Kenya High Commission - Zambia

Kenyan Images

About Kenya

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People & Culture
Kenya is made up of three main linguistic groups, the Bantu, Cushites and Nilotes. Within each linguistic group are the tribes and sub tribes and numerous clans. There approximately 42 tribes in Kenya translating into 42 cultural groups; a rich cultural diversity. There is also a large segment of people of other nationalities who have become naturalized in Kenya by virtue of birth and or history; these include the Indians (Kenyan Indians, Arabs, and Europeans) amongst many other nationalities.

All the groups are unified by one National language Swahili with English being the official Language. Under the new Constitution, Swahili too has become an Official language. Religion is an important aspect in Kenya, a large section of the population is Christian, Other important religions are Islam, Hindu, Sikhism, Jewish, and traditional beliefs.

Material Culture:
The material culture of Kenya is as rich as the 42 cultural groupings, each present material artifact that are uniquely Kenyan. However, other symbols have equally emerged to stand out as uniquely Kenyan and symbol of National pride. These include the Lion (Remember; The land of the Man Eating Lions of Tsavo,) The Kenya Shilling, The Coat of Arms, the National Flag, the National Anthem, the National seal, The Spear, The Shield, The Flywhisk, the Kiondo, the Kikoi, the Maasai Sandals, The Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC), the Maasai culture and the National Monuments & heritage sites. Dressing form with shades of Black, Red, (National Flag) colours of the come out well for both Men & Women (smart casual wear (Kitenge for Women, and Kitenge Shirt for Men).

National Values as aspoused by the constitution:
Important National Values are:

  • Patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of people,
  • Human dignity, equity, social justice and inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non discrimination and protection of the marginalized.
  • Good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability, and sustainable development.

The Republic of Kenya is located on the East African Coast. It covers approximately 584,000 sq Kilometres, and borders Somalia and the Indian Ocean to east, Ethiopia and Sudan to the north, Uganda to the west and Tanzania to the south. The Lake Victoria is common resource to the east shared between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The Country straddles the Equator exhibiting moderate climatic conditions with no extremities throughout the year. The landscape and altitude graduate systematically as you move from the sea shore on the Indian ocean, depicting low lying coastal areas on the shore of the Indian ocean, to intermediate flat plains and plateau (dominated by wildlife), to highlands in the Central regions of the country (rising above 900m above sea level (ASL). The Rift Valley cuts across the country to provide a sudden change in terrain and display numerous scenic features of geological and historical importance, and giving the eastern and Western walls of the Rift Valley and by extension, the Central and Western Highlands.  The Rift Valley floor is rich in tourist and historic sites, volcanic & geological sites, isolated mountains, wetlands, fresh & salt water lakes, hot springs & geysers) and a unique climate. The rising western end (The Western wall/escarpments of the Rift Valley, form the Western Highlands (Mau Escarpments) the agriculture rich and Kenya’s finest tea growing areas of Kericho, and catchment area also origin of the famous Mara River), and descending gradually to river and lake basins (Rivers Nzoia, Sondu, Nyando, Malaba) and the lake Victoria in the western part of the country.

Important geographical features are strewn all over the country and include, a rich and long coastal line full of rocky reefs, marine wildlife sanctuary, Sandy beaches, mangrove and corals; The intermediate plains (terrestrial wildlife sanctuary; the Tsavo East & West National Park, Amboseli, Mara game reserve, Samburu Game reserve, L. Nakuru national Park), highlands,  mountain and  snow capes in the central region of the country such as the Aberdare ranges (averaging 3300 – 4,000m asl)  and Mt. Kenya (standing 5,199m asl), and the rift valley (with rich fault escarpment, the rift valley floor full of wetlands of international significance such as the Lake Naivasha, fresh & salt water lakes, hot springs & geysers, sites of Geological & historic (fossil) importance, and highlands and mountains e.g. the  Mt. Longonot, Mau escarpments, Cherangani hills-3,200m asl and Mt. Elgon-4,321m asl). Arid and Semi arid conditions are also present in the northern and northeastern Kenya.

