History & General Information
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 lived in the area 2.6 million years ago.
Cushitic-speaking people from what is now Sudan and Ethiopia moved into
the area that is now Kenya beginning around 2000 BC. Arab traders began
frequenting the Kenya coast around the first century AD. Kenya's proximity
to the Arabian Peninsula invited colonization, and Arab and Persian settlements
sprouted along the coast by the eighth century. During the first millennium
AD, Nilotic and Bantu peoples moved into the region, and the latter now
comprise two thirds of Kenya's population. The Swahili language, a Bantu
language with significant Arabic vocabulary, developed as a trade language
for the region.
Arab dominance on the coast was interrupted for about 150 years following
the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498. British exploration of East Africa
in the mid-1800s eventually led to the establishment of Britain's East
African Protectorate in 1895. The Protectorate promoted settlement of the
fertile central highlands by Europeans, dispossessing the Kikuyu and others
of their land. Some fertile and well watered parts of the Rift Valley inhabited
by the Maasai and the western highlands inhabited by the Kalenjin were
also handed over to European settlers. For other Kenyan communities, the
British presence was slight, especially in the arid northern half of the
country. The settlers were allowed a voice in government even before Kenya
was officially made a British colony in 1920, but Africans were prohibited
from direct political participation until 1944 when a few appointed (but
not elected) African representatives were permitted to sit in the legislature.
From 1952 to 1959, Kenya was under a state
of emergency arising from the "Mau
Mau" insurgency against British colonial rule in general and its land
policies in particular. This rebellion took place almost exclusively in
the highlands of central Kenya among the Kikuyu people. Tens of thousands
of Kikuyu died in the fighting or in the detention camps and restricted
villages. British losses were about 650. During this period, African participation
in the political process increased rapidly.
The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took
place in 1957. Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963, and the next
year joined the Commonwealth. Jomo Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu and head
of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), became Kenya's first President.
The minority party, Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), representing
a coalition of small ethnic groups that had feared dominance by larger
ones, dissolved itself in 1964 and joined KANU.
A small but significant leftist opposition party, the Kenya People's Union
(KPU), was formed in 1966, led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former Vice
President and Luo elder. The KPU was banned shortly thereafter, however,
and its leader detained. KANU became Kenya's sole political party. At Kenyatta's
death in August 1978, Vice President Daniel arap Moi, a Kalenjin from Rift
Valley province, became interim President. By October of that year, Moi
became President formally after he was elected head of KANU and designated
its sole nominee for the presidential election.
In June 1982, the National Assembly amended the constitution, making Kenya
officially a one-party state. Two months later, young military officers
in league with some opposition elements attempted to overthrow the government
in a violent but ultimately unsuccessful coup. In response to street protests
and donor pressure, Parliament repealed the one-party section of the constitution
in December 1991. In 1992, independent Kenya's first multiparty elections
were held. Divisions in the opposition contributed to Moi's retention of
the presidency in 1992 and again in the 1997 election. Following the 1997
election Kenya experienced its first coalition government as KANU was forced
to cobble together a majority by bringing into government a few minor parties.
In October 2002, a coalition of opposition
parties joined forces with a faction which broke away from KANU to form
the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). In December 2002, the NARC candidate,
Mwai Kibaki, was elected the country's third President. President Kibaki
received 62% of the vote, and NARC also won 59% of the parliamentary
seats. Kibaki, a Kikuyu from Central province, had served as a Member
of Parliament since Kenya's independence in 1963. He served in senior
posts in both the Kenyatta and Moi governments, including Vice President
and Finance Minister. In 2003, internal conflicts disrupted the NARC
government, culminating in its defeat in 2005 in a referendum over government's
draft constitution. The new opposition became the Orange Democratic Movement
of Kenya (ODM-K)--an alliance of former NARC members and KANU, among
others. In early 2006, pro-government supporters formed the NARC-Kenya
party to rival the ODM-K.
