Geography and Landscape


Kenya (officially: Jamhuri ya Kenya; English: Republic of Kenya), is a presidential republic in East Africa and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. Kenya, together with Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Somalia, belongs to the 'Horn of Africa'.

Kenya Satellite photo NASAPhoto: Public domain

Map of Kenya
afbeelding: onbekend, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Kenya is located on the equator, has an area of 582,646 km2. Inland waterways such as rivers and lakes cover 11,230 km2. Kenya is bordered to the north by Ethiopia (830 km) and Sudan (232 km), to the east by Somalia (682 km) and the Indian Ocean, to the west by Uganda (933 km) and Lake Victoria and to the south by Tanzania (769 km).


On the coast there are a series of coral reefs and a number of islands, including the Lama archipelago and Mandu. From the up to 200 km wide and up to 150 m high coastal strip, the land slowly rises to a parallel, 150 to 300 meter high plateau area. In the north and northwest this turns into an area with high plains of 300 to 1500 meters, belonging to the East African plateau, which in the southwest merges into the Kenya Highlands, 1500 to 3000 m high.

The Highlands are intersected in a north-south direction by the East African Rift, which is a tributary of the North-to-South extending African Rift or Great Rift Valley, which is 600 to 900 m below the surrounding area and is flanked by high volcanoes. The rift is 48 to 64 kilometers wide. Near Lake Naivasha, the rift is about 2000 meters above sea level.

Mount Kenya, highest mountain in Kenya photo: Hdahlmo~commonswiki, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Here we also find the second highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kenya (5199 meters). This area is the most fertile in the country and the lower parts of the mountains are used intensively for agriculture. This rift contains a number of lakes, including Lake Rudolf, Lake Nakuru, Lake Naivasha and Lake Magadi, which is largely situated on the territory of Kenya. Lake Victoria, of which only the eastern end is in Kenya territory, lies between the two rifts. Near Lake Victoria is also Kenya's second highest mountain, Mount Elgon (4321 meters). The Great African Rift runs from the Middle East to Malawi and is more than 5000 kilometers long.

Lake Nakura, Kenya
photo: Antony Trivet, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Western Kenya consists of a rolling hilly landscape that stretches from the Sudanese border in the north to Tanzania in the south. In the south, the fertile landscape changes into a vast savannah landscape. Here are the largest and most popular game reserves. South of the Amboseli reserve, Mount Kilimanjaro (5895 meters) rises, the highest mountain in Africa, which, however, lies entirely in Tanzania. North and East Kenya consists of a mountainous landscape with lots of scrub that changes into a desert landscape where rain rarely falls. Here we find the most wild and unspoiled landscape in Kenya.

Partially navigable rivers are the Sabaki and the Tana.

Climate and Weather

Temperature, precipitation and humidity vary widely in Kenya. There are four zones with more or less the same climate.

Sunrise KenyaPhoto: Christopher Michel Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The undulating plateau in Western Kenya is generally very warm and with a decent level of humidity. Rain falls all year round. The most rain falls in April, maximum 200 mm; the least rain falls in January, about 40 mm. The minimum temperatures are between 14 and 18 °C and the maximum temperatures between 30 and 34 °C. To the west, at Lake Victoria, there is a tropical climate with average temperatures of 18 to 30 °C; heavy tropical rains fall here

The central highlands and the Rift Valley have the most pleasant temperatures, although large differences can be observed here too. In the lowest parts of the Rift Valley it is quite arid and on Mount Kenya there is eternal snow.

Snow on Mount Kenya
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Rainfall varies from 20 mm in July to 200 mm in April, mainly in the periods March to May (long rains) and October to December (short rains). The Aberdare Mountains and Mount Kenya have the most rainfall, often over 3000 mm per year. The temperatures vary from a minimum of 10 to 14 °C to a maximum of 22 to 26 °C.

The vast semi-arid bushlands and the desert areas in the north and northeast are characterized by large temperature differences. During the day it is around 40 ° C while at night the temperature drops to values between 15 and 20 °C. It doesn't rain often and when it rains it often happens in downpours. July is the driest month here and November the wettest. The average rainfall is between 250 and 500 mm per year.

Kenia, dry stream bed of river Voi
photo: Christopher T Cooper, CC Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

The coastal region is hot and humid all year round, although the temperature is tempered by the sea breeze. The rainfall varies from 20 mm in February to 300 mm in May. Every year there is between 1000 and 1250 mm. The average temperatures are approximately the same all year round, between 22 and 30° C.

Plants and Animals


The vegetation along the coast and around the estuaries consists of coconut palms, mangrove forests and tropical forests. It is a fertile region where mangoes, lemons, oranges and many tropical flowers grow. Behind the coastline, the greenery changes into a savannah landscape with thorn bushes, screen acacia and baobabs or monkey bread trees. This vegetation is found in the eastern and northern parts of Kenya.
The plateau features highland forests that vary from the very heavy wood of the wild olive to the very light wood of Gyrocarpus jacquinii, depending on altitude and climate; many mountain forests also have a bamboo belt. Beautiful forests can be found on the volcano slopes (up to 3300 m); many screen acacia trees grow at its base. The national tree of Kenya is the acacia.

