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KENYA

Kenya, a republic in East Africa, is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Kenya has a varied landscape of plateaus and high mountains and is home to many different ethnic groups. Formerly a British colony, Kenya gained independence in 1963 and has been a republic since 1964. It is bounded on the north by Sudan and Ethiopia, on the east by Somalia and the Indian Ocean, on the south by Tanzania, and on the west by Lake Victoria and Uganda. Nairobi is the country's capital and largest city.

The People of Kenya:
Kenya's population at the time of the 1999 census was 28,686,607. In 2004 the population was estimated at 32,021,856. Population density is 56 persons per sq km (146 per sq mi). Kenya experienced very high population growth rates in the 1970s and 1980s, but by 2004 the rate of increase had declined to 1.1 percent. In 2004 Kenya's birth rate was estimated at 28 per 1,000 and its death rate at 16 per 1,000. The average life expectancy at birth in Kenya is 45 years. The low life expectancy and years of high birth rates have combined to give Kenya a young population: 41 percent of the people were younger than age 15 in 2004.

Some 65 percent of Kenya's population lives in rural areas, most concentrated in the fertile southern half of the country. The country's largest cites are Nairobi, the capital and chief manufacturing center; Mombasa, the nation's principal seaport; and Kisumu, the chief port on Lake Victoria. Smaller cities include Nakuru, a commercial and manufacturing center in the Eastern Rift Valley; and Eldoret, an industrial center in western Kenya.

Ethnic Groups:
Masai Village, Kenya This traditional boma, or village, of the nomadic Masai people is located in southern Kenya. The huts are constructed in a circle, a traditional defensive practice. The stick structure in the center of the boma is a corral for livestock.Everen T.

Nearly all Kenyans are black Africans, divided into more than 40 ethnic groups belonging to three linguistic families: the Bantu, the Cushitic, and the Nilotic (see African Languages). Language traditionally has been the primary characteristic of ethnic identity in Kenya. Bantu-speaking Kenyans are divided into three different groups: the western group (Luhya); the central, or highlands, group (including the Kikuyu, the Kamba, and other subgroups); and the coastal Bantu (Mijikenda). Among Kenya's Nilotic speakers, the major groups are the River-Lake, or Western, group (Luo); the Highlands, or Southern, group (Kalenjin); and the Plains, or Eastern, group (Masai). The Cushitic-speaking groups include the Oromo and the Somali. The Kikuyu, who make up 21 percent of the population, are Kenya's largest ethnic group. The next largest are the Luhya (14 percent), the Luo (12 percent), the Kamba (11 percent), and the Kalenjin (11 percent).

For much of Kenya's history, its ethnic groups were loose social formations, fluid and constantly changing. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries British colonial rule solidified ethnic identities among Kenya's people. Colonial administrators associated ethnic groups with specific areas of the country by designating areas where only people with a particular ethnic identity could reside. This pattern of ethnically based settlement has persisted in Kenya since it became independent, even though economic and political development has increased mobility and urbanization among the country's inhabitants. Thus, the majority of Kikuyu live in south central Kenya, the majority of Luhya in western Kenya, the majority of Luo in southwestern Kenya, the majority of Kamba in east central Kenya, and the majority of Kalenjin in west central Kenya. Ethnicity also has been an important factor in Kenyan politics.

Language and Religion:
Kenya's official languages are English and Swahili; both are widely used for communication between members of different ethnic groups. Nearly all of the African ethnic groups in Kenya also have their own languages, making for considerable linguistic diversity within the country. Many Kenyans thus speak three languages: the language of their particular ethnic group, Swahili, and English.
About 76 percent of Kenya's population is Christian, with Protestants outnumbering Roman Catholics. Muslims make up about 7 percent of the population. The remainder of Kenya's people are mainly followers of traditional African religions. There are also a small number of Hindus and Sikhs.

Way of Life:
Thatch House, Kenya Inhabitants of a village in southern Kenya put the finishing touches on a new circular thatch dwelling. To build these houses, thatch must be attached in layers to a frame made of wood. The floor inside is made of dried mud.Hutchison Library

Most Kenyans place great importance on the family and the traditional values and responsibilities associated with it. Kenyan families tend to be large, and households often include many members of the extended family. Polygyny (the practice of having multiple wives) exists to some extent among all social classes and ethnic groups. Many of Kenya's rural inhabitants live on small farms; some live in houses made of mud and wooden poles with thatched roofs, while others live in houses of brick or stone with metal roofs. A small number are nomadic livestock herders, notably some of the Masai people in the south and the Turkana in the north. City dwellers who are wealthy or middle class typically live in modern houses and apartment buildings; however, many other city dwellers live in shantytowns or other inexpensive quarters.

