Last updated: February 20, 2019
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Abstract

 

Kenya is a flourish country in terms of natural resources. Due to its natural wealth, many foreign countries have interests on it for a purpose of having investments. But the irony of this scenario is that in spite of the fact of being naturally rich, people are living in poverty and illiteracy. Kenya is presently striving to meet up the demands of this modern world.

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The earliest recorded history of the area now known as Kenya concerns the coastline which for centuries has had trading relations with southern Arabia. The power of the Arabs who helped by the monsoon winds had made trading voyages across the Indian ocean and had established posts on the East Africa coast, was overthrown by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The Portuguese made their headquarters at Mombasa where their stronghold, Fort Jesus, still stands.  Bitter struggles took place between Portuguese and the Arabs, however, and the former were driven from the country in the late 17th century by the forces of the imam of Oman. This paper gives us an overview about the country of Kenya and what it had been through before it achieved success as a nation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I. Introduction

Kenya or republic of Kenya is a country in east Africa. Until 1963 it was a British dependency, called Kenya Colony and protectorate. Kenya lies on the Equator along the Indian Ocean and is bordered by Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Including inland water, primarily parts of lakes Victoria and Rudolf, Kenya’s area is 224,960 square miles (582,646 km2). Dimensions are as much as 560 miles (900 km) north-south and 485 miles (780 km) east-west (Kenya. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2004).

This paper intends to study the history, people, geography, economy, and government of Kenya.

II. Background

A. History

Kenya’s recorded history begins with Indonesian and Arab traders, who by the early Middle Ages were visiting the coast to trade. The Kenyans of that era were of the mixed Semito-Hamitic and Negro Stock now known as Nilotic. A great influx of Bantu peoples from the northwest began in the 13th century. The Bantus occupied the most desirable areas, Swahili groups settling on the coast.

Mombasa and Malindi were wealthy centers of Indian Ocean trade when Portuguese explorers reached the east coast of Africa at the end of the 15th century. According to Donovan (2006), “the Portuguese plundered and destroyed the coastal cities and took control of the trade for the next century” (p. 45). As Portugal’s sea power declined, Arabs helped the Swahilis expel the Portuguese and reestablished themselves as masters of the coast.

In the late 19th century both Germany and Great Britain were building colonial empires in Africa. An agreement with Germany in 1886 permitted Britain to take control in the interior of Kenya; an 1887 agreement with the Arab sultan of Zanzibar gave Britain control of the coastal strip. According to Donovan (2006) that, “in 1895, the country was made a British protectorate under the name British East Africa. A railroad from Mombasa to Lake Victoria was competed in 1901, and white colonization of the interior began” (p. 107). In 1920 some territory in the northeast was ceded to Italy. The remaining interior area became the Colony of Kenya; the coastal strip became Kenya Protectorate.

After World War II African nationalism developed rapidly under Kikuyu leadership. A secret terrorist organization, the Mau Mau, was formed to drive the white man from Kenya. From 1952 to 1956, there were many bloody but unsuccessful attempts to expel the British. By 1957, the Mau Mau uprising had been put down. Jomo Kenyatta, accused of being its leader, was imprisoned.

A movement for self-rule was led by Tom Mboya, a Luo, in cooperation with the Kikuyus. A constitution was drawn up in 1962 and self-government was inaugurated. In 1963, the coastal strip was ceded to Kenya by Zanzibar. In the same year, Kenya gained independence, as a dominion in the British Commonwealth, and Kenyatta became prime minister. The country became a republic in 1964 with Kenyatta as president.

Kenyatta and Mboya, his minister of economics, were able to maintain peace among the Kikuyu, Luo, and other groups, but the country’s stability was threatened from another source—a Somalian-supported secessionist movement in the north. It was quelled after four years of guerrilla warfare. Stability was again threatened in 1969, when Mboya was assassinated and a Kikuyu was accused of his murder. For a time, there was serious violence, but eventually the unrest subsided (Kenya. New Standard Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, Pp. 456-457).

 

Under Kenyatta’s rule, Kenya became the most prosperous nation in East Africa. Kenyatta died in 1978 and was succeeded by Daniel Arap Moi. Falling prices for the country’s two principal exports, coffee and tea, caused a depression during the first years of Moi’s rule, but the economy revived in the mid-1980’s when world prices for these commodities rose.