The Climate in Kenya is tropical, temperature seldom exceeding 37oC annually while the coolest is about 12oC and a two rain season; April - June and October - December. Slight variations occur with location i.e. along the coastal area & Lake Basin (24-30oC), Highlands (10-26oC), and the Arid & Semi Arid Lands (ASALS) (23-35oC).

There is plenty of sunshine all the year round and summer clothes are worn throughout the year, supporting tourist activities, sporting, and holidaying throughout the year. A point to note is that, it is usually cool early in the morning and at night with warm during the day with punctuated rains in the afternoon.

Pre - colonial:
A history of the Present Kenya presupposes the presence of (Bantu, Cushites, Nilotes) groups of people in this place at different times in a more or less migratory manner. The earliest Immigrants are believed to be the Cushitic speaking people around 2000 BC, followed by the Bantu about 200 AD and later the Nilotic group. These early groups received significant and varying external influence to afford the rich cultural diversity that have settled side by side today.

Between the first and 8th AD, The East African Coast began receiving foreign visitors; Arabs were the first to arrive around 1st AD, later Persians, Indians and Chinese. The Indian Ocean trade was a pull factor with trade in hides & skin, Spices Ivory, Gold and Slaves. The result of this cross cultural interaction was a strong influence on the coastal strip in culture and language. Swahili language developed as a lingua franca and the Swahili culture as is known today.

Around 1498 the Portuguese arrived, but officially conquered the East Africa coast in 1505 to advance and control the flourishing Indian Ocean trade opening a sea route to India and the Far East. The next 200 years would see the rise of the Portuguese architectural designs (fortresses) along the coastal strip, in Mombasa, Malindi, Lamu, Siyu, Pate and Faza islands, some of which remain significant national heritage sites in Kenya. Portuguese dominance was ended in late 1600s when the Oman Arabs conquered the East African Coast and brought the coastal Ten mile strip under the Islamic influence and establishing clove plantations and slave trade. The Omani Arabs established their capital in Zanzibar in 1839.  Between (1840 – 1890), the British grew their commercial interest in the Indian Ocean and later on the East African Coast through the works of William Mackinnon, and the missionaries (many of who had signed agreements with the sultan on their engagements on the coastal land. This interest grew into desire to explore the interior east Africa for agricultural land for white settlement (The land was fertile and the climate favourable).

After the Berlin conference in 1885, and the German annexation of the Sultanate coast along the East Africa coast, the British rushed to solidify their interest; this led to the conclusion of the Anglo - German treaty of July 1, 1890. Through this agreement, the British managed to trade the sultanate of Witu under the Germans control thus allowing for construction of the railway to the hinterland. The British also declared Kenya a protectorate and in 1920 Kenya became a colony (British Crown Colony), including a 10 mile strip on lease from the sultanate of Zanzibar, became the protectorate of Kenya.

The period 1920 – 1957 marked the period of political agitation in Kenya. Post 1st World war, Kenya had become a settler colony for ex – british soldiers who concentrated in developing Commercial agriculture in what came to be known as the white highlands. Accompanying this was the policy of annexation and alienation (political, land & labour), protectionist policies in agriculture, introduction and cash economy, identity tags “Kipande system”.

Africans mobilized themselves into form different associations and used different media including independent newspapers, to express their grievances. Among the early ones was the Kikuyu Central Association (1921) later named East African Association, formed by a young (Clerk) Civil servant; Harry Thuku)  working at the Treasury. KCA was instrumental in the appointing and sending its secretary Jomo Kenyatta presentation of African grievances to the Colonial office in London. Others were the Young Kavirondo Association (1927), North Kavirondo Central Association Kenya African Study Union (1944) later becoming Kenya African Union (1946), among others. It was the Kenya African union that would eventually put pressure on the Colonial government and be instrumental to gaining independence in Kenya. In 1947 Jomo Kenyatta returned head the Kenya African Union which pushed for increased representation of African from one (1) in 1944 to six (6) in 1952 in the Legislative Council.