Acacia, nationale boom van Kenia
photo: Benh LIEU SONG from Torcy, France, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made


Of the animal world, especially that of the steppes and semi-deserts is known.

A selection:

Giraffes are found in the savannas and in open woodland areas with acacia trees. The large Maasai giraffe is the most common; the lesser reticulated giraffe lives in the north.

Hyenas are found all over the country. The striped and the spotted hyena mainly eat carcasses but also small mammals.

Dik-diks live in thickets and are the smallest antelope species, maximum 40 cm.

Baboons can be found near rivers and lava fields and live together in large families.

Impalas are antelopes that live on the savannas.

Wildebeest live in herds on the savannas.

Elk antelopes with large spiral horns also live on the savannas.

Warthogs live in small families near water.

Zebras live on steppes and grasslands. The common zebra and the Grévy's zebra are found in Kenya.

Group of Grevy's zebras
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Rhinos are highly endangered animals. The black or point-lipped rhinoceros and the white or broad-lipped rhinoceros occur in Kenya.

Buffalo are herd animals and occur in forests and in the savannas.

Hippos can be found in all rivers and lakes

Crocodiles are found in almost all rivers of Kenya.

Lions live on the savannahs and in open forests. It is the only feline that lives in groups.

Leopards are nocturnal animals and are mainly found in forests, thickets and caves.

Elephants are herd animals that mainly live in forests and on the savannas. They are the largest land mammals.

Oryxes or skewers live in arid areas with undergrowth.

The fringed ear and the beisa are found in Kenya.

Ostriches are ratites that live on savannas and grasslands.

Waterbuck live near water in open woodland areas and rocky hill country.

Kudus are antelopes that can be divided into small and large kudus. They live in scrub and dense forests.

Cheetahs or cheetahs live on the open savannas and steppes. It is the fastest mammal in the world and can reach 80 kilometers per hour.

Gerenuks or giraffe gazelles live in arid areas with undergrowth.

Crocodiles, Mamba Village, Mombasa, Kenya
photo: Jaokov, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

There is also a rich bird world with more than a thousand species of birds, including birds of prey, weaver birds and honey suckers. Flamingos live in large groups near the lakes of the Rift Valley. Since July 1999, tens of thousands of flamingos have died in Lake Bogoria. Various heavy metals were found in the body of the birds. Furthermore, storks, vultures, pelicans, herons, ibises, hornbills and cormorants. National birds of Kenya are the lilac-breasted roller and the rooster.

Lilac-breasted roller, national bird of Kenya
photo: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Rooster is in the national Coat of Arms Kenya
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Poisonous snakes such as cobra, mamba and puff adder live in the grasslands and along rivers. The python, a choke snake, also lives there. Giant snails are also very striking.

Nature conservation began as early as colonial times and, thanks to tourism, continued after independence. Kenya has many, often world-famous national parks and nature reserves that have been established since the 1940s. Nevertheless, a number of animal species are seriously endangered by poaching and clearing of forests: the elephant, the black or pointed-lipped rhinoceros and to a lesser extent the Grevy's zebra, the Hunter's heart-beast and the cheetah.

Black or point lipped rhinoceros, Kenya
photo: Yathin S Krishnappa, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Several marine reserves were established to protect Kenya's beautiful underwater world. These reserves are naturally protected by a large reef that runs along the entire coast of Kenya. Some of these reserves are the Malindi-Watamu Marine Reserve and the Kiunga National Marine Reserve. The latter reserve mainly protects turtles as well as some very rare coral species.

Fish species that are very worthwhile: angelfish, butterfly fish, parrot fish and the poisonous scorpionfish and stonefish. At sea, people fish for bonitos, black and blue marlins, sailfish, tiger sharks, hammerhead sharks, yellowfin tuna and fan fish. Inland you can fish for trout, trout bass, tilapias, Nile bass and tiger fish.

Other creatures include the crown-of-thorns starfish, the hermit crab and a number of sea turtles.

Kenia, doornenkroon, een soort zeester
photo: Kris Mikael Krister, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made


Nomads, Farmers and Settlers

According to paleontologists such as the famous Richard Leakey, the Rift Valley, which also runs through Kenya, is the "cradle of mankind". In any case, one of the skulls found in the area around Lake Turkana is about 2.5 million years old, and comes from the so-called "homo habilis". Approx. 4000 years ago Kenya was inhabited by the Khoisan who were related to southern African peoples. After that, Kenya became a migration country par excellence, partly due to the fertile soil in this part of Africa. For example, practically all major languages of Africa are spoken in Kenya.

Great Rift Valley runs through Kenya
afbeelding: Redgeographics, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The first group of migrants was the nomadic Kushite people of Ethiopia around 2000 BC. They were herders and therefore dependent on pasture for their cattle and goats. After climate changes that had a negative impact on the landscape, these people moved south towards Tanzania. A second group, East Kushites, succeeded this group around 1000 BC. and settled in Central Kenya. The rest of the many tribes and peoples arrived between 500 BC. and 500 AD: Bantu-speaking peoples like the Gusii, Kikuyu, Akamba and Meru from West Africa and Nilotic-speaking peoples like the Maasai, Luo, Samburu and Turkana from the Nile Valley into Southern Sudan.

