afro-Asiatic people is the Burji, some of whom are descended from workers brought from Ethiopia in the 1930s to build roads in northern Kenya.

In addition to the African population, Kenya is home to groups who immigrated there during British colonial rule. People from India and Pakistan began arriving in the 19th century, although many left after independence. A substantial number remain in urban areas such as Kisumu, Mombasa, and Nairobi, where they engage in various business activities. European Kenyans, mostly British in origin, are the remnant of the colonial population. Their numbers were once much larger, but most emigrated at independence to Southern Africa, Europe, and elsewhere. Those who remain are found in the large urban centres of Mombasa and Nairobi.

The Swahili (mostly the products of marriages between Arabs and Africans) live along the coast. Arabs introduced Islam into Kenya when they entered the area from the Arabian Peninsula about the 8th century ad. Although a wide variety of languages are spoken in Kenya, the lingua franca is Swahili. This multipurpose language, which evolved along the coast from elements of local Bantu languages, Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, Hindi, and English, is the language of local trade and is also used (along with English) as an official language in the Kenyan legislative body, the National Assembly, and the courts.

  • Religion

Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution. More than two-thirds of the people are Christian, primarily attending Protestant or Roman Catholic churches. Christianity first came to Kenya in the 15th century through the Portuguese, but this contact ended in the 17th century. Christianity was revived at the end of the 19th century and expanded rapidly. African traditional religions have a concept of a supreme being who is known by various names. Many syncretic faiths have arisen in which the adherents borrow from Christian traditions and African religious practices. Independent churches are numerous; one such church, the Maria Legio of Africa, is dominated by the Luo people. Muslims constitute a sizable minority and include both Sunni and Shīʿites. There are also small populations of Jews, Jains, Sikhs, and Bahaʾis. In remote areas, Christian mission stations offer educational and medical facilities as well as religious ones.

  • Settlement patterns

Most of Kenya’s population is rural and lives in scattered settlements, the location and concentration of which depend largely on climatic and soil conditions. Before European colonization, virtually no villages or towns existed except along the coast, while urbanization was confined to fishing villages, Arab trading ports, and towns visited by dhows from the Arabian Peninsula and Asia. The modern cities of Mombasa, Lamu, and Malindi were among the preexisting urban areas that were expanded during the colonial period. Nairobi, originally a Maasai watering hole, became important because of its connection to the railroad, which came through the area at the beginning of the 20th century. Other towns, such as Eldoret, Embu, Kisumu, and Nakuru, were established by Europeans as administrative centres, mission stations, and markets.

The migration from rural to urban areas has accelerated since independence, spurred by greater economic development in urban areas. In the late 1960s about one-tenth of the national population lived in urban areas of 1,000 or more people; by the turn of the 21st century the figure had more than doubled. The largest coastal city is Mombasa, while the majority of Kenyans in the interior live in the capital city, Nairobi. The influx of people has placed a major burden on the provision of such services as education, health and sanitation, water, and electricity.

  • Demographic trends

Kenya’s accelerating population growth from the early 1960s to the early 1980s seriously constrained the country’s social and economic development. During the first quarter of the 20th century, the total population was fewer than four million, largely because of famines, wars, and disease. By the late 1940s the population had risen to more than five million, and at independence in 1963 it was more than eight million and growing rapidly. The population exceeded 20 million by the mid-1980s, after which the growth rate began slowing dramatically. Nonetheless, in the early 21st century the rate of natural increase was still above the world average. The pressure of such a population explosion produced limited employment opportunities; rising costs for education, health services, and food imports; and an inability to generate the resources to build housing in both urban and rural areas.

The most important causes of the country’s explosive growth in population were a sharp fall in mortality rates—especially infant mortality—and the traditional preference for large families. The slower population growth of the late 20th and early 21st centuries occurred in part because fertility and birth rates were lower but also because the number of deaths from AIDS was increasing. In the early 21st century, life expectancy in Kenya was below the world average.

Economy of Kenya

Since independence was achieved in 1963, Kenya’s economy has contained both privately owned and state-run enterprises. Most of the country’s business is in private hands (with a large amount of foreign investment), but the government also shapes the country’s economic development through various regulatory powers and “parastatals,” or enterprises that it partly or wholly owns. The aim of this policy is to achieve economic growth and stability, generate employment, and maximize foreign earnings by achieving high levels of agricultural exports while substituting domestically produced goods for those that have been imported. For a decade after independence this policy showed great promise as rising wages, employment, and government revenue provided the means for expanding health services, education, transportation, and communication. But problems that arose with the rise of global oil prices in 1973 have been aggravated by periodic drought and accelerating population growth, and Kenya’s economy has been unable to maintain a favourable balance of trade while addressing the problems of chronic poverty and growing unemployment. The country’s ability to industrialize has been hampered by, among other factors, limited domestic purchasing power, shrinking government budgets, increased external and internal debt, poor infrastructure, and massive governmental corruption and mismanagement.

In an effort to decrease its dependence on volatile agricultural markets, Kenya attempted to diversify its exports in the last decade of the 20th century, adding horticultural products, clothing, cement, soda ash, and fluorspar. The country also made the export of manufactured goods such as paper and vehicles a priority. Domestic restrictions on imports have been removed slowly, however, and this policy has been only partially successful. Kenya’s economy, which did not grow at a constant rate during the last two decades of the 20th century, continued to be dominated by the external market; tourism and agricultural exports were still the major source of foreign exchange for the country in the early 21st century.

