The father of US President Barack Obama was a Kenyan national.
Kenyan athletes hold eight Commonwealth Games records and 19 world
Kenyan athletes hold eight Commonwealth Games records and 19 world
records. Dennis Kipruto Kimetto, born in 1984, has won marathons all
over the world, and currently holds the world records for the fastest
marathon and the fastest 25 km.
Kenya hosts the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), the UN
Environment Programme (UNEP) and a national chapter of the Commonwealth
Human Ecology Council (CHEC).
G. Vassanji won the Commonwealth Best First Book Prize (Africa Region)
in 1990, with Margaret A. Ogola being awarded it in 1995.
Joined Commonwealth: 1963
Population: 44,354,000 (2013)
GDP: 0.6% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: World ranking 147
Official language: Kiswahili, English
Timezone: GMT plus 3hrs
Currency: Kenyan shilling (KSh)
Area: 582,646 sq km
Capital city: Nairobi
Population density (per sq. km): 76
Kenya lies astride the equator, extending from the Indian Ocean in the
east to Uganda in the west and from the United Republic of Tanzania in
the south to Ethiopia and Sudan in the north. On the east and north-east
it borders Somalia.
The country is divided into eight provinces (Central, Coast, Eastern,
Nairobi, North-Eastern, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western).
61,950 km of roads, 14 per cent paved, and around 1,920 km of railway.
The main railway line runs between Mombasa and Nairobi, and branch lines
connect with Taveta on the Tanzanian border in the south and Kisumu on
Lake Victoria in the west.
Mombasa is the chief port for Kenya and an important regional port,
handling freight for and from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic
Republic of Congo, including a substantial volume of food aid. Ferries
ply the coast between Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is 13 km south-east of Nairobi. Moi
International is 13 km west of Mombasa.
Kenya is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States,
African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East
African Community, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Non-Aligned Movement,
United Nations and World Trade Organization.
Kenya was a member, with Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, of the
East African Community, which from 1967 had a common market and many
shared services, but collapsed in 1977. The three countries again
embarked on developing regional co-operation in 1993, bringing about
progressive harmonisation of standards and policies across a wide range
of activities and launching a new East African Community in January 2001
and East African Customs Union in January 2005. The Community was
enlarged in July 2007 when Burundi and Rwanda became members.
Kenya is also a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on
Development, which was established in 1986 by the six countries in the
Horn of Africa to combat drought and desertification and promote food
security in the region.
Kenya hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme
There are four main regions. The north-east plain is arid. The
south-east region is fertile along the Tana river, in the coastal strip
and in the Taita Hills, which rise to 2,100 metres. The north-west is
generally low-lying and arid but includes Lake Turkana, 260 km long, and
many mountains, including Nyiru (2,800 metres). The south-west quarter,
a plateau rising to 3,000 metres, includes some of Africa’s highest
mountains: Mount Kenya (5,200 metres), Mount Elgon (4,320 metres) and
the Aberdare Range (4,000 metres). The Great Rift Valley runs across the
plateau from north to south, 50–65 km wide and 600–1,000 metres deep.
West of the Rift the plateau falls to Lake Victoria and eastward the
rivers Tana and Athi (or Galana downstream) flow into the Indian Ocean.
The coastal areas are tropical, with monsoon winds. The lowlands are hot
and mainly dry. The highlands are much cooler and have four seasons.
Nairobi, 1,700 metres above sea level, has a mean temperature that
ranges from a minimum of 13°C to a maximum of 25°C; Mombasa, on the
coast, from a minimum of 23°C to a maximum of 29°C. Rainfall varies from
a mean annual 150 mm at Lodwar in the north-west to 1,470 mm at Kisumu,
near Lake Victoria in the west. Northern parts of the country were hit
by severe floods in the latter part of 2007.
The most significant issues are water pollution from urban and
industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from increased use of
pesticides and fertilisers; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria;
deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; and poaching.