III. Background

A. People

Virtually all of the people are Africans, members of more than 70 different ethnic groups, predominantly Bantu. The Bantu people live mainly in the coastal region and the southwestern uplands. The Kikuyus, a Bantu people, are the largest group in Kenya’s political and social life. Principal non-Bantu peoples include the Luo and the Turkana in the west, and the Somalis in the east. An author named Miller (2004) said that “among the smaller groups are the Masai, a pastoral people who are use the blood and milk of their cattle as a main food” (p.24).

The non-African population, which is less than 1 percent, consists mainly of Britons, Arabs, and Asians (Indians and Pakistanis). Many of the British hold government positions or have managerial jobs in the manufacturing, banking, and communications industries. The Asians own a large percentage of the small businesses. The number of Africans involved in commerce and government has been slowly increasing (Kenya. New Standard Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, Pp. 456-457).

 

 

·         Language and Religion

The official languages are English and Swahili, the commercial tongue of all East Africa. The various ethnic groups have their own languages. The majority of the people adhere to Christianity. About 20 percent are animists, and a small minority, less than 10 percent, are Moslems.

·         Education

The government maintains or assists in supporting primary and secondary schools. However, school attendance is not compulsory and less than half the population is literate. Higher education is available at the university in Nairobi and at technical institutes and teacher-training schools (Kenya. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2004).

B. Geography

·         Land

A narrow, low-lying borders Kenya’s 280-mile (450-km) coast. Offshore there are coral reefs and several small islands. The rest of the eastern part of the country and almost all of the north—some three-fifths of the total area—consists of semiarid low plateaus, plains, and hills. Much of this region is sparsely populated and has a desolate appearance.

An elevated plateau and mountain region in the southwest, called the Kenya Highlands, is the heart of the nation, containing the bulk of Kenya’s population and farmland. Much of the land lies 5,000 and to 10,000 feet (1,500 to 3,000 m) above sea level and is dotted by extinct volcanoes. Among them are 17,058-foot (5,199-m) Mount Kenya, the highest mountain in Kenya, and Mount Elgon, which rises to a height of 14,178 feet (4,321-m) on the Uganda border. In the Aberdare Range north of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, peaks crest at more than 13,000 feet (4,000 m) (Kenya, Mount. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2004).

·         Water

Most lakes, including Kenya’s largest body of water, Lake Rudolf (also called Lake Turkana), occur in the Great Rift Valley, where there is no outward drainage. A small section of Lake Victoria juts into the southwest. The adjoining shore is one of the most tropically humid parts of the country. Tips of Lake Stefanie, in the north, and Lake Natron, in the south, belong to Kenya.

Principal rivers are the Tana and the Galana-Athi, which flow from the highlands to the Indian Ocean. Smaller rivers include the Nzoia and Mara, both of which empty into Lake Victoria. Elsewhere, especially in the north and east, streams are intermittent, flowing only occasionally or during part of the year (Kenya. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2004).

·         Climate

Although Kenya lies on the Equator, its climate varies considerably in temperature and precipitation. To a large extent, temperatures are governed by elevation. Mombasa, a port city on the Indian Ocean, has temperatures near 80oF (27oC.) throughout the year. Nairobi, in contrast, some 5,500 feet (1,700 m) above sea level in the highlands, has average temperatures of 60o to 65 o F. and has much greater temperature variations from night to day.

Rain is abundant along the coast; normally about 35 to 50m inches (890 to 1,270 mm) fall each year, depending on location. Similar amounts fall throughout the highlands, though several of the higher areas and the shore of lake Victoria receive considerably more. Northern Kenya and the interior areas of the east are quite dry. Parts of the north receive less than 10 inches (250 mm) a year and desertlike conditions occur (Donovan, 2006).

·         Vegetation and Wild animals

Kenya is primarily a grassland, consisting of savannas and steppes. The savannas are generally tall-grass areas with small, thorny trees growing singly or in patches. The steppes, which receive less rain, usually lack and often have only a scant covering of grass. Forests are found mainly in scattered localities along the coast and in the loftier, more humid parts of the highlands. Few of the forests form dense growths.