Traditional Dress in Kenya These members of a Nilotic tribe in Samburu, Kenya, are wearing traditional clothing. The men wear solid bright red fabrics; the women have vivid designs on their clothing and collars made of roped beads. Jewelry plays an important role in traditional African dress.Bridgeman Art Library, London/New York/Eric Meacher/Link

Kenya's most popular sport is soccer, and Kenyan runners have gained worldwide renown. Many Kenyans occupy leisure time with traditional music and dance. The overwhelming majority of the Kenyan people dress in Western-style clothing; however, some rural Kenyans wear traditional vibrantly colored or patterned garb, such as the single piece of cloth?often bright red in color?worn by the Masai.

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rnCulture:
rnrnKenya's ethnic diversity has produced a variety and richness of cultural forms that reflect African, Asian, and European influences. Visual arts are not highly important in contemporary Kenya, although varieties of wood and clay sculpture are produced for the tourist trade.

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rnNatural Regions:
rnrnMount Kenya is an extinct volcano in central Kenya. At 5,199 m (17,057 ft) tall, it is the second tallest mountain in Africa.. Kenya is covered with volcanic rock that is split by faults, especially in the west.

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rnThe Eastern Rift of the Great Rift Valley appears in Kenya as a massive depression, as wide as 50 to 65 km (30 to 40 mi) in some places, with cliffs reaching 900 m (3,000 ft) in height.

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rnThe country falls into several topographical zones extending from sea level upward to lofty mountain ranges with elevations of more than 3,000 m (10,000 ft). In the southeast, Kenya's coastline measures 536 km (333 mi) in length and is fringed with coral reefs. It is bordered by a narrow coastal plain dotted with tropical forests. From the coast, the terrain rises to a series of low plateaus that cover most of eastern and northern Kenya and range in elevation from about 150 to 1,000 m (about 500 to 3,000 ft).

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rnThe region west of the plateaus, known as the Kenya highlands, consists of a series of higher plateaus, ranging from about 900 to 2,000 m (about 3,000 to 5,000 ft). Bisected from north to south by the Eastern Rift Valley, the Kenya highlands are divided into the Mau Escarpment on the east side of the Eastern Rift Valley and the Aberdare Range on the west side.

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rnThe Aberdare ranges are marked by numerous extinct volcanoes, the highest of which are Mount Kenya (5,199 m/17,057 ft) in central Kenya, and Mount Elgon (4,321 m/14,177 ft) on the country's western border. In the far west is the lower Lake Victoria basin, which includes the hilly regions to the north and south of Winam Gulf. Although earth tremors are felt periodically in Kenya's highlands, the country has experienced no volcanic activity or serious earthquakes over the past several centuries.

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rnRivers and Lakes:
rnrnKenya's largest lake, excluding Lake Victoria on its western border, is Lake Turkana, in the northwest. Smaller lakes?including Lake Baringo, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivahsa, and Lake Magadi?lie in or near the Eastern Rift. The country's major rivers include the Tana and Galana (known as the Athi in its upper course) in the east, and the Kerio, Turkwel, and Nzoia in the west. Parts of each of these rivers are navigable by small vessels, but only the Tana is used by larger boats. Except for the Tana and some of its tributaries, most Kenyan rivers have not been used extensively for irrigation.

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rnPlant and Animal Life:
rnrnGame Preserve in Kenya A giraffe towers over zebras on the savanna of a Kenyan game preserve. Home to many endangered species of wildlife, the African republic of Kenya shelters its wild animals in game preserves and national parks. Kenya outlawed hunting in 1977, but poachers continue to hunt many of these commercially valuable animals. Tourists can observe and photograph the animals in safaris through the parks and preserves.

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rnKenya contains diverse plant life. Along the Indian Ocean coast are forests containing palm, mangrove, teak, and sandalwood trees. Baobab, euphorbia, and acacia trees dot the lowland plateaus, while extensive tracts of savanna (grassland), interspersed with groves of acacia and some temperate forests, characterize the terrain of the highlands up to about 3,000 m (about 9,000 ft). The higher alpine zone contains giant senecio and lobelia shrubs.