  • Agriculture, forestry, and fishing

Agriculture plays an important role in Kenya’s economy. Although its share of gross domestic product (GDP) has declined—from more than two-fifths in 1964 to less than one-fifth in the early 21st century—agriculture supplies the manufacturing sector with raw materials and generates tax revenue and foreign exchange that support the rest of the economy. Moreover, it employs the majority of the population.

In the first years after independence, the government sought to redistribute the land on which most of the agricultural exports were produced. Although there are now thousands of large farms, ranches, and plantations, the majority of the farms are smaller than five acres (two hectares). Tea and fresh flowers are the key foreign-exchange earners. Sisal, cotton, and fruits and vegetables also are important cash crops. Coffee, historically an important foreign exchange earner, still contributes to the economy but began declining in importance and earnings in the 1990s, owing in part to market instability and deregulation. Kenya supplies the majority of the pyrethrum (a flower used to create the nonsynthetic pesticide pyrethrin) to the world market; demand for this product fluctuates depending upon the level of interest in the United States, which is the largest consumer of this commodity. National boards that controlled key export crops such as coffee, tea, and cotton were deregulated beginning in the early 1990s.

The major crops for domestic consumption are corn (maize) and wheat. Sugarcane was an export crop in the 1970s and ’80s, but by the ’90s domestic demand exceeded the supply, and it had to be imported. Livestock (including cattle and goats) is raised and dairy goods are produced primarily for domestic use, and the government maintains a reserve supply of such commodities as skim milk powder, cheese, and butter. Surplus animal and dairy products are exported.

Despite the importance of agriculture to the economic well-being of the country, the lack of water, infrastructure, and arable land (less than one-tenth of Kenya can be used for agriculture) seriously constrains further expansion. Although the government has made efforts to increase irrigation, it is estimated that only one-fifth to one-fourth of potentially irrigable area has been developed.

Forests occupy only a small portion of the land but are extremely important in the domestic economy. Most of the area of forest reserves is wooded bush, bamboo, and grass; the remainder consists of planted softwoods, which now support a domestic paper industry. Forests are vital for conserving Kenya’s soil and water resources, but they are increasingly threatened by a fast-growing population that constantly demands more fuel and settlement areas. As fuel, wood is used primarily for domestic cooking, but deforestation threatens the supply. A tree-planting program has been initiated to grow quick-maturing indigenous and exotic species in ecologically suitable areas.

Fish and marine products represent a small but growing portion of Kenya’s economy and are locally important. Freshwater fish from Lakes Victoria and Rudolf constitute the bulk of the catch. The encroaching water hyacinth on the surface of Lake Victoria threatened this fishery in the 1990s, although this nuisance was countered by several strategies, including the introduction of weevils into the environment. Most of the weed has been successfully eliminated, although the potential for a resurgence remains.

  • Resources and power

Soda ash (used in glassmaking) is Kenya’s most valuable mineral export and is quarried at Lake Magadi in the Rift Valley. Limestone deposits at the coast and in the interior are exploited for cement manufacture and agriculture. Vermiculite, gold, rubies, topazes, and salt are also important, as is fluorite (also known as fluorspar and used in metallurgy), which is mined along the Kerio River in the north. Deposits of titanium- and zirconium-bearing sands were found in multiple locations northeast of Mombasa and to the south of the city. Exploration for petroleum has so far met with limited success.

Kenya’s economic development has been tied to its ability to improve energy resources. The emphasis since independence has been on producing hydroelectricity, but access to energy is limited in rural areas, since the bulk of electricity is consumed by the two major urban centres of Nairobi and Mombasa. There are hydroelectric plants located on the Tana and Turkwel rivers. Geothermal resources in the Rift Valley have been tapped since the early 1980s to generate electricity and have come to supply a significant amount of Nairobi’s total needs. While the expansion of generating capacity continued through grants from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, a severe drought occurred in the northwest part of the country at the end of the 20th century. This led to blackouts that continued into the beginning of the 21st century.

  • Manufacturing

Kenya is the most industrially developed country in East Africa, but it has not yet produced results to match its potential. Manufacturing is based largely on processing imported goods, although the government supports the development of export-oriented industries. Major industries include agricultural processing, publishing and printing, and the manufacture of textiles and clothing, cement, tires, batteries, paper, ceramics, and leather goods. Assembly plants, which utilize imported parts, produce various kinds of commercial and passenger vehicles and even export a small quantity to other African countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi.

Steel processing for reexport and for the construction industry is a growing sector, with about a dozen steel mills in operation. The petroleum industry, which was deregulated in 1994, produces diesel and jet fuel from imported crude oil at a refinery near Mombasa and provides a major source of foreign exchange.

  • Finance and trade

The state-run Central Bank of Kenya, established by legislation in 1966, regulates the money supply (the monetary unit is the Kenyan shilling), assists in the development of the monetary, credit, and banking system, acts as banker and financial adviser to the government, and grants short-term or seasonal loans. There also are a large number of commercial, merchant, and foreign banks in Kenya. The Nairobi Stock Exchange, founded in 1954, is one of the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Agricultural products such as tea, fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables, and coffee constitute the greatest proportion of Kenya’s exports. The remainder of the exports consists of petroleum products, cement, hides and skins, and soda ash. Imports include machinery and transport equipment, chemical products, petroleum and petroleum products, and food and beverages. The chief trading partners are Uganda, the countries of the European Union (notably the United Kingdom), the United Arab Emirates, and Tanzania. Kenya is a member of the East African Community Customs Union.