Portuguese rule

From the 8th century, the coastal region of Kenya was visited by Muslims of the Arabian Peninsula. They did not intend to conquer the area but mainly traded there. Many settled permanently and mixed with the African population.

This created a series of coastal cities along the East African coast from Somalia to Mozambique, often used as goods depots where ships for the Indian trade routes were supplied. While there was inevitably rivalry between these cities, it was a fairly peaceful area until the 16th century. All this was cruelly disrupted by the arrival of the Portuguese explorers and traders. While the Spaniards moved towards America, the Portuguese tried to tighten their grip on the spice routes to the Far East.

In 1498, a Portuguese expedition led by Vasco da Gama rounded the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa and sailed on to the east coast of Africa. They were received with great hostility there, but were lucky to find a sultan in Malindi who showed them the routes to India. In 1502 Vasco da Gama came back again with another expedition.

Portuguese presence in Kenya from the 15th to the 17th century
afbeelding: Hugo Refachinho, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

From 1505, the ferocious attacks of the Portuguese armada of Dom Francisco de Almeida began. Sofala was looted and burned to the ground, Kilwa was occupied and Mombasa was taken after bombardments from the ships and street fighting. Mombasa was sacked again in 1528 by Nuña da Cunha.

Statue of Dom Francisco de Almeida
photo: Vitor Oliveira from Torres Vedras, PORTUGAL, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Despite attempts by the Ottoman Turks in 1585 and 1589 to regain control of the area, the Arab monopoly on the Indian trade routes had finally come to an end. After this violent time, two centuries of strict colonial rule began for Kenya. Fees were levied and all non-Portuguese ships had to pay a lot of money to be able to moor in the ports. Minor offenses were heavily fined.

This economic exploitation went hand in hand with the conversion of the population to Catholicism, at least an attempt to do so, because this did not really work. Fort Jesus was built in 1593, making Mombasa the main Portuguese outpost. Still, the Portuguese could not keep these and other outposts under control, partly because they had to be supplied from Goa in West India. This did not always work for various reasons (storms, pirates). Moreover, it soon became apparent that Portugal was too small a country to rule such a huge world empire. The end of Portuguese rule in East Africa was fast approaching when the Arabs took Fort Jesus in 1698. Around 1720 the Portuguese would leave the east coast of Kenya for good.

Fort Jesus, Mombasa, Kenya
photo: Alex Wafula, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

Arab rule

The Arabs continued to maintain control of the East African coast until the British and Germans arrived in the late 19th century. However, the devastation of the Portuguese period had taken a heavy toll and the constant bickering between the Arab governors led to a decline in trade and prosperity. During the 18th century several dynasties from Oman settled along the east coast of Africa. Although they were in principle under the control of the Sultan of Oman, in practice not much of it came to fruition and it was not until the regime of Seyyid Said in 1805.

The Empire of Oman around the middle of the 19th century
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The Omanites had built up a fairly strong fleet and with this Seyyid Said got the East African dynasties in line. In 1822 he sent an army to subdue the important cities of Mombasa, Paté and Pemba, which at that time were ruled by the Mazrui clan. The Mazrui called on the British, who immediately sent two warships. The British took Fort Jesus without any problems, hoisted the British flag and declared the fort a British protectorate. Three years later, the British government rejected the protectorate and a year later the fort was occupied by Seyyid Said again. From there, clove plantations were established on the island of Zanzibar off the Tanzanian coast, and in 1832 he even moved the capital to Zanzibar.

British colonization

In the mid-19th century, the various European nations, including the British and the Germans, became increasingly interested in the East African coast. The British were interested because of the abolition of slavery and soon established a consulate on Zanzibar. Later, the two countries agreed (Treaty of Heligoland) that Great Britain would gain control of Kenya, Zanzibar and Uganda. In return, Germany received the previously British Heligoland with Denmark and present-day Tanzania. The boundaries that were established at that time still largely exist. Part of the agreement was that the Sultan of Zanzibar was allowed to keep a 16 kilometer wide stretch of coast under a British protectorate. This agreement remained valid until Kenya's independence, when the last sultan of Zanzibar, Seyyid Khalifa, returned the land to the Kenyan government.

The interior of Kenya, especially the Rift Valley and the Aberdare mountain area, remained untouched by Europeans until the eighties of the nineteenth century. The Maasai's warlike reputation was enough to keep European missionaries and Arab slaves away from their home. But it could not last long, because by that time all of Africa had already been almost traversed by explorers, biologists, archaeologists, anthropologists and adventurers. Some well-known names of the time were the German Gustav Fischer, the Scot Joseph Thomson, the Austrian Count Teleki von Szek and the Anglican Bishop James Hannington. By the end of the 19th century, however, the Maasai tribe's strength had been weakened by a war between two tribes and diseases that affected both humans and animals.