Since independence, Kenya has maintained remarkable stability despite changes
in its political system and crises in neighboring countries. Particularly
since the re-emergence of multiparty democracy, Kenyans have enjoyed
an increased degree of freedom.
In December 2002, Kenyans held democratic and open elections, which were
judged free and fair by international observers. The 2002 elections marked
an important turning point in Kenya's democratic evolution as the presidency
and the parliamentary majority passed from the party that had ruled Kenya
since independence to a coalition of new political parties. The government
lost a referendum over its draft constitution in November 2005. This vote
too was widely accepted as free, fair and credible.
Under the presidency of Mwai Kibaki, the NARC coalition promised to focus
its efforts on generating economic growth, improving and expanding education,
combating corruption and rewriting the constitution. The first two goals
were largely met, but progress toward the second two goals has been limited.
President Kibaki's current cabinet consists of Members of Parliament from
allied parties and others recruited from opposition parties who joined
the cabinet without the approval of their party leaderships.
In early 2006, revelations from investigative reports of two major government-linked
corruption scandals rocked Kenya and led to resignations, including three
ministers (one of whom was later re-appointed). In March 2006, another
major scandal was uncovered involving money laundering and tax evasion
in the Kenyan banking system. The government's March 2006 raid on the Standard
Group media house conducted by masked Kenyan police was internationally
condemned and was met with outrage by Kenya media and civil society. The
government did not provide a sufficient explanation. No one was held
The 2007 presidential elections were largely believed to have been flawed, with international observers stating that they did not meet regional or international standards. Most observers suggest that the tallying process for the presidential results were rigged to the advantage of the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki, despite overwhelming indications that his rival and current Prime Minister of Kenya, Raila Odinga, won the election. In July 2008, exit polls commissioned by the US government were released, revealing that Odinga had won the election by a comfortable margin of 6%, well outside of the poll's 1.3% margin of error.
There was significant and widespread violence in the country following the unprecedented announcement of Kibaki as the winner of the 2007 presidential elections. The two rivals were later united in a grand coalition government following international mediation, led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, under a power-sharing National Accord on Reconciliation Act, entrenched in the constitution. Following the agreement, power was shared between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister, Raila Odinga.
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GENERAL INFORMATION ON
The unicameral National Assembly
consists of 210 members elected to a term of 5 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 assembly. The attorney general
and the speaker are ex-officio members of the National Assembly.
judiciary is headed by a High Court, consisting of a Chief Justice and
High Court judges and judges of Kenya's Court of Appeal, all appointed
by the president.
Local administration is divided
among 69 rural districts, each headed by a commissioner appointed
by the president. The government has proposed 37 more districts,
but these are not yet ratified by Parliament. The districts are joined
to form seven rural provinces. Nairobi has special provincial status.
The Ministry of State in charge of Provincial Administration and
Internal Security supervises the administration of districts and
Chief of state: President
Mwai KIBAKI (since 30 December 2002); Vice President Stephene Kalonzo MUSYOKA (since 10 January 2008).
Head of government: Prime Minister Raila Amolo ODINGA (since 17 April 2008).
Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president.
Elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); in addition to receiving the largest number of votes in absolute terms, the presidential candidate must also win 25% or more of the vote in at least five of Kenya's seven provinces and one area to avoid a runoff; election last held 27 December 2007 (next to be held in December 2012); vice president appointed by the president.
Election results: President Mwai KIBAKI reelected; percent of vote - Mwai KIBAKI 46%, Raila ODINGA 44%, Kalonzo MUSYOKA 9%.
Kenya covers 224,960 sq-mi
and is slightly more
than twice the size of Nevada. Kenya rises from a low coastal
plain on the Indian Ocean in a series of mountain ridges and plateaus
which stand above 3,000 meters (9,000 ft.) in the center of the country.
The Rift Valley bisects the country above Nairobi, opening up to
a broad arid plain in the north. Highlands cover the south before
descending to the shores of Lake Victoria in the west.