Thornbush and grassland are characteristic of much of the country.
Varied forest covers about 13,000 sq km of the south-west quarter, at
2–3,500 metres above sea level. Forest covers six per cent of the land
area, having declined at 0.3 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land
comprises ten per cent and permanent cropland one per cent of the total
Kenya’s wildlife is probably the most famous in the world. Wild mammals
include lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebras, antelopes, gazelles,
elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, baboons and many kinds of monkeys.
There are 359 recorded species of mammals, of which 28 are endangered
(2012). Reptiles include crocodiles and more than 100 species of snake.
There is a rich variety of native birdlife and the country is visited by
migrant birds which breed in Europe. There are 344 species of birds, 34
of which are endangered (2012). Wildlife is protected in reserves
extending to 45,500 sq km, or some eight per cent of the total land
Archaeological evidence suggests that Kenya may be the birthplace of the
human race, as 3.3 million years ago the Rift Valley was the home of
Homo habilis, from whom Homo sapiens descended.
Little is known of the early history of Kenya’s interior, except that
peoples from all over the African continent settled here. Arab merchants
established trading posts on the coast during the seventh century. The
Portuguese took control of coastal trading from the early 16th century,
but by 1720 they had been driven out by the Arabs. For the following
century, the coastal region was ruled mainly by the Arabian Omani.
Around 1750 the Masai, a people of nomadic cattle-herders whose young
men formed a military elite (el morani), began entering Kenya from the
north and spreading out southwards, raiding and rustling. At the end of
the 1850s there were Masai by the coast near Mombasa. During the 1860s,
the Masai drove back Europeans attempting to penetrate the interior of
the country. Two outbreaks of cattle-disease in the 1880s, an outbreak
of smallpox in 1889–90 and internecine fighting between supporters of
two rival chiefs weakened the Masai considerably by the 1890s.
The British were invited to the coastal region during the 1820s by the
Omani Mazrui Dynasty, to help it with a local power struggle. By the
middle of the century, Britain and Germany were competing for control of
the coast and its hinterland. A British protectorate was declared in
1895 over what is now Kenya and Uganda and, following a survey made by
Lord Delamere, European and European-descended settlement took place
until the start of the 1914–18 war.
A railway was constructed 1895–1901, linking the port of Mombasa with
Kisumu on Lake Victoria. Many Asians arrived during this period, in
particular to work on the construction of the railway. Nairobi became
the headquarters of the British administration.
A legislative council for whites was formed in 1907 (first election
1919). Local native councils were introduced in 1925. White settlers
moved increasingly into the fertile lands, displacing African peoples,
including the Masai and the Kikuyu. By the 1940s, the Highlands were
monopolised by whites.
In 1944, the Kikuyu-dominated Kenya African Union (KAU) was established,
part of the first African nationalist movement in East Africa. The KAU
demanded access to the Highlands. Jomo Kenyatta, who had spent much of
the 1930s and 1940s campaigning in Europe for territorial, economic and
political rights for Africans, became President of the KAU in 1947. The
KAU came into increasing conflict with the European settlers. A
guerrilla war for independence and land resettlement was waged 1952–56
by the nationalist Land Freedom Army, the so-called ‘Mau Mau’.
A state of emergency was declared 1952–60, during which more than 80,000
people were detained. During the fighting, large numbers of people were
killed, sometimes in fights with settlers, sometimes in internecine
fights. The KAU was banned in 1953 and Kenyatta was imprisoned. However,
wider African representation followed and in 1957, African members were
elected to the legislative council. A transitional constitution,
introduced in 1960, allowed for political parties and gave Africans a
majority on the legislative council.
The Kenya African National Union (KANU) was then formed. Its leaders,
while Kenyatta was in prison (1953–61), were Tom Mboya (a Luo trade
unionist), Oginga Odinga (a distinguished Luo) and James Gichuru. Other
African politicians formed the Kenya African Democratic Union, led by
Ronald Ngala and Daniel arap Moi. Released in August 1961, Kenyatta
formed an all-party African government and accepted the KANU presidency.
