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Jamhuri Ya Kenya
Flag of Kenya Coat of Arms of Kenya
(Flag) (Coat of Arms)
Motto: Harambee (Swahili: Let us all pull together)
Anthem: Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu (Oh God of All Creation)
Location of Kenya
Capital Nairobi
1°16′ S 36°48′ E
Largest city Nairobi
Official languages English, Swahili
Government Republic
Mwai Kibaki
From the United Kingdom
December 12, 1963
 • Total
 • Water (%)
582,650 km² (46th)
 • 2004 est.
 • 2002 census
 • Density
32,021,856 (37th)
53.4/km² (142)
 • Total
 • Per capita
2003 estimate
33,028 (81)
1,035 (151)
Currency Kenyan Shilling (KES)
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
not observed (UTC+3)
Internet TLD .ke
Calling code +2541
1. 005 from Tanzania and Uganda.

The Republic of Kenya, or Kenya (IPA: /ˈkɛnjə/), is a country in East Africa. It borders Ethiopia on the north, Somalia on the north-east, Tanzania on the south, Uganda on the west, and Sudan on the northwest, with the Indian Ocean on the southeast.



Main article: History 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 such as Homo habilis and Homo erectus lived in Kenya from 2.6 million years ago.

The colonial history of Kenya dates from the establishment of a German protectorate over the Sultan of Zanzibar's coastal possessions in 1885, followed by the arrival of the Imperial British East Africa Company in 1888. Incipient imperial rivalry was forestalled when Germany handed its coastal holdings to Britain in 1890. This followed the building of the Kenya-Uganda railway passing through the country. Although this was also resisted by some tribes, notably the Nandi led by Orkoiyot Koitalel arap Samoei for ten years between 1895 to 1905, these did not stop the British building the railway. It is believed that the Nandi were the first tribe to be put in a native reserve to stop them from disrupting the building of the railway.

During the early part of the 20th century the interior central highlands were settled by British and other European farmers, who became wealthy farming coffee. By the 1930s approximately 30,000 settlers lived in the area and were offered undue political powers because of their effects on the economy. The area was already home to over a million members of the Kǐkǔyǔ tribe, most of whom had no land claims in European terms (but the land belonged to the ethnic group), and lived as itinerant farmers. To protect their interests, the settlers banned the growing of coffee, introduced a hut tax, and the landless were granted less and less land in exchange for their labour. A massive exodus to the cities ensued as their ability to provide a living from the land dwindled.

From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau rebellion against British rule. The governor requested and obtained British and African troops, including the King's African Rifles. In January 1953, Major General Hinde was appointed as director of counter-insurgency operations. The situation did not improve for lack of intelligence, so General Sir George Erskine was appointed commander-in-chief of the colony's armed forces in May 1953, with the personal backing of Winston Churchill. The capture of Warǔhiǔ Itote (General China) on 15 January 1954 and the subsequent interrogation led to a better understanding of the Mau Mau command structure. Operation Anvil opened on 24 April 1954 after weeks of planning by the army with the approval of the War Council. The operation effectively placed Nairobi under military siege, and the occupants were screened and the Mau Mau supporters moved to detention camps. May 1953 also saw the Home Guard officially recognized as a branch of the Security Forces. The Home Guard formed the core of the Government's anti-Mau Mau strategy as it was composed of loyalist Africans, not foreign forces like the British Army and King's African Rifles. By the end of the emergency the Home Guard had killed no fewer than 4,686 Mau Mau, amounting to 42% of the total insurgents. The capture of Dedan Kimathi on 21 October 1956 in Nyeri signified the ultimate defeat of the Mau Mau and essentially ended the military offensive.

The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Despite British hopes of handing power to "moderate" African rivals, it was the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta, that formed a government shortly before Kenya became independent on 12th December 1963. A year later, Kenyatta became Kenya's first president. At Kenyatta's death in 1978, Daniel arap Moi became President, and in democratic but flawed multiparty elections in 1992 and 1997, won re-election. In 2002, Moi was constitutionally barred from running, and Mwai Kǐbakǐ, running for the opposition coalition "National Rainbow Coalition" - NARC, was elected President. The elections, judged free and fair by local and international observers, marked a turning point in Kenya's democratic evolution.

Political Structure

Main article: Politics of Kenya

View of Jomo Kenyatta's Statue and Law Courts Building in the background
View of Jomo Kenyatta's Statue and Law Courts Building in the background

Kenya is a republic; the President of Kenya is both the chief of state and the head of government. Kenya has a unicameral National Assembly consisting of 210 members elected to a term of up to five years from single-member constituencies, plus 12 members nominated by political parties on a proportional representation basis. The president appoints the vice president and cabinet members from among those elected to the National Assembly. The attorney general and the speaker are ex officio members of the Assembly. The judiciary is headed by a High Court, consisting of a chief justice and High Court judges, and judges of Kenya's Court of Appeal (no associate judges), all appointed by the president.

Kenya has had a multi-party system since 1991 via constitutional amendment, with politicians frequently "crossing the floor" or setting up new political parties and coalitions to achieve their political aims. In December 2002, Kenya held democratic and open elections and elected Mwai Kǐbakǐ as president from the National Alliance Party of Kenya (NAK) as president. The NAK and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) formed the NARC coalition that currently governs Kenya. The coalition consists of some of the brightest minds in Kenya such as Dr. Kilemi Mwiria, who received his doctorate in Education at Stanford University. He was also the former Secretary General of Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU), Kenya's first lecturers' union.

