U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Republic of Kenya, March 1998
Released by the Office of East African Affairs, Bureau of African 
Affairs.


Official Name: Republic of Kenya

PROFILE

Geography
Area: 582,646 sq. km. (224,960 sq mi.); slightly smaller than Texas. 
Cities: Capital--Nairobi (pop. 1.4 million). Other cities--Mombasa 
(480,000), Kisumu (200,000), Nakuru (165,000). 
Terrain: Kenya rises from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean in a 
series of mountain ridges and plateaus which stand above 3,000 meters 
(9,000 ft.) in the center of the country. The Rift Valley bisects the 
country above Nairobi opening up to a broad arid plain in the north. 
Mountain plains cover the south before descending to the shores of Lake 
Victoria in the west. 
Climate: Varies from the tropical south, west, and central regions to 
arid and semi-arid in the north and the northeast.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective--Kenyan(s). 
Population (1996 est.): 28 million. 
Annual growth rate (1996 est.): 2.7%.
Ethnic groups: African--Kikuyu 21%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 11%, 
Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 5%. Non-African--Asian, European, Arab 1%.
Religions: Indigenous beliefs 10%, Protestant 40%, Roman Catholic 30%, 
Muslim 20%.
Languages: English, Swahili, more than 40 local ethnic languages. 
Education: Years compulsory--none, but first 8 yrs. of primary school 
are provided through cost-sharing between government and parents. 
Attendance--83% for primary grades. Literacy (in English)--59%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--58/1,000. Life expectancy--58 yrs. 
Work force (1.6 million wage earners): Public sector--43%. Private 
sector--57%. Informal sector workers-2.6 million. Formal sector 
breakdown: Services--47%. Industry and commerce--34%. Agriculture--19%.

Government
Type: Republic. 
Independence: December 12, 1963. 
Constitution: 1963. 
Branches: Executive--President (chief of state, head of government, 
commander in chief of armed forces). Legislative--unicameral National 
Assembly (parliament). Judicial--Court of Appeal, High Court, various 
lower courts. 
Administrative subdivisions: 63 districts, joined to form 7 rural 
provinces. Nairobi area has special status. 
Political parties: 26 registered political parties. Ruling party, Kenya 
African National Union. 
Suffrage: Universal at 18.

Economy 
GDP (1996) : $8.6 billion. 
Annual growth rate (1996): 4.6%.
Per capita income: $270.
Natural resources: wildlife, land. 
Agriculture: Products--tea, coffee, sugarcane, horticultural products, 
corn, wheat, rice, sisal, pineapples, pyrethrum, dairy products, meat 
and meat products, hides, skins. Arable land--5%. 
Industry: Types--petroleum product, grain and sugar milling, cement, 
beer, soft drinks, textiles, paper and light manufacturing. 
Trade (1996): Exports--$2.0 billion: tea, coffee, horticultural 
products, petroleum products, cement, pyrethrum, soda ash, sisal, hides 
and skins, fluorspar. Major markets--Uganda, Tanzania, United Kingdom, 
Germany, Netherlands, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, United 
States. Imports--$3.0 billion: machinery, vehicles, crude petroleum, 
iron and steel, resins and plastic materials, refined petroleum 
products, pharmaceuticals, paper and paper products, fertilizers, wheat. 
Major suppliers--U.K., Japan, South Africa, Germany, United Arab 
Emirates, Italy, India, France, United States, Saudi Arabia. 
Market exchange rate (Jan. 1998): 61.2 Kenya shillings (Ksh)=U.S.$1. 


PEOPLE
Kenya has a very diverse population that includes most major language 
groups of Africa. Traditional pastoralists, rural farmers, Muslims, and 
urban residents of Nairobi and other cities contribute to the 
cosmopolitan culture. The standard of living in major cities, once 
relatively high compared to much of Sub-Saharan Africa, has been 
declining in recent years. Most city workers retain links with their 
rural, extended families and leave the city periodically to help work on 
the family farm. About 75% of the work force is engaged in agriculture, 
mainly as subsistence farmers. The urban sector employs 0.9 million 
people.

The national motto of Kenya is harambee, meaning "pull together." In 
that spirit, volunteers in hundreds of communities build schools, 
clinics, and other facilities each year and collect funds to send 
students abroad.
The five state universities enroll about 38,000 students, representing 
some 25% of the Kenyan students who qualify for admission.

HISTORY
Fossils found in East Africa suggest that protohumans roamed the area 
more than 20 million years ago. Recent finds near Kenya's Lake Turkana 
indicate that hominids lived in the area 2.6 million years ago.
Cushitic-speaking people from northern Africa moved into the area that 
is now Kenya beginning around 2000 BC. Arab traders began frequenting 
the Kenya coast around the first century A.D. Kenya's proximity to the 
Arabian Peninsula invited colonization, and Arab and Persian settlements 
sprouted along the coast by the eighth century. During the first 
millennium A.D., Nilotic and Bantu peoples moved into the region, and 
the latter now comprises three-quarters of Kenya's population.

