Kenya Country Profile

Map of Kenya

Map of Kenya

Located on the equator on the east coast of Africa, Kenya has been described as “the cradle of mankind”.

In the Great Rift Valley, paleontologists have discovered some of the earliest evidence of human ancestry.

Today, Kenya’s ethnic diversity has produced a vibrant culture but is also a source of conflict.

A former British colony, Kenya gained independence after the Mau Mau insurgency in the 1950s.

The origins of the insurgency remain disputed by historians and its conduct has become a controversial legacy for independent Kenya. In 2013, the UK government compensated claimants who said they were victims of abuses by colonial forces fighting the rebellion.

The jihadist movement Al-Shabab, based in neighboring Somalia, has launched numerous attacks in Kenya, mainly in the northeast, but also two high-profile attacks with many victims in Nairobi: on the Westgate shopping center in 2013 and the DusitD2 complex in 2019.

Other pressing challenges include high unemployment, crime and poverty. Droughts often put millions of people at risk.

  • Capital: Nairobi

  • Population: 55 million

  • Area: 580,367 kmĀ²

  • LANGUAGES : Swahili, English

  • Life expectancy: 64 (men) 69 (women)

President: Guillaume Ruto

Kenyan President William Ruto is sworn in at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani in Nairobi, Kenya on September 13, 2022

Kenyan President William Ruto is sworn in at the Moi International Sports Center Kasarani in Nairobi, Kenya on September 13, 2022

In August 2022, Vice President William Ruto narrowly won the presidential election. He got 50.5% of the vote. His main rival, Raila Odinga, won 48.8% of the vote

Incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta was ineligible for a third term under Kenya’s constitution.

On August 22, Odinga filed a petition with the Supreme Court of Kenya challenging the results, but on September 5, the Supreme Court of Kenya dismissed the challenge and upheld Ruto’s victory.

William Ruto had a childhood that epitomized the lives of many poor Kenyans. He went to elementary school barefoot, wearing his first pair of shoes when he was 15.

Mr Ruto ran his campaign under the banner of Kenya Kwanza, Swahili for Kenya First, with a promise to grow the economy.

Kenya’s official unemployment rate for 18-34 year olds is nearly 40% and the economy is not creating enough jobs to absorb the 800,000 young people who join the labor force every year.

Ruto promised a bottom-up approach to the economy, saying it will benefit the poor who bear the brunt of the cost of living crisis that has hit the world following the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Newsstand in Kenya

Newsstand in Kenya

A handful of large commercial companies dominate the media industry, operating alongside the state-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).

Television is the main source of information in urban areas. Internet usage is high by regional standards, due to the use of mobile devices.

The competitive press scene is the most sophisticated in the region. Newspapers are free to criticize politicians and the government.

Jomo Kenyatta during his inauguration

Jomo Kenyatta was inaugurated as president after a fierce fight for independence from Britain

Some key dates in Kenya’s history:

around 3.3 million BC – Evidence of some of the earliest human tools have been found in Kenya, suggesting it was the cradle of mankind from where descendants set out to populate the world.

600AD – The Arabs begin to settle in the coastal areas, developing over the centuries trading posts that facilitate contacts with the Arab world, Persia and India.

1895 – Formation of the British East African Protectorate.

1920 – The East African Protectorate becomes a Crown Colony of Kenya – administered by a British Governor.

1944 – Formation of the Kenya African Union (KAU) to campaign for African independence. First African appointment to the Legislative Council.

1947 – Jomo Kenyatta becomes the leader of KAU.

1952 – A predominantly Kikuyu guerrilla group, officially the Kenyan Land and Freedom Army, but more commonly known as Mau Mau, launches a violent campaign against white settlers. State of emergency declared, Jomo Kenyatta imprisoned, KAU banned.

The Mau Mau rebellion largely ended with the capture of its leader Dedan Kimathi in 1956, but the state of emergency was not lifted until 1960.

1961 – Jomo Kenyatta released and takes part in the negotiations on the transition to independence.

1963 – Kenya gains independence, with Mr. Kenyatta as Prime Minister.

1964 – Formation of the Republic of Kenya. Jomo Kenyatta becomes president and Oginga Odinga vice-president.

1978 – Kenyatta dies in office, succeeded by Daniel arap Moi.

1991 – Kenya is moving to a multi-party political system after 26 years of one-party rule.

1998 – Al-Qaeda members bomb the US Embassy in Nairobi, killing 224 people and injuring thousands.

2002 – Al-Qaeda attack on an Israeli hotel near Mombasa kills 10 Kenyans and injures three Israelis. A simultaneous rocket attack on an Israeli airliner fails.

2002 – Mwai Kibaki scores a landslide victory, ending Daniel arap Moi’s 24-year reign

2007 – Disputed general elections are followed by deadly violence.

2009 – Kenya says at least 10 million people, or a third of the population, need food aid. The government mobilizes the army to distribute food, water and medicine in the areas hardest hit by the drought.

2010 – Kenya joins its neighbors in forming a new East African Common Market, intended to integrate the region’s economy.

2010 – New constitution aimed at limiting the powers of the president and delegating power to regions approved by referendum.

2011 – Kenya intervenes in the conflict in Somalia and subsequently suffered several apparent retaliatory attacks, including the 2013 massacre at Westgate Mall in Nairobi and the 2015 attack on Garissa University College in the northwest.

2014 – At least 48 people die after al-Shabab militants attacked hotels and a police station in Mpeketoni, near the resort town of Lamu.

2017 – A multi-billion dollar railway line linking Mombasa to the capital Nairobi is opened, it is Kenya’s biggest infrastructure project since independence.

Cheetahs in Maasai Mara, Kenya

Cheetahs in the Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya

Leave a Comment