  • Services

Kenya is home to some of the rarest and most interesting species of wildlife in the world. Because of this, tourism is one of the country’s major sources of foreign exchange, with visitors coming largely from countries of the European Union. Tourism revolves around a basic framework of national parks, game reserves, and game sanctuaries, where a wide variety of animals and cultural attractions can be enjoyed. The number of tourists began to vary annually in the early 1990s, however, following a period of political unrest and attacks on tourists, and again in the early 2000s, owing partially to the threat of terrorism.

  • Labour and taxation

Following agriculture, the next largest employment sectors are trade- and service-related industries. Women perform most of the agricultural work, but they participate largely in the informal sector of the economy. The Central Organization of Trade Unions was founded in 1965. Many professions are unionized, including metal workers, airline pilots, game hunting and safari workers, jockeys and betting workers, journalists, and textile workers. Government revenue is derived from taxes on income and profits and on goods and services, from excise duties, and from value-added taxes.

  • Transportation and telecommunications

The transportation infrastructure that developed both before and after independence allowed Kenya to emerge as a viable state. Roads became the major link between the urban areas and the rural hinterlands, although they were developed in colonial times as a subsidiary to the railway line running from Mombasa to the western parts of the country. The heavily utilized trunk and primary roads were upgraded from dirt to bitumen and gravel after independence. As this network was expanded, freight traffic within Kenya as well as to Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan (including what is now South Sudan), and Ethiopia increased rapidly. The heavy traffic severely damaged Kenyan roads, requiring expensive repairs.

Railways, the second most important mode of transport after roads, are operated by Kenya Railways. The main line runs northwest from Mombasa through Nairobi, Nakuru, and Eldoret to the Ugandan border. Major branchlines run from Nakuru to Kisumu on Lake Victoria and from Nairobi to Nanyuki near Mount Kenya, and another goes into Tanzania. Privatization of Kenya Railways began early in the 21st century, and efforts were undertaken to make the railways more competitive in the freight market. Passenger service constitutes a very small share of railway business.

The strategic location of Kenya on the western shores of the Indian Ocean, with easy connections to different parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, has greatly enhanced the role of the international airports at Nairobi and Mombasa. Another international airport is located at Eldoret. There are domestic airports at Kisumu and Malindi and many smaller airfields throughout the country. Kenya Airways, established in 1977, privatized its operations and financial control in 1996.

Mombasa, the country’s principal port, handles the bulk of the import and export traffic not only of Kenya but of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ports of Lamu and Malindi serve mainly the coastal trade and fisheries.

Telephone service has greatly expanded since the early 1980s, but, while the number of telephones more than doubled between 1984 and 1995, the great majority of the population still does not have access to local telephone lines. Cellular telephone service experienced rapid growth around the turn of the century, as did Internet access—by the mid-2000s, the country had one of the highest numbers of Internet users in sub-Saharan Africa. Like other industries in Kenya, telecommunications were being privatized at the start of the 21st century.

Government and Society of Kenya

  • Constitutional framework

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963, under a constitution that placed the prime minister at the head of a cabinet chosen by a bicameral National Assembly. Significant power was granted to assemblies elected in each of the country’s regions, and multiparty contests were allowed. Beginning in the early 1960s, however, a series of amendments abolished the regional assemblies in favour of provincial commissions appointed by the national government, made the National Assembly a unicameral body, proclaimed the Kenya African National Union (KANU) the only legal political party, and replaced the prime minister with an executive president who had the power to dismiss at will the attorney general and senior judges. The effect of these changes was to establish the central government—in particular, the presidency—as the principal locus of political power in the country. Although the constitution guaranteed a number of rights, such as the freedoms of speech, assembly, and worship, it also allowed the president to detain without trial persons who have been deemed a threat to public security.

Constitutional reforms allowed multiparty politics once again in 1991 and granted greater freedom to political parties before the December 1997 elections. In 2008, in the aftermath of the disputed December 2007 presidential election, legislation was passed that provided for the creation of a coalition government and amended the constitution to alter the structure of the executive branch, allowing for the re-creation of the prime minister post and the creation of two deputy minister posts. A new constitution was promulgated in 2010. Changes included a reduction in the power of the presidency, the elimination of the prime minister post after the next round of elections, the reestablishment of a bicameral parliament, provisions for a new decentralized government structure based on counties, and the addition of a bill of rights for Kenyans.

THE 2010 CONSTITUTION Under the 2010 constitution, the executive branch is headed by the president, who is the head of state and government and is assisted by the deputy president and the cabinet. The president is elected by direct popular vote and must win more than 50 percent of all votes as well as at least 25 percent of the votes cast in each of more than half of the country’s counties. The president’s term is five years, and there is a limit of two terms.