In addition, Donovan (2006) stated that, “Kenya is richly endowed with animal life. Big game, including elephants, rhinoceroses, lions, giraffes, zebras, and wildebeests, are among the more notable animals” (p.58). There is also abundance of small mammals.

C. Economy

Kenya’s economy has improved steadily since the country gained independence in 1963. In many respects Kenya is the most prosperous country in East Africa. By most Western standards, however, Kenya is still a relatively poor country. It is heavily dependent on farming and lacks the money, mineral resources, skilled workers, and professional persons required to build a modern society rapidly. By carefully planning the economy, however, and by promoting free enterprise, the Kenyan government is attempting to improve conditions as quickly as possible. The greatest emphasis is placed on improving farming and establishing manufacturing industries (Schatzberg, 2005).

·         Agriculture

The great majority of the people derive their livelihood from farming and herding, which have long been mainstays of the economy. The chief farming areas are in the highlands, around Lake Victoria, and along the coast. Because of the scant rainfall, most of the country can be used for little but grazing.

Furthermore, Schatzberg (2005) added that “the main food crops are corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes. Coffee and tea are the chief commercial crops and agricultural exports” (p.105). Cattle are the most numerous farm animals; next are goats and sheep. Camels are herded in the drier parts of the country.

·         Manufacturing

Manufacturing was established shortly after World War II to process agricultural products for export. The industry has since expanded, and numerous small-scale plants now make food products, beverages, tobacco, wood, and paper products, textiles, clothing, shoes and other consumer goods. Moreover, Schatzberg (2005) stated that “Kenya also produces machinery, trucks and automobiles, chemicals, and petroleum products. Most of the manufactured goods are for local use, but some are marketed elsewhere in East Africa” (p.108). Nairobi and, to a lesser extent, Mombasa and the making of cement, Kenya has few heavy industries.

 

 

 

·         Tourism

Kenya’s abundant wildlife is a major tourist attraction, earning large amounts of foreign exchange. Safaris, most of which originate in Nairobi, are conducted for sightseers and photographers.

·         Transportation

Railways are the chief means of transport in Kenya. The railway system consists primarily of a main line from Mombasa, through Nairobi, into Uganda. Few of Kenya’s roads are paved. Mombasa is the chief port of East Africa, serving all of Kenya and some foreign areas. Kisumu handles freight and passenger service of Lake Victoria. The center of domestic and international air service is the modern airport at Nairobi (Schatzberg, 2005).

D. Government

Under the constitution 1969, Kenya is a republic. Executive power is held by an elected president, who appoints his vice president and cabinet. The legislature is the single-house national Assembly, with 158 elected members and 12 members appointed by the president. There is only one political party.

On the other hand, Miller (2004) explained that, “the judicial system is based on English law. The Kenya Court of Appeal is the highest judicial body” (p. 23). There are special courts to hear matters involving Islamic law.

IV. Conclusion

Kenya is a British colony and protectorate in East Africa, bounded on the north by Ethiopia and the Sudan, on the west by Uganda, on the south by Tanganyika and on the east by the Indian Ocean and Italian Somaliland. Included in Kenya are the northeastern shores of Lake Victoria and nearly the whole of Lake Rudolf. Part of the coast lands—from the Tanganyika frontier to Kipini—together with Mombasa, Lamu and other small islands, are held on lease from the sultan of Zanzibar, and form the Kenya protectorate as distinct from the colony. For nearly all purposes the distinction is in name only. The Republic of Kenya is continuously working out for the increased of its economy and improves the lifestyle of every citizen. The manpower of Kenya is so great, especially in their agriculture, because that is the only means of their income in order to survive.

 

 

 

Reference:

Schatzberg, Michael G. The Political Economy of Kenya. Praeger Publishers, New York, 2005.
Kenya, Mount. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press. New York, 2004.
Kenya. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Columbia University Press. New York, 2004.
Donovan, Alan. Kenya: The Rise and Fall of African Heritage. New African. Issue: 449. March, 2006.
Miller, Edward. Kenya Wary as Traditional Religions Are Revived. The Washington Times. Page Number: 14, August 2004.
Kenya. New Standard Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, Pp. 456-457.