Kenyan Highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural
production regions in Africa; glaciers are found on Mount Kenya,
Africa's second highest peak (5,199m); unique physiography supports
abundant and varied wildlife of scientific and economic value.
cities: Capital--Nairobi (pop. 2.8 million, est. 2006). Other cities--Mombasa
(828,500, est. 2006), Kisumu (322,000, 1999), Nakuru (219,366, 1999),
Eldoret (167,016, 1999).
issues include: water pollution from urban and industrial wastes,
degradation of water quality from increased use of pesticides and
fertilizers, water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria, deforestation,
soil erosion, desertification, poaching, recurring drought, and flooding
during the rainy seasons.
Kenya's current population is estimated at 37.9
million; estimates for this country explicitly take into account
the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in
lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates,
lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution
of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July
It is estimated (2003 est) that
1.2 million adult Kenyans are living with the AIDS virus and
that 150,000 per year die from the disease.
a very diverse population that includes three of Africa's major
sociolinguistic groups: Bantu (67%), Nilotic (30%), and Cushitic
(3%). Kenyans are deeply religious. About 80% of Kenyans are
Christian, 10% Muslim, and 10% follow traditional African religions
or other faiths. Most city residents retain links with their
rural, extended families and leave the city periodically to
help work on the family farm. About 75% of the work force is
engaged in agriculture, mainly as subsistence farmers.
national motto of Kenya is Harambee, meaning "pull together." In
that spirit, volunteers in hundreds of communities build schools,
clinics, and other facilities each year and collect funds to
send students abroad. The six state universities enroll about
45,000 students, representing some 25% of the Kenyan students
who qualify for admission. There are six private universities.
Religious groups are as follows:
Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, Muslim 10%, indigenous beliefs
10%, other 2%.
Note: a large majority of Kenyans are Christian,
but estimates for the percentage of the population that adheres
to Islam or indigenous beliefs vary widely.
English and Kiswahili are the
official languages, with over 40 other languages from
the Bantu, Nilotic, and Cushitic linguistic groups also being
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 center.
climate varies from tropical in south, west,
and central regions; arid and semi-arid in
the north and the northeast.
goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, clothing, soap, cigarettes, flour),
agricultural products, horticulture, oil refining; aluminum, steel, lead; cement,
commercial ship repair, tourism.
Exports: $4.13 billion (2007 est):
tea, horticultural products, coffee, petroleum products, fish, cement.
Major markets: Uganda 16.9%, UK 9.3%, Tanzania 8.2%, Netherlands 8.2%, US 6.4%, Pakistan 5.2% (2007).
Imports: $8.54 billion (2007 est):
machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum products, motor vehicles, iron and steel, resins and plastics.
suppliers: UAE 11.4%, China 9.9%, India 8.7%, Saudi Arabia 8%, South Africa 6.9%, US 6.2%, Japan 5.9%, UK 4.6% (2007).
After independence, Kenya promoted rapid economic growth through
public investment, encouragement of smallholder agricultural production,
and incentives for private (often foreign) industrial investment.
Gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual average of 6.6%
from 1963 to 1973. Agricultural production grew by 4.7% annually
during the same period, stimulated by redistributing estates, diffusing
new crop strains, and opening new areas to cultivation. After experiencing
moderately high growth rates during the 1960s and 1970s, Kenya's
economic performance during the last two decades has been far below
its potential. The economy grew by an annual average of only 1.5%
between 1997 and 2002, which was below the population growth estimated
at 2.5% per annum, leading to a decline in per capita incomes.
The decline in economic performance in the last two decades was
largely due to inappropriate agricultural policies, inadequate
credit, and poor international terms of trade contributing to the
decline in agriculture. Kenya's inward-looking policy of import
substitution and rising oil prices made Kenya's manufacturing sector
uncompetitive. The government began a massive intrusion in the
private sector. Lack of export incentives, tight import controls,
and foreign exchange controls made the domestic environment for
investment even less attractive.