James Hannington was murdered on October 29, 1885 in Busoga, Uganda
photo: Asiimwe Raymondo, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The British could now negotiate more easily with Olonana, the "laibon" (kind of spiritual leader). Armed with this agreement, the British immediately started construction of the Mombasa-Uganda railway line, right through the heart of Maasai land. The capital Nairobi is now located halfway along the railway line, where the colonial administration soon moved from Mombasa. White settlers looked for fertile farmland north of Nairobi. Clashes between settlers and Maasai were inevitable and in consultation with Olonana, the Maasai were allotted two plots of land, north and south of the railway.

However, the British settlers soon turned their eye to the land north of the railway line and the Maasai were forced to move to the southern part in 1910-1911, under protest from Olonana. Often they also had no choice but to enter the service of the white farmers. The Kikuyu tribe also suffered greatly from the loss of land to the British colonists. Resistance was almost impossible given the military superiority of the Europeans. Other large tribes like the Luo and Luyha and tribes in the Northeast were hardly bothered. The white settlers were led by the political leader Lord Delamere, who, however, knew little about the land, the diseases and the animal life. The extensive rearing of sheep and grain cultivation was therefore disastrous for the landscape. In the meantime, Great Britain moved government again from Zanzibar to Mombasa, and from there to Nairobi in 1907. From 1912, a somewhat more realistic, more varied agricultural policy was maintained, including coffee plantations.

During World War I, two-thirds of the 3,000 settlers were called into arms and deployed as cavalrymen against the Germans in Tanganyika. They even managed to drive the Germans off to Central Africa. After the war, colonization was resumed and by 1920 the number of settlers had increased to 9,000; in 1950 to 80,000. War veterans from Europe, for example, were offered land at predatory prices. In 1920, Kenya officially became a British Crown Colony. Only the coastline remained in the possession of the Sultan of Zanzibar.

Monument WWI in Nairobi, Kenya
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Meanwhile, more and more Kikuyus migrated to Nairobi or got involved in the colonial economy in some way. Dissatisfaction also grew about taking their land just like that and a number of organizations arose with the aim of returning the expropriated land to the Kikuyus. One of the first leaders, Harry Thuku, was arrested in 1922 for his political activities for the banned East African Association. Then a group of Africans went to the Nairobi police station where Thuku was imprisoned. Nobody knew what had happened afterwards, but when the powder fumes cleared, at least 21 Kikuyus had been killed. Other reports spoke of a hundred deaths. Thuku was not released until 1930 after promising to cooperate with the British authorities. From then on he was considered a collaborator by the Kikuyus.

Jomo Kenyatta

Another star in the Kikuyu firmament was Johnstone Kamau, later known as Jomo Kenyatta. He moved to Nairobi at the age of 29 and soon became the propaganda secretary of the East Africa Association because of his great oratory talents. This organization was created to bring about land reforms, increase wages, and improve education and medical facilities for the African population. At that time, the African population had the lowest paid jobs and, for example, was not allowed to enter certain hotels and restaurants. It was already officially determined in 1923 that the interests of the Africans had to be always respected but in practice, of course, it did not work that way.

Statue of Jomo Kenyatta
photo: K.Gituma, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

Kenyatta noticed this and joined the more fanatical Kikuyu Central Association and became its secretary general. From 1929 to 1946, Kenyatta traveled around the world, gathering ideas that would later come in handy for his country. When he finally returned to Kenya in 1946, he became the undisputed leader of the Kenyan independence movement. During World War II, all colonial powers recruited African troops to fight in Europe. An unintended side effect of their experiences in the army was that they saw that the Europeans were not all powerful, that they could be defeated. In addition, they were now trained in the use of modern weapons. When the African soldiers returned, they used this knowledge to take an active part in all kinds of campaigns aimed at change.

The main political organization at the time was the Kenya African Union (KAU), led first by Harry Thuku, then by James Gichuru, who resigned in favor of Jomo Kenyatta after his return from Britain.

Harry Thuku (1895 – 14 June 1970) was a Kenyan politician, one of the pioneers in the development of modern African nationalism in Kenya
photo: Editor, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

However, the wishes of the KAU were hardly listened to and as a result secret societies arose within many tribes. The best-known society would be the Mau Mau movement, founded in 1952, consisting entirely of Kikuyus and whose goal was to drive the settlers from Kenya. In 1953, the Mau Mau started the rebellion with the killing of a herd of animals belonging to a white farmer. A few weeks later, 21 British Kikuyus were murdered. The government declared a state of emergency and began trapping Kikuyu in so-called "protected villages" surrounded by barbed wire and booby-trapped ditches. Furthermore, about 20,000 Kikuyus were recruited to help the British suppress the revolt. The rebellion ended in 1956 with more than 13,500 dead on the side of the Africans, and just over 100 on the side of the Europeans. Another 20,000 Kikuyus were captured and many more died in appalling conditions. Kenyatta was arrested as early as 1953 as the alleged leader of the Mau Mau movement, something he probably never was. In 1956 the Africans first talked to resolve the political conflict. In 1957, eight more Africans were allowed to represent their peoples in parliament. Among them the young activist Daniel arap Moi, who would later become president of Kenya.