The Swahili language, a mixture of Bantu and Arabic, developed as a 
lingua franca for trade between the different peoples. Arab dominance on 
the coast was eclipsed by the arrival in 1498 of the Portuguese, who 
gave way in turn to Islamic control under the Imam of Oman in the 1600s. 
The United Kingdom established its influence in the 19th century.

The colonial history of Kenya dates from the Berlin Conference of 1885, 
when the European powers first partitioned East Africa into spheres of 
influence. In 1895, the U.K. Government established the East African 
Protectorate and, soon after, opened the fertile highlands to white 
settlers. The settlers were allowed a voice in government even before it 
was officially made a U.K. colony in 1920, but Africans were prohibited 
from direct political participation until 1944.

From October 1952 to December 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency 
arising from the "Mau Mau" rebellion against British colonial rule. 
During this period, African participation in the political process 
increased rapidly. 

The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took 
place in 1957. Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963, and the 
next year joined the Commonwealth. Jomo Kenyatta, a member of the 
predominant Kikuyu tribe and head of the Kenya African National Union 
(KANU), became Kenya's first president. The minority party, Kenya 
African Democratic Union (KADU), representing a coalition of small 
tribes that had feared dominance by larger ones, dissolved itself 
voluntarily in 1964 and joined KANU.

A small but significant leftist opposition party, the Kenya People's 
Union (KPU), was formed in 1966, led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former 
vice president and Luo elder. The KPU was banned and its leader detained 
after political unrest related to Kenyatta's visit to Nyanza Province. 
No new opposition parties were formed after 1969, and KANU became the 
sole political party. At Kenyatta's death in August 1978, Vice President 
Daniel arap Moi became interim President. On October 14, Moi became 
President formally after he was elected head of KANU and designated its 
sole nominee.

In June 1982, the National Assembly amended the constitution, making 
Kenya officially a one-party state, and parliamentary elections were 
held in September 1983. The 1988 elections reinforced the one-party 
system. However, in December 1991, parliament repealed the one-party 
section of the constitution. By early 1992, several new parties had 
formed, and multiparty elections were held in December 1992. 

President Moi was reelected for another five-year term. Opposition 
parties won about 45% of the parliamentary seats, but President Moi's 
KANU Party obtained the majority of seats. Parliamentary reforms in 
November 1997 enlarged the democratic space in Kenya, including the 
expansion of political parties from 11 to 26. President Moi won re-
election as President in the December 1997 elections, and his KANU Party 
narrowly retained its parliamentary majority, with 109 out of 122 seats.


GOVERNMENT
The unicameral assembly consists of 210 members elected to a term of up 
to five years, plus 12 members appointed by the president. The president 
appoints the vice president and cabinet members from among those elected 
to the assembly. The attorney general and the speaker are ex-officio 
members of the National Assembly.

The judiciary is headed by a High Court, consisting of a chief justice 
and at least 30 High Court judges and judges of Kenya's Court of Appeal 
(no associate judges), all appointed by the president.

Local administration is divided among 63 rural districts, each headed by 
a presidentially appointed commissioner. The districts are joined to 
form seven rural provinces. The Nairobi area has special status and is 
not included in any district or province. The government supervises 
administration of districts and provinces. 

Principal Government Officials

President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces--Daniel Toroitich 
arap Moi
Vice President--(vacant)
Minister Foreign Affairs--Dr. Bonaya Godana
Ambassador to the United States--S.K. Chemai
Ambassador to the United Nations--Moses Njuguna Mahugu
Kenya maintains an embassy in the United States at 2249 R Street NW, 
Washington, DC 
20008 (Tel. 202-387-6101).

POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Since independence, Kenya has maintained remarkable stability despite 
changes in its political system and crises in neighboring countries. 
Particularly since the re-emergence of multiparty democracy, Kenyans 
have enjoyed an increased degree of freedom. 

A bipartisan parliamentary reform initiative in the fall of 1997 revised 
some oppressive laws inherited from the colonial era that had been used 
to limit freedom of speech and assembly. This significantly improved 
public freedoms and assembly and made for generally credible national 
elections in December 1997. Kenya is now focusing on a comprehensive 
review of the national constitution.

ECONOMY
After independence, Kenya promoted rapid economic growth through public 
investment, encouragement of smallholder agricultural production, and 
incentives for private (often foreign) industrial investment. Gross 
domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual average of 6.6% from 1963 to 
1973. Agricultural production grew by 4.7% annually during the same 
period, stimulated by redistributing estates, diffusing new crop 
strains, and opening new areas to cultivation.

Between 1974 and 1990, however, Kenya's economic performance declined. 
Inappropriate agricultural policies, inadequate credit, and poor 
international terms of trade contributed to the decline in agriculture. 
Kenya's inward-looking policy of import substitution and rising oil 
prices made Kenya's manufacturing sector uncompetitive. The government 
began a massive intrusion in the private sector. Lack of export 
incentives, tight import controls, and foreign exchange controls made 
the domestic environment for investment even less attractive.

