A republic in eastern Africa; major archeological discoveries have been made in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya.
Country in E Africa, bounded N by Sudan and Ethiopia, E by Somalia, SE by the Indian Ocean, SW by Tanzania, and W by Uganda.
The 1963 constitution, amended 1964, 1969, 1982, and 1992, provides for a president, elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term, and a single-chamber 202-member national assembly, serving a similar term. The president must be endorsed by at least 25% of voters in at least five of the country's eight provinces. 188 members of the assembly are elected by universal suffrage, 12 nominated by the president, and the attorney general and speaker as members by virtue of their office. From 1969 to 1982 Kenya was effectively a one-party state, and in 1983 it became so legally, the only legitimate party being the Kenya African National Union (KANU), with the state president as its leader. Since 1992 a multiparty system has operated.
Archeological evidence shows that the area now known as Kenya was first inhabited at least 5 million years ago by early humans. African tribal groups inhabited the area when, in the 8th century, the coast was settled by Arabs, and during the 15th–18th centuries the region was under Portuguese rule.
Kenya became a British protectorate 1895 and colony 1920–64, when it achieved full independence within the Commonwealth. There was near civil war during the 20 years before independence, as nationalist groups carried out a campaign of violence. The Kenya African Union (KAU) was founded 1944, and in 1947 Jomo Kenyatta, a member of Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, became its president. Three years later a secret society of young Kikuyu militants was formed, called Mau Mau, which had the same aims as KAU but sought to achieve them by violent means. Although Kenyatta dissociated himself from Mau Mau, the British authorities distrusted him and imprisoned him 1953. By 1956 the guerrilla campaign had largely ended, the state of emergency was lifted and Kenyatta was released.
Kenya was granted internal self-government 1963, and Kenyatta, who had become leader of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), became prime minister and then president after full independence 1964. During his presidency the country achieved considerable stability. When he died in 1978 he was succeeded by Vice President Daniel arap Moi, who built on Kenyatta's achievements. The East Africa Community (EAC), which Kenya joined in 1967 with Tanzania and Uganda, collapsed 1977.
An attempted coup by junior air-force officers 1982 was foiled and resulted in political detentions and press censorship. The air force and Nairobi University were temporarily dissolved. In the same year the national assembly declared Kenya a one-party state. President Moi was reelected 1983. He was reelected unopposed for a third successive presidential term Feb 1988. In June 1989 Moi unexpectedly announced the release of all known political detainees. Kenya led the effort 1989 to ban trading in ivory after poaching of elephants became uncontrollable. The deaths of several US tourists on safari provoked Moi to declare a war against poachers.
calls for political reform
Despite the government's initial refusal to consider a multiparty system, former vice president Oginga Odinga launched a new opposition group, the National Democratic Party, Feb 1991. In Dec 1991, in response to increasing domestic and international pressure for political reform, President Moi announced the introduction of multiparty politics. In March 1992 the government proposed constitutional changes, and in Aug passed an amendment which it was thought would improve Moi's chances of being reelected. Moi won the first multiparty presidential elections Dec 1992 amid claims of electoral fraud. In Dec 1993 the three largest opposition parties formed a united front to fight the next elections. Currency reforms announced May 1994 made the Kenyan shilling fully convertible, and later in the year Moi pledged to end corruption.
Mount or Kirinyaga; Extinct volcano from which Kenya takes its name, 5,199 m/17,057 ft; the first European to climb it was Halford Mackinder 1899.