The 2010 constitution provides for a bicameral parliament, consisting of the 68-member Senate and the 350-member National Assembly. Most Senate members are directly elected by voters in their respective counties, and 20 nonelective seats are filled by nominees from the political parties with an elected presence in the Senate—with the number of nominees selected from a party’s list proportionate to the party’s share of elected seats—to represent special interest groups: 16 seats are reserved for women; 2 are reserved for a male and a female representative of the youth; and 2 are reserved for a male and a female representative of people with disabilities. There is also an ex officio member, the speaker. The majority of National Assembly members are directly elected. There are an additional 47 seats that are reserved for women, each of whom is elected from her respective county; 12 nonelective seats that are filled by nominees from the political parties with an elected presence in the National Assembly, with the number of nominees selected from a party’s list proportionate to the party’s share of elected seats, to represent special interest groups; and an ex officio member, the speaker. Members of both bodies serve five-year terms.

  • Local government

For administrative purposes, Kenya is divided into 47 counties, which are headed by directly elected governors. Each county has an assembly, which is composed of directly elected members, nonelected members who are selected after being nominated by political parties—their numbers proportionate to each party’s share of elected seats in the assembly—to represent special interest groups and to ensure that no more than two-thirds of the assembly members are of the same gender, and an ex officio speaker. Assembly members serve five-year terms.

Counties were introduced as the units of a new decentralized government structure in the 2010 constitution. The county structure began to be phased in after county governor elections were held in 2013. Kenya was previously divided into eight provinces: Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley, Central, Eastern, North Eastern, Coast, and Nairobi. Under the constitution, the transfer of authority to the county government system was expected to occur within three years of the 2013 elections. A new government body, the Transition Authority, was created and charged with facilitating the process.

  • Justice

The 2010 constitution provided for the creation of a Supreme Court, which was established in 2011. It has jurisdiction over all electoral disputes and disputes relating to the presidency; it also hears appeals from lower courts. Other courts include the High Court, which has full civil and criminal jurisdiction and rules on constitutional matters, the Kenya Court of Appeal, which hears appeals from lower courts, and magistrates’ courts at local levels. Kenya’s judicial system acknowledges the validity of Islamic law and indigenous African customs in many personal areas such as marriage, divorce, and matters affecting dependents. To that end, the Muslim community uses judicial venues known as Kadhis’ courts to resolve issues concerning Islamic law.

  • Political process

The Kenya African National Union (KANU) dominated Kenyan politics from its founding in 1960 until the early 21st century. Its early principal opposition, the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), merged with KANU in 1964. Since Kenya’s transformation from single-party KANU rule back into a multiparty state in the early 1990s, many political parties have been created and alliances between parties have been formed, often in advance of upcoming elections. Major parties include the Orange Democratic Movement, The National Alliance, United Republican Party, Wiper Democratic Movement, the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy–Kenya, United Democratic Forum Party, and KANU.

In 1997 a woman, representing the Social Democratic Party, ran for president—a first for Kenya—and received almost 8 percent of the vote. However, at the legislative level, women constituted less than 10 percent of the National Assembly in the early 21st century. That changed after the 2010 constitution came into effect, which guaranteed women a certain number of seats in both the Senate and the National Assembly. After the 2013 legislative elections—the first to be held under the terms of the 2010 constitution—women constituted about one-fourth of the Senate and almost one-fifth of the National Assembly. Guaranteed legislative representation of youth, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized groups was also provided for by the constitution.

  • Security

Kenya’s armed forces consist of air force, navy, and army contingents. Military service is voluntary. Kenyan troops have participated in several United Nations-sponsored peacekeeping missions.

  • Health and welfare

Together with improved housing, education, sanitation, and nutrition, health care programs have drastically reduced mortality rates from preindependence levels, especially for infants. High rates of malaria, gastroenteritis, diarrhea and dysentery, trachoma, amebiasis, and schistosomiasis continue, however, and illustrate how difficult it is to eradicate mosquitoes and provide clean water, especially in the countryside. By the beginning of the 21st century, AIDS had become the major disease in Kenya and threatened to reverse the declining death rate. Kenya, like other countries in Africa suffering under the AIDS pandemic, has utilized a number of strategies to combat the disease, including drug therapy. Some drug companies lowered their prices in Kenya by more than half in the early 21st century, but this was not enough to make drugs available to all who needed them. Inadequate supply of drugs is also a problem.

Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi is the country’s chief referral and teaching institution, and there are also provincial and district hospitals. In rural areas, health centres and dispensaries offer diagnostic services, obstetric care, and outpatient treatment, although they often lack adequate facilities, trained personnel, and medications.

  • Housing

In rural areas, the average home consists of a two-room dwelling made with wood siding and a roof of sheet iron; for the very poor, simple grass-thatched huts are typical. In urban areas, the representative middle-class home has two bedrooms, indoor plumbing, a kitchen, and a living area.

Providing housing for the urban poor has been increasingly difficult since independence. Most of the urban population lives in informal housing areas not recognized by the government, which often razes slums without warning. In an effort to provide better-quality affordable housing, new building materials are being developed. One such product is brick made from a combination of water, soil, and a small amount of cement.

  • Education

The national educational system consists of three levels: eight years of compulsory primary education (beginning at age six), four years at the secondary level, and four years of higher education. The government provides free primary and secondary education. Entrance into secondary school is contingent upon obtaining the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education by passing a national exam.