Kenya is in the process of rewriting its post-colonial constitution and its subsequent amendments that gave the president nearly unlimited powers and immunity from the law accounting for many of Kenya's current problems with corruption. Constitutional reform is being delayed by disagreement amongst the coalition members. The right-leaning NAK favours a centralized Presidential system, while the left leaning LDP -- led by Raila Odinga -- favor a parliamentary system with Prime Minister. As of July 2005, the government is in the process of significantly amending the country's constitution, in the midst of mild riots and demonstrations. The Kenyan government has announced November 21 2005 as the day for a referendum, to either vote for or against the new constitution.

Administrative Structure

The provinces of Kenya. The numbers refer to those in the text - officially, the provinces are not numbered.
The provinces of Kenya. The numbers refer to those in the text - officially, the provinces are not numbered.

Local administration is divided among eight provinces each headed by a presidentially appointed Provincial Commissioner. The provinces (Mkoa) are subdivided into districts (Wilaya) which are then subdivided into divisions (Tarafa). The divison is then subdivided into location (Mtaa) and then sub location (Kijiji). The Nairobi Area* has special status and is not included in any district or province. The government supervises administration of districts and provinces.

  1. Central
  2. Coast
  3. Eastern
  4. Nairobi Area*
  5. North Eastern
  6. Western
  7. Rift Valley
  8. Nyanza
Map of Kenya
Map of Kenya


Main article: Geography of Kenya

Kenya covers an area of 582,650 km². From the coast on the Indian Ocean the Low plains rise to central highlands. The highlands are bisected by Great Rift Valley; fertile plateau in west. The Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa. The highlands are the site of the highest point in Kenya Mount Kenya, which reaches 5,199 m and is also the site of glaciers. Climate varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior.

Kenya has many miles of beautiful, undeveloped countryside.
Kenya has many miles of beautiful, undeveloped countryside.
Times Tower, Headquarters for the Kenya Revenue Authority, located in Nairobi, Kenya.
Times Tower, Headquarters for the Kenya Revenue Authority, located in Nairobi, Kenya.


Main article: Economy of Kenya

Kenya's main economic strengths include tourism and agriculture. The economy is only now beginning to show some growth after years of stagnation. Some argue that this slow economic growth is because of poor management and uneven commitment to reform; others insist that it is due to falling commodity prices and poor access to Western markets.

In 1993, the government of Kenya implemented a program of economic liberalization and reform that included the removal of import licensing, price controls, and foreign exchange controls. With the support of the World Bank, IMF, and other donors, the reforms led to a brief turnaround in economic performance following a period of negative growth in the early 1990s. One of the unintended consequence of freeing foreign exchange control was that it allowed a gold-and-diamond export scam in which the Kenyan government lost over 600 million US dollars. This resulted in a weak currency which hindered economic improvement.

Kenya's GDP grew 5% in 1995 and 4% in 1996, and inflation remained under control. Growth slowed in 1997-1999 however. Political violence - namely the bombing of the U.S. Embassy by Al Qaeda in 1998 - damaged the tourist industry, and Kenya's Enhanced Structural Adjustment Program lapsed. A new economic team was put in place in 1999 to revitalize the reform effort, strengthen the civil service, and curb corruption, but wary donors continue to question the government's commitment to western establishment ideas of sound economic policy.

Considered by some to be long-term barriers to development are: electricity shortages, the government's continued and allegedly inefficient dominance of key sectors, corruption, the foreign debt burden, unstable international commodity prices, poor communication infrastructure and the effects of HIV/AIDS, which is having its effect on the most productive group of the population. The effects of HIV/AIDS has largely offset the previous high population growth which was caused by a high birth rate and reduced infant mortality due to better health care.

Chief among Kenya's exports are: Flowers (Horticulture), Fruit and Vegetables, Tea and Coffee. Another key foreign exchange earner is tourism.

The country is divided in 8 administrative provinces - Rift Valley, Nairobi, Coast, Western, Eastern, Central, Nyanza, North Eastern.


Main article: Demographics of Kenya

Kenya Ethnic and Dialect Map
Kenya Ethnic and Dialect Map

Kenya is a country of great ethnic diversity. Tension between the various groups accounts for many of Kenya's problems. During the early 1990s, clashes killed thousands and left tens of thousands homeless. Ethnically split opposition groups allowed the regime of Daniel arap Moi, in power from 1978 until 2002, to be re-elected for four terms, with the election in 1997 being marred by violence and fraud.

Ethnic groups: Kĩkũyũ 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 15%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Ameru 6%, other African 12%, non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) 1%

Religious affiliation: Various Protestant 38%, Roman Catholic 28%, Muslim 6%, Traditional Religions 22%. Others include Hinduism, Jainism & the Bahá'í Faith.

See also: List of cities in Kenya, Maasai.


A Kenyan man in traditional attire
A Kenyan man in traditional attire

Main article: Culture of Kenya


Kenya is active in several sports, among them soccer, hockey, boxing and many others. But the country is chiefly known for its dominance in middle-distance and long-distance athletics. Kenya has regularly produced Olympic and Commonwealth Games champions at various distances, especially the 800 m, the 1,500 m, the 3,000 m steeplechase, the 5000 m and the 10,000 m races. Kenyan athletes continue to dominate the world of distance running, although competition from Morocco and Ethiopia has somewhat reduced this trend. The Marathon world record holder, Paul Tergat, and the current women's Boston Marathon champion, Catherine Ndereba, are the among the best-known and most respected athletes in Kenya. A retired Olympic and Commonwealth Games champion, Kipchoge Keino, is Kenya's most famous sportsman. Lately, there has been controversy in Kenyan athletics circles, with the defection of a number of Kenyan athletes to represent other countries, chiefly Bahrain and Qatar. The Kenyan Ministry of Sports has tried to stop the defections, but they have continued anyway, with Bernard Lagat the latest, choosing to represent the USA.

See also

External links

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Look up Kenya on Wiktionary, the free dictionary

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