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rnKenya is known for the great variety of its wildlife and is especially famous for its big game animals associated with the African savanna. The major big game species include elephants, rhinoceroses, zebras, giraffes, and lions and other large cats. Although many of these species are protected in national parks and game reserves, hunters have severely reduced the number of large mammals in Kenya, particularly elephants and rhinoceroses. Kenya's rhinoceroses are critically endangered. Birds?including ostriches, flamingos, and vultures?abound in Kenya, as do reptiles such as pythons, mambas, and cobras.

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rnClimate:
rnrnKenya's different topographical regions experience distinct climates. The coastal region is largely humid and wet. The city of Malindi, for instance, receives an average rainfall of 1,050 mm (41 in) per year, with average temperatures ranging from 21° to 32°C (70° to 90°F) in January and 20° to 29°C (68° to 84°F) in July. The low plateau area is the driest part of the country. There, the town of Wajir receives an average annual rainfall of 320 mm (13 in) and experiences average temperatures ranging from 19° to 37°C (66° to 99°F) in January and 19° to 34°C (66° to 93°F) in July. Nairobi, in the temperate Kenya highlands, receives an average annual rainfall of 790 mm (31 in) and experiences average temperatures ranging from 9° to 29°C (48° to 84°F) in January and 7° to 26°C (45° to 79°F) in July. Higher elevation areas within the highlands receive much larger amounts of rainfall. The Lake Victoria basin in western Kenya is generally the wettest region in the country, particularly the highland regions to the north and south of Kisumu, where average annual rainfall ranges from 1,740 mm (70 in) to 1,940 mm (80 in). Average temperatures in this region range from 14° to 34°C (57° to 93°F) in January and 14° to 30°C (57° to 86°F) in July.

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rnRainfall occurs seasonally throughout most of Kenya. The coast, eastern plateaus, and lake basin experience two rainy seasons: the "long rains" extends roughly from March to June, and the "short rains" lasts from approximately October to December. The highlands of western Kenya have a single rainy season, lasting from March to September. All parts of the country are subject to periodic droughts, or delays in the start of the rainy seasons. Kenya's climate has had a profound effect on settlement patterns, as for centuries population has been concentrated in the wettest areas of the country.

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rnTourism and other Services:
rnrnThe service sector accounts for 65 percent of Kenya's GDP. This includes the various services provided by the government and the increasingly important restaurant, hotel, and safari industries, which have grown in response to the increasing number of tourists visiting Kenya.

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rnTourism in Kenya has expanded dramatically since 1963, and since 1989 it has been the country's leading source of foreign currency. Tourist arrivals, mainly from Europe and North America, numbered 838,000 in 2001. Kenya's main tourist destinations are the beaches along the Indian Ocean coast; national parks and game reserves, such as Tsavo National Park and Amboseli National Park; and museums and historical sites.
rnKenya has the most industrially developed economy in East Africa. The manufacturing sector has grown significantly since the 1960s. In 2002 industry, which includes mining and construction, contributed 19 percent of GDP. Kenya's chief manufactures include food products, beverages, cigarettes, textiles and clothing, cement, rubber products, transport equipment, printed materials, and petroleum and other chemicals.

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rnMining employs only a small number of Kenya's workers. The main minerals produced are soda ash from Lake Magadi, fluorite, salt, and limestone products. The government is also seeking to exploit titanium and zircon deposits on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

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rnTransportation:
rnrnKenya has one of the most extensive transportation networks in East Africa. Railways connect the major cities, and the country's road network is substantial, although more than 80 percent of roads are unpaved. Mombasa is Kenya's major seaport and serves Uganda and Rwanda as well. Kisumu is the major port on Lake Victoria. River transport is not extensive. International airports are located at Nairobi, Mombasa, and Eldoret. Kenya Airways is the national airline. The main forms of public transportation in Kenya are buses, matatus (minibuses), and taxis.

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rnCurrency and Banking:
rnrnKenya's basic unit of currency is the Kenyan shilling, consisting of 100 cents (78.7 Kenyan shillings equal US$1; 2002 average). Currency is issued by the Central Bank of Kenya, established in Nairobi in 1966. An extensive network of commercial banks, both locally and foreign-owned, serves most of Kenya's urban areas. The Nairobi Stock Exchange serves the whole country.