Education for the indigenous population was not a priority of the British colonial government. After independence, however, primary and secondary school enrollment expanded markedly. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, promised free primary education to all citizens in 1963, a promise only partially fulfilled when fees for the first four years of primary school were abolished in 1974. One consequence of this educational expansion was that underemployment and unemployment increased as better-educated citizens entered the job market. The government responded by expanding the civil service beginning in the late 1970s, but by the early 1990s it could no longer absorb this population. The problem was compounded as the number of secondary schools grew. Because the government could not provide enough government-funded schools, community-built harambee secondary schools were developed. These schools were supposed to receive government assistance to provide for teachers and learning materials, but such support did not always materialize. The government simultaneously pursued a policy of “education for self-reliance,” whereby education was oriented toward preparing students for employment in agriculture as well as in business. Universal free education was introduced for all years of primary schooling in 2002. In the following years, primary schools were not able to accommodate the increased demand for services and faced such problems as overcrowding and a lack of resources.

Education is still highly valued in Kenya, with many of the students pursuing strategies such as “shadow education” (after-school and weekend tutoring) and remaining in a grade more than one year in order to pass the Certificate of Primary Education exam. Because of the country’s continuing economic problems, however, many of these students have not been able to attend school beyond the primary level; free secondary schooling was introduced in 2008 to help address this issue. Kenya’s literacy rate, at more than four-fifths of the population, is high for sub-Saharan Africa.

Public universities include the University of Nairobi (1956) and Kenyatta University (1972) in Nairobi, Moi University (1984) in Eldoret, and Egerton University (1939) in Njoro, as well as the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (1981) in Nairobi. Specialized colleges include Kenya Conservatoire of Music (1944), Kenya Medical Training College (1924), and Kenya Polytechnic (1961) in Nairobi and Rift Valley Institute of Science and Technology (1972) in Nakuru.

Culture Life of Kenya

  • Daily life and social customs

As is true of many developing African countries, there is a marked contrast between urban and rural culture in Kenya. Attracting people from all over the country, Kenya’s cities are characterized by a more cosmopolitan population whose tastes reflect practices that combine the local with the global. Nairobi’s nightlife, for instance, caters to youth interested in music that varies from American rhythm and blues, hip-hop, and rock to Congolese rumba. The city contains movie theatres and numerous nightclubs where patrons can dance or shoot pool; for children there are water parks and family amusement centres.

For all the modernization and urbanization of Kenya, however, traditional practices remain important. Rituals and customs are very well documented, owing to the intense anthropological study of Kenya’s peoples during the period of British colonial rule; oral literature is safeguarded, and several publishing houses publish traditional folktales and ethnographies.

Kenyan cooking reflects British, Arab, and Indian influences. Foods common throughout Kenya include ugali, a mush made from corn (maize) and often served with such greens as spinach and kale. Chapati, a fried pitalike bread of Indian origin, is served with vegetables and stew; rice is also popular. Seafood and freshwater fish are eaten in most parts of the country and provide an important source of protein. Many vegetable stews are flavoured with coconut, spices, and chilies. Although meat traditionally is not eaten every day or is eaten only in small quantities, grilled meat and all-you-can-eat buffets specializing in game, or “bush meat,” are popular. Many people utilize shambas (vegetable gardens) to supplement purchased foods. In areas inhabited by the Kikuyu, irio, a stew of peas, corn, and potatoes, is common. The Maasai, known for their herds of livestock, avoid killing their cows and instead prefer to use products yielded by the animal while it is alive, including blood drained from nonlethal wounds. They generally drink milk, often mixed with cow’s blood, and eat the meat of sheep or goats rather than cows.

Urban life in Kenya is by no means uniform. For example, as a Muslim town, Mombasa stands in contrast to Nairobi. Although there are numerous restaurants, bars, and clubs in Mombasa, there are also many mosques, and women dressed in bui buis (loose-fitting garments that cover married Muslim women from head to toe) are common.

Rural life is oriented in two directions—toward the lifestyles of rural inhabitants, who still constitute the majority of Kenya’s population, and toward foreign tourists who come to visit the many national parks and reserves. Although agricultural duties occupy most of the time of rural dwellers, they still find occasion to visit markets and shopping centres, where some frequent beer halls. Mobile cinemas also provide entertainment for the rural population.

Kenya observes most Christian holidays, as well as the Muslim festival ʿId al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. Jamhuri, or Independence Day, is celebrated on December 12. Moi Day (recognizing Daniel arap Moi) and Kenyatta Day, both in October, honour two of the country’s presidents, while Madaraka (Swahili: Government) Day (June 1) celebrates Kenya’s attainment of self-governance in 1964.

  • The arts

The Kenya National Theatre, a part of the Kenya Cultural Centre, is the country’s premier venue for drama. The affiliated National Theatre School (founded 1968) provides professional training for Kenyan playwrights and performers of traditional music and dance. Independent art facilities, such as the GoDown Arts Centre in Nairobi, offer alternative spaces for artists to express themselves.

Kenya’s pop music is among the most varied in Africa, drawing on diverse sources, including African rumba, traditional Indian musical forms, and a wide range of European and American styles. Popular since the 1960s is an indigenous pop style that emerged in the area around Lake Victoria inhabited by the Luo; called benga, it is perhaps the most distinctly Kenyan form in the musical repertoire. Taarab, a popular music of the eastern coastal region heavily influenced by Arabic styles, is also played throughout the country.