From 1991 to 1993, Kenya had its worst economic performance since 
independence. Growth in GDP stagnated, and agricultural production 
shrank at an annual rate of 3.9%. Inflation reached a record 100% in 
August 1993, and the government's budget deficit was over 10% of GDP. As 
a result of these combined problems, bilateral and multilateral donors 
suspended program aid to Kenya in 1991.

In 1993, the Government of Kenya began a major program of economic 
reform and liberalization. A new minister of finance and a new governor 
of the central bank undertook a series of economic measures with the 
assistance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 
As part of this program, the government eliminated price controls and 
import licensing, removed foreign exchange controls, privatized a range 
of publicly owned companies, reduced the number of civil servants, and 
introduced conservative fiscal and monetary policies. From 1994-96, 
Kenya's real GDP growth rate averaged just over 4% a year. However, 
estimates show GDP growth dropped to around 2% in 1997 due in part to 
adverse weather conditions and reduced economic activity prior to 
general elections in December 1997. 

In July 1997, the Government of Kenya refused to meet commitments made 
earlier to the IMF on governance reforms. As a result, the IMF suspended 
its Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) with Kenya that 
totaled $218 million. The World Bank also put a $90-million structural 
adjustment credit (SAC) on hold. To date, Kenya has not fully met 
conditions to negotiate a new ESAF or SAC.

In 1998, Kenya faces a growing budget deficit, high interest rates, 
rising inflation, and deteriorating infrastructure. Although many 
economic reforms put in place in 1993-94 remain, further reforms, 
particularly in governance, are necessary if Kenya is to increase GDP 
growth and combat poverty among the majority of its population. 
Corruption and inefficient use of government funds remain problems.
Nairobi continues to be the primary hub of East Africa. It enjoys the 
region's best transportation linkages, communications infrastructure, 
and trained personnel. A wide range of foreign firms maintain regional 
branch or representative offices in the city. In March 1996, the 
Presidents of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda re-established the East 
African Cooperation (EAC). The EAC's objectives include harmonizing 
tariffs and customs regimes, free movement of people, and improving 
regional infrastructures.

FOREIGN RELATIONS
Despite internal tensions in Sudan and Ethiopia, Kenya has maintained 
good relations with its northern neighbors. Recent relations with Uganda 
and Tanzania have improved as the three countries work for mutual 
economic benefit. The lack of a cohesive government in Somalia prevents 
normal contact with that country. Kenya serves as the major host for 
refugees from turmoil in Somalia.

Kenya maintains a moderate profile in Third World politics. Kenya's 
relations with Western countries are generally friendly, although 
current political and economic instabilities are often blamed on Western 
pressures.

U.S.-KENYAN RELATIONS
The United States and Kenya have enjoyed cordial relations since Kenya's 
independence. More than 6,000 U.S. citizens live in Kenya, and as many 
as 35,000 Americans visit Kenya annually. About two-thirds of the 
resident Americans are missionaries and their families. U.S. business 
investment is estimated to be more than $285 million, primarily in 
commerce, light manufacturing, and the tourism industry.

U.S. assistance to Kenya promotes broad-based economic development as 
the basis for continued progress in political, social, and related areas 
of national life. U.S. aid strategy is designed to achieve four major 
objectives--reduced population growth, increased agricultural 
productivity, increased role of private enterprise in the economy, and 
civic education to expand the knowledge of democratic institutions. It 
focuses on small farmers and the rural landless, a group that comprises 
more than four-fifths of Kenya's poorest citizens and accounts for about 
one-quarter of the population. The U.S. Peace Corps has more than 165 
volunteers in Kenya.

Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Prudence Bushnell
Deputy Chief of Mission-Michael W. Marine
USAID Mission Director--George Jones
Public Affairs Officer (USIS)--William Barr
The U.S. Embassy in Kenya is located at Haile Selassie and Moi Avenues, 
Nairobi, P.O. Box 30137 (Tel. 334141; Fax 340838).


TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION 
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides 
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are 
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel 
to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all 
countries and include information on immigration practices, currency 
regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and 
security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in 
the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate 
information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-
term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of 
American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by 
calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-
on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information 
Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: 
http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). 
To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will 
accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-
8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. 
The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is 
required). The CABB also carries international security information from 
the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of 
Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication 
series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a 
safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, 
U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-
7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250. 

Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be 
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-
5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-
4000. 

Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-
day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. 
to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-
225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate 
of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648) 

Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers 
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at 
(404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization 
recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water 
safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information 
for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is 
available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 
20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and 
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to 
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's 
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal 
Government Officials" listing in this publication). 

U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas 
are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country 
(see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). 
This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency. 

Further Electronic Information: 
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, 
DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy 
information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, 
the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; 
Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign 
service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at 
http://www.state.gov.

U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published annually by the U.S. 
Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of 
State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign 
policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent 
of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, 
Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 
512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of 
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is 
available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the 
NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information. 

[end of document]
Return to Africa Background Notes Archive
Return to Background Notes Archive Homepage
Return to Electronic Research Collection Homepage