Elections were held in May 1963, as a result of which KANU took power at
independence in December 1963.
Kenya became a republic in December 1964, with Kenyatta its first
President. In 1966 Odinga resigned from the vice-presidency to form the
Kenya People’s Union (KPU). Throughout the 1960s, radical elements
within KANU challenged the moderates, who were led by Mboya
(assassinated 1969 in unclear circumstances) and Moi (who with the
entire membership of the Kenya African Democratic Union had earlier
joined KANU). Following a dispute, the KPU was banned and Odinga
detained. Kenyatta was elected unopposed to a third presidential term in
September 1974. He died in 1978, aged 82. The presidency passed to Moi.
There were numerous constitutional amendments under Moi’s presidency. In
1982, KANU became the sole legal political party. In 1986, control of
the civil service was transferred to the President’s office, and the
President was given power to dismiss High Court judges and the
Auditor-General. Also in 1986 the secret ballot for parliamentary
elections was replaced by public queue-voting.
Moi was returned to power in the 1988 elections. Ethnic tensions
increased in some rural areas. Aid was frozen from 1991, as a result of
the dissatisfaction among donors over human rights and economic
conditions. The government then began to reform the political system.
The secret ballot had been brought back in 1990, the tenure of office of
judges and the Auditor-General was restored in 1992, a multiparty system
was introduced and the government called elections for December 1992.
Several new opposition parties to KANU emerged for the first multiparty
elections in December 1992. They included the Forum for the Restoration
of Democracy (FORD–Kenya), led by Oginga Odinga until his death in 1994,
the Democratic Party led by Mwai Kibaki, and FORD–Asili led by Kenneth
Matiba. A Commonwealth observer group at the elections concluded that
they were flawed, but sufficiently free and fair for the results to be
acceptable as the democratic will. KANU led by Daniel arap Moi won,
against a divided opposition. In 1993 aid began slowly to flow again.
Despite the reforms of the early 1990s, the constitution remained the
focus of political discontent; the opposition arguing that
centralisation of power weakens the multiparty system. Some prominent
figures within KANU were calling for the restoration of majimbo features
of the independence constitution, to strengthen the rights of ethnic
minorities. In September 1997 the National Assembly approved electoral
reforms, including abolition of the anti-sedition laws that the
government had used to suppress the opposition, granting equal
broadcasting time to all political parties and presidential candidates,
and giving the opposition representation on the Electoral Commission.
In the December 1997 presidential election, Moi was re-elected with 40
per cent of the votes, Kibaki of the Democratic Party received 31 per
cent, Raila Odinga of the National Development Party (NDP) 11 per cent,
Michael Kijana Wamalwa of FORD–Kenya eight per cent and Charity Kaluki
Ngilu of the Social Democratic Party eight per cent. In the simultaneous
National Assembly elections, KANU took 109 of the 210 seats, the
Democratic Party 39, NDP 21, FORD–Kenya 17, and Social Democratic Party
In November 1999, a further constitutional amendment was enacted to
reduce the powers of the President to control the National Assembly,
powers that were originally introduced by Kenyatta.
In June 2001, Moi forged the country’s first governing coalition when he
appointed to the cabinet two members of the opposition NDP – including
Raila Odinga, son of Oginga Odinga, the country’s first Vice-President
and a presidential candidate in 1992, and in March 2002 the NDP was
merged with KANU. However, Odinga then left KANU and formed the Liberal
Democratic Party and in October 2002 joined with Kibaki in the National
Rainbow Coalition (NARC). In late 2001, Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of
Kenya’s first President, was nominated as an MP and appointed minister,
emerging in 2002 as KANU’s presidential candidate, replacing Moi, who by
the end of the year would have been President for 24 years and who was
bound by the constitution to stand down.
Ghana's History / The Gold Coast (Colonial
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