Kenyan literature includes a large body of oral and written folklore, much of the latter collected by British anthropologists. During the colonial era, writers of European origin residing in Kenya, such as Elspeth Huxley (The Flame Trees of Thika, 1959) and Isak Dinesen (Out of Africa, 1937), introduced indigenous themes and settings to broad audiences. The Swahili literary tradition (see also Swahili literature), both oral and written, dates to the 18th century and is represented by authors such as Muyaka bin Haji al-Ghassaniy and Kupona Mwana. Contemporary novelists, including Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Grace Ogot, Meja Mwangi, Hilary Ngweno, Margaret Ogola, and R. Mugo Gatheru, address problems in colonial and postcolonial society. Many of these writers publish in English, although Thiong’o has insisted on publishing first in his native Kikuyu, saying:

Only by a return to the roots of our being in the languages
and cultures and heroic histories of the Kenyan people can
we rise up to the challenge of helping in the creation of a
Kenyan patriotic national literature and culture that will be
the envy of many foreigners and the pride of Kenyans.

Visual arts are largely confined to the mass production of wood sculpture and Maasai beadwork. Elimo Njau, Etale Sukuro, and Kivuthi Mbuno are noted Kenyan artists employing a variety of mediums. The country’s film industry is small but growing, though viewings of indigenous films are usually confined to theatres in the cities; in smaller towns and villages, film fare is likely to come from either Hollywood or India. Many foreign productions have been filmed in Kenya—such as Out of Africa (1985), To Walk with Lions (1999), Nowhere in Africa (2001), and The Constant Gardener (2005)—owing to its scenic, varied landscapes and generally clement weather.

  • Cultural institutions

Perhaps Kenya’s greatest cultural legacy is in its national parks and reserves. The annual wildebeest migration is best observed at the Maasai Mara National Reserve, which also includes a Maasai village. Amboseli National Park, a former home of the Maasai, lies at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro. Marsabit National Park and Reserve in the north is noted for its populations of large mammals such as lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, zebras, and giraffes. Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks are noted for their abundant wildlife and diverse landscapes. Mzima Springs, found in Tsavo West, are clear pools of fresh water that provide ideal conditions for viewing hippopotamuses, crocodiles, and fish. Sibiloi National Park, in the far northern part of the country, contains sites where scientists from the University of Nairobi (including Richard Leakey) have excavated hominid remains since 1968. Mount Kenya National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. The Lake Turkana National Parks, comprising three national parks in Eastern province, were named World Heritage sites beginning in 1997. Lamu Old Town, in Coast province, contains beautiful examples of Swahili architecture; it became a World Heritage site in 2001. In 2008 the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests—several forests containing the remains of villages (kaya) once inhabited by the Mijikenda (Nyika) people and now considered sacred—were collectively designated a World Heritage site.

The Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service in Nairobi, housed in a building that was originally the Bank of India, holds an increasing number of government and historical documents and also contains exhibits of arts and crafts and photographs. A national library service board has been established to equip, maintain, and develop libraries in Kenya, including a branch library service. The McMillan Memorial Library in Nairobi has holdings of books as well as newspapers and a parliamentary archive. The National Museum, also in Nairobi, contains archaeological remains and objects of traditional material culture.

  • Sports and recreation

Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Kenya, although the national team, the Harambee Stars, has had little international success. Basketball, volleyball, and netball are also popular sports. Social clubs often offer the opportunity for Kenyans to play football and volleyball. Netball is played exclusively by women. Internationally, Kenyan athletes are known for their dominance of distance running. Since the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, at which Kip Keino, Naftali Temu, and Amos Biwott all won gold medals, Kenyan distance runners have continually won Olympic medals and major races throughout the world. Catherine Ndereba, for example, repeatedly won marathons in Boston and Chicago.

  • Media and publishing

The media have flourished in Kenya as the economy has become more liberalized. Rigid state restrictions on radio and television broadcasting were gradually loosened in the 1990s, and commercial radio has become an integral part of Kenyan popular culture. The Daily Nation and the East African Standard are among the daily newspapers; daily papers are also published in African languages such as Luo and Kikuyu. Kenya has numerous weekly and monthly periodicals.

History of Kenya

Early History to Independence

During the 1950s and 60s, the anthropologist L. S. B. Leakey discovered in N Tanzania the remains of hominids who lived c.2 million years ago. These persons, perhaps the earliest humans on earth, most likely also inhabited S Kenya. In the Kenya highlands, the existence of farming and domestic herds can be dated to c.1000 B.C. Trade between the Kenya coast and Arabia was brisk by A.D. 100. Arabs settled on the coast during medieval times, and they soon established several autonomous city-states (including Mombasa, Malindi, and Pate). Farmers and herders traveled S from Ethiopia and settled in Kenya in c.2000 B.C. There is also evidence that Bantu-speaking people and Nilotic speakers from what is now South Sudan settled in Kenya between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500.

The Portuguese first visited the Kenya coast in 1498, and by the end of the 16th cent. they controlled much of it, including Mombasa. However, in 1729, the Portuguese were permanently expelled from Mombasa and were replaced as the leading power on the coast by two Arab dynasties: the Busaidi dynasty, based first at Masqat (in Oman) and from 1832 on Zanzibar, and the Mazrui dynasty, based at Mombasa. The Busaidi wrested Mombasa from the Mazrui in 1837. From the early 19th cent. there was long-distance caravan trading between Mombasa and Lake Victoria.

