Map of Kenya

Flag of KenyaFlag description: three equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and green; the red band is edged in white; a large warrior's shield covering crossed spears is superimposed at the centre. 

Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania.

Geographic coordinates: 1 00 N, 38 00 E. 

Climate: varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior. 

Independence: 12 December 1963 (from UK). 

Nationality: Kenyan(s). 

Capital City: Nairobi. 

Population: 30,339,770. 

Head of State: President Daniel Toroitich arap MOI (since 14 October 1978).

Area: 582,650 sq km. 

Type of Government: republic.

Currency: 1 Kenyan shilling (KSh) = 100 cents.

Major peoples: Kikuyu 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kissi 6%, Meru 6%, other African 15%, non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) 1%.

Religion: Protestant 38%, Roman Catholic 28%, indigenous beliefs 26%, Muslim 7%, other 1%.

Official Language: English, Kiswahili.

Principal Languages: English, Kiswahili, numerous indigenous languages. 

Major Exports: tea, coffee, horticultural products, petroleum products. 

History: Bantu tribes are believed to have migrated eastward and southward across the continent from West Africa and to have entered Kenya about 1,000 years ago.  The Nilotic peoples began to enter from the north at about the end of the 15th century and were still migrating when the Europeans arrived.  

Arabs dominated the coastal areas from the 7th century until the Portuguese took possession of the coast following Vasco da GAMA's visit to Mombasa in 1498 and reestablished their control after the Portuguese were ousted in 1729.  From then until 1963 the Arabs retained nominal control of the coastal regions, first as part of the sultanate of Muscat (Oman) and after 1861, when the Muscat empire was divided, as part of the sultanate of Zanzibar.

Modern European interest in Kenya began in the 1850s, when Europeans explored the interior in search of the source of the Nile and Christian missionaries began their efforts to convert the inhabitants and to end the Arabs' flourishing trade in slaves.  By 1855 there were about 300 missionaries in East Africa, and the slave trade was ended by the sultan in 1873. In 1885, Karl Peters received a charter for his German East Africa Company and initiated a scramble among the European nations to establish colonies in East Africa.  

The Anglo-German agreements of 1886 recognized the sultan's authority over the coastal areas and placed the southern coastal strip (now Tanzania) in the German sphere of influence and the northern coastal strip (now Kenya) in the British sphere of influence. In 1887 the sultan leased the northern coastal strip to the Imperial British East Africa Company, and when that company was dissolved in 1895 the British government established the East Africa Protectorate.  

The railroad from Mombasa to Nairobi and Lake Victoria was built in the late 19th century, and as white settlers began to enter Kenya, large areas of the Kenya Highlands--later known as the White Highlands--were subsequently reserved for white-only settlement.  In 1920 the interior regions were organized as the British crown colony of Kenya while the coastal strip remained a British protectorate over lands nominally ruled by the sultan of Zanzibar.

The African population did not submit easily to British authority, and there were countless clashes between the two groups.  The British appointed African chiefs and village headmen to carry out some administrative duties, but efforts to enlist black leaders into legislative bodies met with little success.  An educated African elite began to emerge, however, from the schools established primarily by the Christian missionaries, and in 1944 black Kenyans, especially Kikuyu, concerned about their political future formed the Kenya African Union (KAU), which 3 years later came under the leadership of Jomo KENYATTA.  

In the early 1950s open revolt against the British took the form of a terrorist campaign against the settlers by the so-called MAU MAU movement.  Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned in 1953, but the terrorism continued and a state of emergency was in effect from 1952 to 1960.

In 1960 a constitutional change replaced the system of multiracial representation in the government with one of majority rule.  Kenyatta was freed in 1961 and in May 1963 led the Kenya African National Union (KANU) in a decisive victory at the polls, thereby establishing black control of the government and paving the way for independence.  

Kenya became internally self-governing on June 1, 1963, and full independence was achieved on Dec. 12, 1963, with Jomo Kenyatta as the first prime minister.  Kenyatta remained head of the highly centralized government until his death in August 1978. He was succeeded by his vice-president, Daniel T. Arap MOI, a member of the Kalenjin minority.  Moi, who ran unopposed in the 1979, 1983, and 1988 presidential elections, gradually reduced Kikuyu dominance of political life.

Since independence Kenya has followed a policy of nonalignment with a definite westward tilt.  Kenya has been unusual among African nations in that the highly nationalistic and socialistic route to economic development has been shunned, and private ownership and investment in land and industry actively encouraged.  By the 1980s, however, Kenya's once-flourishing economy was no longer able to keep pace with rapid population growth.  

In 1982 economic woes and opposition to the one-party system sparked an attempted coup--the first in 19 years.  Moi cracked down on dissent but was finally forced to reinstate a multiparty system in 1991, after most international aid to Kenya had been cut off in a effort to force political and economic reforms.  

By 1992, the worst tribal clashes since the 1950s were undermining tourism and cutting crop production at a time when agricultural output was already being reduced by a severe drought.  The economy was further strained by an influx of refugees fleeing civil strife in Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia.  Opponents accused the government of failing to halt the ethnic violence in hopes of delaying the transition to multiparty democracy.  

Elections were nevertheless held at the end of December 1992, the first multiparty contests in 26 years.  Moi retained power following an election widely criticized by domestic and foreign observers, but opposition elements made substantial gains..