From 1991 to 1993, Kenya had its worst economic performance since
independence. Growth in GDP stagnated, and agricultural production
shrank at an annual rate of 3.9%. Inflation reached a record 100%
in August 1993, and the government's budget deficit was over 10%
of GDP. As a result of these combined problems, bilateral and multilateral
donors suspended program aid to Kenya in 1991. In the 1990s, the
government implemented economic reform measures to stabilize the
economy and restore sustainable growth. In 1994, nearly all administrative
controls on producer and retail prices, imports, foreign exchange
and grain marketing were removed. The Government of Kenya privatized
a range of publicly owned companies, reduced the number of civil
servants, and introduced conservative fiscal and monetary policies.
By the mid-1990s, the government lifted price controls on petroleum
products. In 1995, foreigners were allowed to invest in the Nairobi
Stock Exchange (NSE). In July 1997, the Government of Kenya refused
to meet commitments made earlier to the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) on governance reforms. As a result, the IMF suspended
lending for 3 years, and the World Bank also put a $90-million
structural adjustment credit on hold.
The Government of Kenya took some positive steps on reform, including
the establishment of the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Authority in 1999,
and the adoption of measures to improve the transparency of government
procurements and reduce the government payroll. In July 2000, the
IMF signed a $150 million Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility
(PRGF), and the World Bank followed suit shortly after with a $157
million Economic and Public Sector Reform credit. The Anti-Corruption
Authority was declared unconstitutional in December 2000, and other
parts of the reform effort faltered in 2001. The IMF and World
Bank again suspended their programs.
Net foreign direct investment (FDI) was negative from 2000-2003,
but started trickling back in 2004, as demonstrated by an increase
in the number of enterprises operating in Export Processing Zones
(EPZs) from 66 to 74 between 2003 and 2004. The value of total
investments increased from Ksh16.7 billion (over U.S. $219 million)
to Ksh17.0 billion (over U.S. $223 million) in 2004 to 2005. Following
the end of the Multifiber Arrangement (MFA) textile agreement in
January 2005, several textile and apparel factories closed, leaving
68 EPZ enterprises.
The economy began to recover after 2002, registering 2.8% growth
in 2003, 4.3% in 2004, 5.8% in 2005, and 6% in 2006. Under the
leadership of President Kibaki, who took over on December 30, 2002,
the Government of Kenya began an ambitious economic reform program
and resumed its cooperation with the World Bank and the IMF. The
National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) government enacted the Anti-Corruption
and Economic Crimes Act and Public Officers Ethics Act in May 2003
aimed at fighting graft in public offices. There was some movement
to reduce corruption in 2003, but the government did not sustain
that momentum. Other reforms especially in the judiciary, public
procurement etc, led to the unlocking of donor aid and a renewed
hope of economic revival.
In November 2003, following the signing into law of key anti-corruption
legislation and other reforms by the new government, donors reengaged
as the IMF approved a three-year $250 million Poverty Reduction
and Growth Facility and donors committed $4.2 billion in support
over 4 years. In December 2004, the IMF approved Kenya's Poverty
Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement equivalent to
U.S. $252.8 million to support the government's economic and governance
reforms. However, the government's ability to stimulate economic
demand through fiscal and monetary policy remains fairly limited
while the pace at which the government is pursuing reforms in other
key areas remains slow. Although the Privatization Law was enacted
in 2005, modest steps have been made on privatizing of parastatals
apart from Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) and the
concessioning of Kenya Railways, while civil service reform is
limited despite the government's assertion that reforms would be
undertaken. Accelerating growth to achieve Kenya's potential and
reduce the poverty that afflicts more than 56% of its population
will require continued de-regulation of business, improved delivery
of government services, addressing structural reforms, massive
investment in new infrastructure (especially roads), reduction
of chronic insecurity caused by crime, and improved economic governance
The current expansion is fairly broad-based and is built on a
stable macro-environment fostered by government, and the resilience,
resourcefulness, and improved confidence of the private sector.