 A memorial in honour of victims of torture in Kenya during the British colonial era
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Kenyatta was released in 1959 but immediately placed under house arrest. The rebellion shocked the settlers and led to the establishment of several white political parties and the departure of many settlers to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), South Africa and Australia. A number of parties wanted to split the country into white and black Kenya. Other parties wanted democratic elections, and that was to be adopted as the course to follow at the 1960 Lancaster House Conference. The date for independence was set for a day in December 1963, and the Kenyan government even received $ 100 million to buy out white farmers. Meanwhile, the KAU had split into a movement that advocated a centrally-led government in Nairobi (KANU = Kenya African NationalUnion) and a movement that opted for a federal state to prevent Kikuyu force majeure (KADU = Kenya African Democratic Union). Most whites, of course, supported the KADU. In 1961 Kenyatta was released and elected chairman of the KANU. He tried to reassure the settlers, they would have nothing to fear in an independent Kenya that would desperately need their experience. He wanted to show the world that two completely different cultures could coexist peacefully. And so, in the eyes of the settlers, Kenyatta turned from a dreaded Mau Mau leader into a respected statesman.

Building of the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU)
photo: Martin Dixon, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

The two sides formed a coalition government in 1962, but after the first general election in May 1963, KANU and Kenyatta came to power as the first prime minister. At that point, Kenya took control of all internal affairs. Defense and foreign affairs remained in the hands of the British. On December 12, 1963, Kenya became fully independent with Kenyatta as its first president.

In 1964, Kenya became virtually a one-party state as KADU disbanded. Kenya also got a parliament with only one chamber. In 1966 an opposition party was founded one more time by the Luo Oginga Odinga. Odinga ended up in prison several times after conspiracy theories against the government.

Buste of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga
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Tom Mboya, also a Luo and seen as a future presidential candidate, was shot dead in 1969 by a Kikuyu. Also J.N. Kariuki, a very popular Kikuyu who spoke out fanatically about the new black elite and the associated corruption, was murdered in 1975. Other opponents of Kenyatta were also regularly arrested and held for long periods without trial.

The period after Kenyatta

Kenya's first president Jomo Kenyatta passed away on August 12, 1978. Kenyatta was succeeded by Kenyatta's vice president Daniel arap Moi, a member of the Tugen tribe. He declared war on corruption and cronyism and declared amnesty for all prisoners, but his reign was marked in the early years by the arrests of dissidents, the dissolution of tribal groups and the closure of several universities. This often happened after alleged conspiracy theories against the government. In any case, criticism of Moi and his government was absolutely not tolerated. In August 1982 a coup attempt by the Kenyan Air Force followed, supported by students from Nairobi University. The coup was crushed by pro-government troops and about 120 people were killed. Twelve leaders were sentenced to death and 900 others were sentenced to prison terms. The entire air force was replaced by new units. After this first coup attempt, more would have followed, but details were never disclosed.

Daniel Toroitich arap Moi (Sacho, September 2, 1924 - Nairobi, February 4, 2020) was President of Kenya from 1978 to the end of 2002
photo: Croes, Rob C. / Anefo, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Netherlands no changes made

President Moi was re-elected in March 1987 through a highly controversial voting system. After the election, Moi appointed as many as 33 ministers and several key opposition politicians were silenced after allegations of ballot box falsification. In addition, Moi significantly expanded presidential power by granting himself the right to appoint or dismiss judges and high-ranking officials at will. From that time on, the political opposition was effectively silenced. The KANU strengthened its powerful position through the KANU Youth Wing, the party's youth wing, which, however, was also used to disrupt demonstrations and harass or even intimidate opposition figures. Opposition leaders such as Mwai Kibaki and Kenneth Matiba were also imprisoned without trial. The opposition now had to come from the ecclesiastical side. Several Kenyan spiritual leaders from Christian churches have been very critical of Moi's government. However, they too were threatened with imprisonment and prosecution.

But times would change; multiparty systems were spreading all over Africa and Kenya would not escape this. After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the West drew attention to Africa, among other things. Until then, many corrupt totalitarian regimes had been supported as long as they did not show communist sympathies. The Kenyan government soon felt pressured by a number of donor countries to implement a multiparty system and set an election date as soon as possible, otherwise the financial aid would be stopped. To achieve this quickly, all aid was temporarily suspended at the beginning of 1992 and the government was forced to cooperate.

Coin depicting Daniel arap Moi from 1980
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The opposition, united in the FORD (Forum for the Restoration of Democracy), seemed to win the upcoming elections. But the opposition killed itself. The three leaders, Odinga, Matiba and Kibaki, wanted to become president of Kenya themselves. Therefore they split the FORD into FORD-Kenya with Odinga, FORD-Asili with Matiba and the Democratic Party with Kibaki. At that point, the chance of an election win was actually gone. Meanwhile, Moi printed $ 250 million in Kenyan shillings that were not backed by gold reserves. This money was given to the population, 500 Ksh each. Although Moi knew the economy would collapse because of this move, it was enough to get a lot of votes in the elections. The tribes class was also completely over again. He allowed his native Kalenjin tribe to instigate fights against Kikuyu farmers. Hundreds were killed and wounded in these fighting and thousands were driven from. He also tried to hold the elections on a weekday in the last week of December. As a result, tens of thousands of voters, especially in Nairobi and other major cities, would not be able to vote because they had to vote in the place where they were registered. International observers were only flown in a few days in advance.