Beginning in the mid-19th cent., European explorers (especially John Ludwig Krapf and Joseph Thomson) mapped parts of the interior. The British and German governments agreed upon spheres of influence in E Africa in 1886, with most of present-day Kenya passing to the British. In 1887, a British association received concessionary rights to the Kenya coast from the sultan of Zanzibar. The association in 1888 was given a royal charter as the Imperial British East Africa Company, but severe financial difficulties soon led to its takeover by the British government, which established the East Africa Protectorate in 1895. A railroad was built (1895–1901) from Mombasa to Kisumu on Lake Victoria in order to facilitate trade with the interior and with Uganda.

In 1903, the first settlers of European descent established themselves as large-scale farmers in the highlands by taking land from the Kikuyu, Masai, and others. At the same time, Indian merchants moved inland from the coast. In 1920, the territory was renamed and its administration changed; the interior became Kenya Colony and a coastal strip (10 mi/16 km wide) was constituted the Protectorate of Kenya. From the 1920s to the 40s, European settlers controlled the government and owned extensive farmlands; Indians maintained small trade establishments and were lower-level government employees; and Africans grew cash crops such as coffee and cotton on a small scale, were subsistence farmers, or were laborers in the towns (especially Nairobi).

In the 1920s, Africans began to protest their inferior status. Protest reached a peak between 1952 and 1956 with the so-called Mau Mau Emergency, a complex armed revolt led by the Kikuyu, which was in part a rebellion against British rule and in part an attempt to reestablish traditional land rights and ways of governance. The British declared a state of emergency and imprisoned many of the colony's nationalist leaders, including Jomo Kenyatta. After the revolt, Britain increased African representation in the colony's legislative council until, in 1961, there was an African majority.

  • Modern Kenya

On Dec. 12, 1963, Kenya (including both the colony and the protectorate) became independent. In 1964 the country became a republic, with Kenyatta as president. The first decade of independence was characterized by disputes among ethnic groups (especially between the Kikuyu and the Luo), by economic growth and diversification, and by the end of European predominance. Many Europeans (who numbered about 55,000 in 1962) and Asians voluntarily left the country. Boundary disputes with Somalia resulted in sporadic fighting (1963–68). In 1969, Tom Mboya, a leading government official and a possible successor to Kenyatta, was assassinated. More than 70% of the country was affected by the sub-Saharan drought of the early 1970s. Kenyatta's silencing of opponents led to further unrest domestically. Throughout the 1970s relations with neighboring countries deteriorated as well; there was a territorial dispute with Uganda, and Tanzania closed its border with Kenya when Kenya harbored several of Idi Amin's supporters after the fall of his regime.

After Kenyatta's death in 1978, Vice President Daniel arap Moi succeeded him as president. Moi promoted the Africanization of industry by placing limits on foreign ownership and by extending credit to African investors. Domestically, he rejected demands for democratization and suppressed opposition. With economic conditions worsening, rumors of a coup led Moi to dismantle the air force and order the imprisonment of those suspected of involvement. Throughout the 1980s, Moi consolidated power in the presidency and continued to conduct periodic purges of his administration.

Rioting erupted in 1988 after several outspoken proponents of a multiparty democracy were arrested. Bowing to pressure at home and abroad, in 1991 the legislature passed a constitutional amendment legalizing multiparty democracy. In 1992, Moi was reelected president in Kenya's first multiparty election in 26 years. Opponents denounced the election as fraudulent, and the government was subsequently accused of human-rights violations. The 1990s saw tens of thousands of refugees flee fighting in Somalia to NE Kenya. Moi was reelected in 1997, but the governing party lost several seats in parliament. In Aug., 1998, a terrorist bomb exploded at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, killing some 250 people.

Forced under the constitution to retire, Moi engineered the nomination of Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya's first leader, as the Kenya African National Union (KANU) candidate for president in 2002. Mwai Kibaki, who had run against Moi in 1992 and 1997 and once was his vice president, was the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) candidate and the most prominent of the four opposition candidates. The December election, although not free of vote rigging, was the most credible multiparty election since independence and resulted in a significant opposition victory. Kibaki was elected president with 62% of the vote, and NARC won a majority of seats in the national assembly.

A constitutional conference was convened to revise the constitution, but when it approved (Jan., 2004) reducing the president's powers and establishing an executive prime minister, the government withdrew from the conference. Kibaki, who had supported such a proposal while in the opposition and had called for a new constitution to be in place 100 days after his election, saw his coalition divide over the issue. In July he let the conference's mandate expire and appointed a new committee to continue the work. Also in July he expanded his cabinet, bringing representatives of KANU and another opposition party into the government and demoting coalition members who had supported reducing the president's powers. By the end of 2004 a three-way division had developed in the NARC coalition, and a factional split in KANU resulted (Feb., 2005) in two separate executive councils claiming control of the party. The KANU factions continued to fight for control of the party through 2006.

In Aug., 2004, some Masai begin to mount protests over land on which they said the lease, signed 99 years ago with the British, had expired. The government challenged that assertion, but the Masai actions brought to the fore the inequity of many long-term leases (some more than 900 years long) that the British forced on the indigenous peoples of Kenya. The issue of the very-long-term leases was one that the stalled constitution might have resolved. Early 2005 saw outbreaks of fighting between Masai herders and Kikuyu farmers over scarce water resources.

The issue of corruption, which Kibaki had promised to attack but left to fester, roiled the government in 2004 and 2005 when the British ambassador accused Kenyan officials of "massive looting." The president's chief anticorruption adviser resigned out of frustration in Feb., 2005, and the Law Society accused the current vice president, attorney general, and finance minister of graft. In March the government said that it had identified in British bank accounts about $1 billion stolen from government project under the Moi administration and was making efforts to recover the money.