Towards the end of 1940’s, there was a feeling amongst a section of the non elite population that the fight for independence was taking too long, this group under the banner “Mau – Mau” took up arms and fought against the establishment. The group staged surprise attacks on settler populations and Africans seen as pro – colonialist. Subsequently, the colonialist began distrusting the elites on suspicion that they were working alongside the military group. At the height of activities by the armed group, the colonial government was convinced that the two were one thing, as such, the colonial government under Sir Evelyn baring as Governor declared a State of Emergency on October 20, 1952 (1952-57). On the same night, Jomo Kenyatta and six other National Leaders were arrested from their homes in different parts of the country and taken to Kapenguria where they were tried and subsequently jailed.

The colonial government eventually succeeded in the “Mau Mau” this however they also eased their grip on Africans and opened some room for political representation through new constitutional proposal dubbed the Lyttleton Constitution. Under the Lyttleton constitution (1954) Africans were allowed to directly elect their representatives to the Legislative Council. Subsequently, in 1957 elections were held and eight African leaders;  Ronald Ngala, Tom Mboya, Daniel arap Moi, Mate, Muimi, Oginga Odinga, Oguda and Muliro, were elected. They stepped up agitation for widened representation and independence.

Between March – June 1960, a new party Kenya African National Union (KANU) was formed and registered, another party the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) was formed on June 25, 1960. Both differed in their manifesto but agitated for one thing in common; independence.  The first election were held in 1961, KANU won but refused to form a government unless Jomo Kenyatta is released from Prison. KADU under Ronald Ngala formed an interim government. Both KANU and KADU continued pushing for constitutional reforms under the Lancaster House conference, which ushered in a new constitution dispensation in 1962. Early elections which were held in May 1963 and KANU won capturing 83 of the 124 seats in the House of Representatives to form the first Internal Government (self Governance) dubbed the Madaraka Administration on 1st June 1963. Full independence was granted on 12th December 1963 with Mzee Jomo Kenyatta becoming the first President.

Independent Kenya
Upon independence, the African Government had to deal with some immediate and pressing economic and political problems. The priorities were acceleration of growth, Kenyanisation of the economy and redistribution of incomes. None of this, however, could be achieved without political stability; it was first felt necessary to neutralize those elements in the country who supported extreme policies. In 1964, Kenyatta convinced KADU to merge with KANU to form a One Party State.  Kenya embarked on the long road to peace and stability, which has made it possible for the country to realize great strides in development.

The country has had three Presidents since Independence; Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (1963-78), Daniel Arap Moi (1978 – 2002), Mwai Kibaki (2003-Todate). Upon Jomo Kenyatta’s death on 22nd August 1978, Daniel arap Moi took over the leadership. He retired on 30th December 2002 in line with a Constitutional provision which limits the Presidential term to a maximum 2 terms of 5 years each. This provision took effect in 1991 following the re-introduction of multipartism. Previously Kenya was a single party state.

Mwai Kibaki under the auspice of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) took over from Moi on 30th December 2002 after the December 27 2002 general elections to become Kenya's third President. He was re-elected in December 2007 for the 2nd term in Office.

In 2008, the country experienced some political unrest following disputed elections in December 2007. This led to the establishment of a peace brokered Coalition Government under the leadership of the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki and Hon Raila Odinga as Prime Minister. The coalition government laid down a road map for among other things electoral reforms.  The Constitutional review process culminated into a referendum on 4th August 2010 where Kenyans overwhelmingly voted to adopt a new constitution. The new constitution which brought revolutionary changes to Kenya s governance structure and social economic fabric was promulgated on 27th August 2010.