The elections themselves were fairly fair, but the damage had long been done by then. Moi and the KANU won the election with only a third of the vote. If the opposition had stayed united, they would certainly have won. After the election, several members of parliament defected from the opposition to the KANU. The press talked about voter fraud and that the KANU would have paid money for this, but in the end could not prove anything. THE KANU had little to fear from the opposition, which in turn was very divided on who would become the opposition leader.

A new opposition party was founded in 1995. The Safina, founded by white paleontologist Richard Leakey, Raila Odinga and Paul Muite sought to bring together the fragmented opposition. President Moi saw danger and refused to register the party. Leakey was intimidated for weeks. Moi even made statements that the whites had no business in politics and should only worry about their economic activities. In 1996, the KANU proposed to change the constitution so that Moi could serve one more term as president.

Richard Erskine Frere Leakey (December 19, 1944) is a Kenyan paleoanthropologist, conservationist and politician
photo: Ed Schipul, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generi no changes made

In July and August 1997 there was again a lot of political-ethnic violence in Nairobi and on the coast, with dozens dead and hundreds injured. President Moi, who was reelected in December 1997, subsequently allowed limited reforms. In the parliamentary elections, where ethnic factors played an important role, the ruling party KANU won a small majority. In the first months of 1998, more than a hundred people were killed in riots. On August 7, 1998, Kenya was very negative in the international news. A heavy bomb exploded at the US Embassy in Nairobi, causing an adjacent office building to collapse. More than 250 people were killed and about 5,000 were injured. The suspicion, including for the simultaneous attack on the American embassy in the Tanzanian capital Dar es-Salaam, focused on a fundamentalist Islamic group led by the Saudi Osama bin Laden.
In August, Pakistan extradited a Palestinian suspect, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh. He disclosed the evidence to the FBI in Nairobi. Odeh is said to have prepared the attack with a Saudis and an Egyptians. There was a lot of criticism of the actions of US Marines after the explosion, who gave priority to American victims in the relief efforts. But a little later, the Kenyan population welcomed American retaliatory actions in Sudan and Afghanistan. President Moi signed a law in 1998 providing for a constitutional reform. Moi preferred to have the constitutional revisions handled by parliament, in which his party, the KANU, has the majority. Incidentally, the parliament unanimously voted in favor of a law limiting the power of the president.

Memorial on the occasion of the bombing of the American embassy in Nairobi, Kenya
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Kenya had problems on all its borders in 1999. Sudan reverted to its claim to the Ilemi Triangle, which was under Kenyan control at the time. Conflicts in Somalia and between the Ethiopian Army and the Oromo Liberation Front were sometimes fought on Kenyan territory. Kenya took an international turn when agents of the Turkish secret service kidnapped the Kurdish leader Öcalan in Nairobi and brought it back to Turkey.

At the end of December 2002, Mwai Kibaki, from the Kikuyu tribe, was named the new president of Kenya. He defeated government candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, son of President Kenyatta, who died in 1978, by a wide margin. In parliament, the 12-party National Rainbow Coalition of 71-year-old Kibaki took over power from KANU, the party of outgoing Daniel arap Moi, who had been president from 1978. The KANU had to sit in the opposition benches after 39 years.

Mwai Emilio Stanley Kibaki is a Kenyan politician. From December 30, 2002 to April 9, 2013, he was the third president of Kenya
photo: DEMOSH, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The new president and government inherit from the previous Moi government a country characterized by mismanagement and socio-economic failures. The Kenyans hoped to see changes that would lead to an increase in prosperity and well-being. To be successful in this, the government would have to face poverty, unemployment, crime, corruption and poorly implemented policies and governance. However, the government has had several consecutive defeats with the negative outcome of the referendum on the reform of the constitution and then with the major corruption scandals that became known in January 2006. After the referendum 'no', Kibaki fired the entire cabinet. However, there was no succession, so some key ministers took up office again. After 5 months of recess, the Kenyan Parliament restarted in March 2006. In addition, a major corruption scandal was presented in January 2006 in a report by John Githongo, which implied that some ministers were involved in corruption in state contracts. Kibaki claims victory in the December 2007 presidential elections. The opposition led by Odinga wins the most seats in the parliamentary elections. In February, Ban Ki-moon, the president of the UN, mediates between the parties.
In April 2008, Kibaki and Odinga agree on the division of posts in a new cabinet. In July 2009, the Kenyan government announced that there will be no special tribunal for election violence. In August 2009, Hillary Clinton visited Kenya and criticized the country for its lack of research into election violence. In October 2009, the government pledged its cooperation in the international criminal court's investigation into election violence. In July 2010, Kenya and its neighbors form an East African common market.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (center) walks with Kenyan Minister of Agriculture William Ruto (left) and Kenyan environmental and political activist Wangari Maathai (right)
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In April 2013 Uhuru Kenyatta is elected 4th President of Kenya. In September 2013, an attack on a Nairobi shopping center claimed by al-Shabab militants from Somalia. Various attacks were also committed in 2014. A low point came in April 2015 when all Shabab attacked Garissa University and killed 148 people. In July 2015, President Obama of the United States visits Kenya, his father's country of birth. He praises the progress that the country has made, but calls attention to improving the situation of gays. In October 2017, President Kenyatta will be declared the winner of the presidential election. In January 2020, Al-Shabab Islamic militia attacks.