Parliament approved a draft constitution in July, 2005, that included the office of prime minister, but most executive powers remained with the presidency. Some members of the cabinet called for its defeat in the required referendum, as did former president Moi, while Kibaki called for its approval. Voters solidly rejected the document in Nov., 2005, in a blow to Kibaki's presidency. Kibaki subsequently dismissed the entire cabinet and suspended the opening of parliament; in December he appointed a new cabinet dominated by allies, but some ministers and deputies he nominated rejected the posts. Drought and crop failures in NE Kenya in 2005 led to food shortages and deaths due to starvation late in the year; the government was accused by some of responding slowly to the problem.

By Feb., 2006, two corruption scandals had resulted in the resignation or removal of four cabinet members, including the finance minister, and accusations of corruption had also been leveled at the vice president, who denied the charges. In March elite Kenyan police raided Kenya's oldest newspaper and its television station; copies of the newspaper were burned by police during the raid and the station was forced off the air. The government raid, which appeared to be an attempt to intimidate a critical media outlet, was denounced by opposition figures and by many cabinet members. The same month Kibaki finally reopened parliament. Kenyan and Ethiopian soldiers clashed in Apr., 2006, when the Ethiopians crossed the Kenyan border in pursuit of Oromo rebels. The fighting in Somalia in 2006 drove some 30,000 refugees into NE Kenya by mid-2006, adding to the 130,000 who had arrived since 1991, and in subsequent years the number of Somali refugees rose to more than 350,000. A cabinet reshuffle in Nov., 2006, largely undid the earlier ministerial resignations brought about by corruption scandals; only the former finance minister remained without a cabinet post.

President Kibaki, running as the Party of National Unity candidate, was declared the winner of the Dec., 2007, presidential election, but domestic and foreign observers questioned that result. (In Apr., 2008, a report by European Union investigators said that it was impossible to determine who may have won the election.) His main opponent, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) candidate Raila Odinga, accused him of vote fraud; Odinga had led in the opinion polls preceding the vote. The ODM won a plurality in the legislature, and many members of Kibaki's cabinet lost their legislative seats. The presidential result led to rioting and violence in many parts of Kenya. Some of the violence was ethnically based, with Luos (Odinga's tribe) attacking Kikiyus (Kibaki's tribe). More than a thousand Kenyans died and several hundred thousand were displaced as a result of the violence.

After negotiations mediated by Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, both sides agreed in Feb., 2008, to form a power-sharing government, with Odinga as prime minister. After additional negotiations and, in early April, protests by Odinga's supporters, a cabinet was agreed on, and Odinga and the cabinet were sworn in in mid-April. The coalition government, however, proved cumbersome, beset by corruption, by continual partisanship and bickering over powers and responsibilities, and by an inability to enact agreed-upon reforms. A commission of inquiry into the elections reported in Oct., 2008, that in some areas politicians and business owners had participated in the planning and organization of the post-election clashes. It called for a tribunal to try those who had instigated the violence, but parliament subsequently failed to pass legislation establishing the tribunal.

In July, 2009, Kenya reached a deal with the International Criminal Court under which Kenya agreed to establish a tribunal by July, 2010, but after Kenya failed to meet a Sept., 2009, planning deadline, the ICC's chief prosecutor announced the court would prosecute those most responsible for the violence. In Apr., 2010, the parliament finally approved a draft constitution; the document, which increased checks on presidential power and devolved some powers to local governments, was approved in a referendum in August; effective after the 2013 elections, the position of prime minister was abolished. In Dec., 2010, the ICC named six prominent Kenyans, including Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, that it accused of crimes against humanity; Kenya's subsequent attempts to get the UN Security Council to defer their trials failed.

In Oct., 2011, Kenyan forces invaded S Somalia and began operations against hardline Islamist forces, which Kenya held responsible for a series of attacks in Kenya. Late 2012 saw increased tensions and some violence in Mombasa and coastal Kenya involving, separately, secessionists who wish to see the coast independent of Kenya and hardline Islamists. The Mar., 2013, presidential election was primarily a contest between Odinga and Kenyatta; the latter secured more than 50% of the vote by the thinnest of margins, avoiding a runoff. Odinga challenged the result in court, but the vote was upheld; the final tally had been delayed by failures in the vote counting system, and the national count lacked transparency, according to observers. The coalition supporting Kenyatta won pluralities in the Senate and National Assembly. In September, Vice President William Ruto went on trial at the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity. Later in the month Islamists mounted an armed terror attack against a Nairobi shopping center that left more than 60 people dead. Although Somalia's Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, eyewitness reports suggested that some of the attackers may have been Kenyan.

Kenya in 2006

Kenya Area: 582,646 sq km (224,961 sq mi) Population (2006 est.): 34,059,000 Capital: Nairobi Head of state and government: President   Mwai Kibaki By the middle of January 2006, 3.5 million Kenyans ...>>>Read On<<<


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This is not the official site of this country. Most of the information in this site were taken from the U.S. Department of State, The Central Intelligence Agency, The United Nations, [1],[2], [3], [4], [5],[6], [7], [8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14],[15], [16], [17], [18], [19], [20], [21], [22], [23], [24],[25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30],[31], [32], [33], [34], and the [35].

Other sources of information will be mentioned as they are posted.