Nairobi continues to be the primary communication and financial
hub of East Africa. It enjoys the region's best transportation
linkages, communications infrastructure, and trained personnel,
although these advantages are less prominent than in past years.
On January 31, 2007, the government signed a $2.7 million contract
with Tyco Telecommunications to perform an undersea survey for
the construction of a fiber-optic cable to Fujairah in the United
Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) called the East African Marine Systems (TEAMS).
Two other fiber-optic cables projects are being pursued to link
Kenya to the rest of East Africa and India. Once TEAMS and the
domestic fiber-optic cables planned by the government are completed,
the economy is expected to benefit significantly from reduced internet
access prices and improved capacity. A wide range of foreign firms
maintain regional branches or representative offices in the city.
In March 1996, the Presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda re-established
the East African Community (EAC). The EAC's objectives include
harmonizing tariffs and customs regimes, free movement of people,
and improving regional infrastructures. In March 2004, the three
East African countries signed a Customs Union Agreement paving
the way for a common market. The Customs Union and a Common External
Tariff were established on January 1, 2005, but the EAC countries
are still working out exceptions to the tariff. Rwanda and Burundi
have since joined the community.
Tourism is now Kenya's largest foreign exchange earning sector,
followed by flowers, tea and coffee. In 2006 tourism generated
$803 million, up from $699 million the previous year. Africa is
Kenya's largest export market, followed by the EU. Kenya benefits
significantly from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
Although Congress renewed the AGOA third country fabric provision
in December 2006 to provide more time to develop local cotton and
fabric production that meets the buyers' rigorous standards, its
apparel industry is struggling to hold its ground against Asian
competition. Kenya's main exports to the U.S. are AGOA-program
garments, but it continues to run a trade deficit with the U.S.
Kenya faces profound environmental challenges brought on by high
population growth, deforestation, shifting climate patterns, and
the overgrazing of cattle in marginal areas in the north and west
of the country. Significant portions of the population will continue
to require emergency food assistance in the coming years.
The currency is the Kenya Shilling.
Recent historical exchange rates are as follows: Shillings per
US dollar - 71.7 (12/31/2008); 63.2 (12/31/2007); 69.9 (12/31/2006); 72.8 (12/31/2005); 77.7
(12/31/2004); 76.6 (12/31/2003); 77.8 (12/31/2002); 79.0
(12/31/2001); 78.1 (12/31/2000); 73.1 (12/31/1999); 62.1 (12/31/1998);
served as an important mediator in brokering
Sudan's north-south separation in February
provides shelter to almost a quarter of a
million refugees, including Ugandans who
flee across the border periodically to seek
protection from Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)
works hard to prevent the clan and militia
fighting in Somalia from spreading across
the border, which has long been open to nomadic
boundary that separates Kenya's and Sudan's
sovereignty is unclear in the "Ilemi
Triangle," which Kenya has administered
since colonial times.
Despite internal tensions
in Sudan and Ethiopia, Kenya has maintained
good relations with its northern neighbors.
Recent relations with Uganda and Tanzania
have improved as the three countries work
for mutual economic benefit.
Kenya has hosted
and played an active role in the negotiations
to resolve the civil war in Sudan and to
reinstate a central government authority
in Somalia. The Sudan peace negotiations
have made major progress, resulting in the
signing in Kenya of agreements between the
Khartoum government and the southern Sudan
rebels to put an end to the two-decade-long
war. On January 9, 2005 a Sudan North-South
Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed in
Nairobi. Negotiations in the Somali National
Reconciliation Conference resulted at the
end of 2004 in the establishing of Somali
Transitional Federal Institutions (Assembly,
President, Prime Minister, and Government).
Until early 2005, Kenya served as a major
host both for these institutions and for
refugees from Somalia as well as Sudan. Between
May and June 2005, members of the Somalia
Transitional Federal Institutions relocated
Kenya maintains a moderate profile
in Third World politics. Kenya's relations
with Western countries are generally friendly,
although current political and economic instabilities
are sometimes blamed on Western pressures.
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