Uhuru Kenyatta en Raila Odinga
photo: Amanda Lucidon (Uhuru Kenyatta photograph) / World Economic Forum (Raila Odinga photograph), CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made


Population Kenya

Photo:Angela Sevin Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Kenya had 47,615,739 inhabitants in July 2017. The population density is approximately 80 inhabitants per km2. The spatial distribution of the population is very uneven: approximately three-quarters of the population is concentrated on 10% of the total land area. The most densely populated areas are the South and Southwest and the coastline along the Indian Ocean. Large areas of Kenya are practically empty. Approx. three quarters of Kenya has a population density of less than 10 inhabitants per km2. Only 27% of the population live in urban areas. Nairobi has about 4 million inhabitants.

Annual population growth averaged 3.8% between 1970 and 1990, one of the highest growth rates in the world. Between 1990 and 1994 it had decreased slightly: 3.4% per year. In 2017, population growth was still 1.69%. The average life expectancy at birth is approximately 65.8 years for women and approximately 62.8 years for men. The population structure with a large percentage of children is typical of a developing country that is also severely affected by AIDS.

The number of inhabitants in 2017 between 0-14 years is 40%, between 15 and 64 years 57% and the number of people over 65 is 3%. Birth and death rates (2017) are 23.9 and 6.7 respectively. Africans make up 99% of the total population.

Kenya single age population pyramid 2020
afbeelding: Sdgedfegw, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The approximately 47 million people who live in Kenya belong to about 40 different ethnic groups. Africans from all over the African continent live in Kenya together with small but often influential descendants of immigrants from Europe and Asia.

Some of the most important peoples are outlined below:

Kikuyu (approx. 22% of the population)

Kenya Kikuyu Tribe

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The Kikuyu are Kenya's largest ethnic group. They mainly live on the fertile land of Central Kenya as farmers. They are not only good farmers, but also gifted traders and entrepreneurs. Many Kikuyu live in Nairobi and hold important business and political positions there. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, was also a Kikuyu.
Subgroups are Embu, Ndia and Mbeere.

Luo (approx. 13%)
The Luo are the second largest tribe in Kenya. They mainly live in the vicinity of Lake Victoria and in North and South Nyanza, where they make a living from agriculture and fishing. They too hold important positions in politics. Well-known leaders of the Luo were Tom Mboya and Oginga Odinga.

Maasai (approx. 1.5%)
The Maasai live in the south of the country and are Kenya's most famous tribe. They are still a shepherd people, proud of their ancient traditions. For example, the number of head of cattle they own is most important to them, not the amount of milk or meat the animals produce. The Maasai are also not interested in owning land.

Maasai, Kenya
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Mijikenda (approx. 5%)
The Mijikenda now live in the Kilifi and Kwale districts. They are divided into nine groups, including the Digo, Kauma, Kamba, Duruma and, most famously, the Giriama, who are best known for their dances and their music.

Turkana (approx. 1.3%)
The Turkana live in northwestern Kenya and as true nomads they still roam between Lake Turkana and the Rift Valley along the Uganda border. The Turkana consist of the Nimonia who live in the forest areas and the Nocuro who inhabit the savannas. The tribes are subdivided in about 20 clans, the "ategerin".

The Turkana also includes the El Molo people, which consisted of only 538 members at the 1979 census, making them the smallest people in Kenya.

The Samburu live in the north of Kenya and are related to the Maasai in terms of culture and language. These shepherds still live as they used to and their lifestyle has hardly changed. The wealth of a family is measured by the number of cattle, goats and camels it owns.

Samburu dancers
photo: Joseph KimaniT, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The Rendille live on the southeastern shores of Lake Turkana and are related to the Somali. The Rendille live in semi-permanent settlements where they take care of large herds of camels, goats and sheep.

The Boran are herders who live in the Turkana area. They are related to the Cushites of Southern Ethiopia.

Akamba (approx. 11%)
The Akamba live east of Nairobi towards the Tsavo National Park. Hundreds of years ago they moved here in search of food. They were traders, including in ivory.
Subgroups are Kitui, Masaku and Mumoni.

Gusii or Kisii (approx. 6%)
The Gusii inhabit an area in the western highlands east of Lake Victoria. This Bantu speaking tribe lives among Nilotic speaking tribes. They are mainly livestock farmers.

Hut in Kisii village at Bomas of Kenya near Nairobi
photo: Alexander Leisser, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Kalenjin (approx. 12%)
The Kalenjin populate the west corner of the Rift Valley, including around Mount Elgon. They are used to be a shepherd people, now they are mainly farmers. The Kalenjin also include the Tugen, the people to which President Moi belonged.

Arab descendants.
The Arabs, mainly from the Sultanate of Oman, settled on the coast of Kenya from around the 8th century and soon mixed with the indigenous Bantu people. This resulted in the Swahili culture that still makes up a large part of the coastal population. Most Kenyan Muslims belong to the Sunni religion.
Subgroups are Bajun, Siyu, Pate, Mvita, Fundi, Shela, Ozi, Vumba and Amu.

Bajun owner of a dhow
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Asians and Europeans
About 1.5% of the Kenyan population is descended from Asian and European immigrants. They mainly work in industry and trade and usually live in the big cities. Most European ancestors entered the country in the 19th century. The Asian ancestors (approx. 32,000) came mainly from India (Gujarat and Punjab) and were used at the end of the 19th century (1896-1901) in the construction of the Mombasa-Kisumu railway line. For centuries there had been intensive contacts with Indian merchants who, however, rarely settled in Kenya. Wholesale and retail trade is largely in the hands of this population group. In addition to the Indian, there are also small Chinese and Japanese populations.


In 1974, English was replaced as the official language by Kiswahili, a Bantu language. Before the Arabs came to Kenya in the 7th and 8th centuries, each tribe had its own culture, religion, customs and language. There was little interaction between tribes. When the Arabs arrived, communication between the tribes increased because of the increasing trade activity.

A "lingua franca", a common trading language, soon emerged. This language, Kiswahili, was a combination of Bantu and Arabic. For example, words like ghali (duration) and kufikiri (worry) are taken directly from Arabic. Kiswahili is pronounced exactly as it is written.

Hello - jambo

Thank you - asante

One - moja

Two - mbili

Three - tatu

One hundred - mia moja

Monday - jumatatu

Tuesday - jumanne

Friday - ijumaa

Sunday - jumapili

Manuscript document in kiswahili language written with the Latin alphabet
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English is also still legally valid and widely spoken and many government publications are in English. In universities, too, much is still taught, examined and written in English. In addition, there are many local dialects with great differences. These languages of the ethnic groups belong to the Cushite or Nilotic language group, or to a Bantu language.

Another "language" one may encounter in Kenya is Sheng, spoken mainly by young people in the big cities. Actually it is a kind of patois or vernacular dating back to the colonial era. It is a combination of Kiswahili and English with some Hindi, Gujarati, Kikuyu influences and various Kenyan dialects and sounds a lot like Kiswahili.

The state broadcaster has been the Kenya Broadcasting Corp. since 1959. (called Voice of Kenya between 1964 and 1988), which broadcasts in seventeen languages. There has been television since 1962. The broadcasts are mainly in English; the news reports also in Kiswahili.

Building Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
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About two-thirds of the Kenyan population profess some form of Christianity and are members of one of the many denominations. Roman Catholics form the most important group (approx. 27%) and there are also Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists, Quakers (approx. 38%). There are also many secular communities, often split-offs and new mixtures of Christian and traditional religions, often with only one charismatic leader.

Holy Ghost catholic church Mombasa, Kenya
photo: Zahra Abdulmajid, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Pentecoastal church in Mombasa, Kenya
photo: Daryona, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Indigenous religions vary considerably by ethnic group, although one or a few gods often play a major role. Certain rites and sorcery are still common. Ancestor worship still plays a major role in all believers. Through mediums, often medicine men or tribal elders, people try to get in touch with the ancestors and ask for help. Besides a god who created everything, many good and evil spirits and demons are known. Animism with trees and mountains as sacred sites also still plays an important role. The Kikuyu religion is centered around the supreme god Ngai, who also plays a major role by other peoples. Ngai is said to live on the top of Mount Kenya and many sacrifices are made at the base of the mountain.

Turkana medicin woman in Marti, Kenia
photo: Christopher haslett, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Gourd container used for divination
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About 3% of the Kenyan population is Muslim. The Muslim population is growing rapidly and has doubled in the last decades. Most of the Muslims, the descendants of the Arabs, live in the northeast near the border with Somalia and on the coast. Most of the Africans of Arab descent belong to the Orthodox Sunnis, while the Asian Muslims often belong to the Shia. The Lamu Archipelago is still very strict in Islamic teachings. The most important Muslim festival on the African east coast is the Maulidi-al-Nabin festival. The Asians also include Muslims, as well as Hindus and Sikhs.

Jaima mosque in Nairobi, Kenya
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Hindu temple in Nairobi, Kenia
photo: Jeff Hamaoui from San Francisco, CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made


State structure

Since independence in 1963, Kenya has been officially a parliamentary democracy and a presidential republic with a very powerful president. All this is laid down in the 1963 constitution, which was substantially amended in 1982 and 1991. After the disappearance of the KADU, Kenya was in fact a one-party state from 1969 under the leadership of the KANU (Kenya African National Union). Moreover, according to President Moi, a multi-party system would only create ethnic tensions. And indeed there were plenty of them, only those riots were deliberately organized and politicians from different parties played a very dubious role. A multiparty system only became a reality again in 1990. For the current political situation see chapter history.

The parliament, the National Assembly, is the legislative power and consists of one chamber with 202 deputies. Of these, 188 are directly elected and 12 are appointed by the president. The chairman and the attorney general are ex-officio (ex officio) members. The term of office of parliament is five years.

Gebouw Keniase parlement
photo: Rotsee2, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Representatives of the national government make up the most important part of the government in the districts. The middle management and the top of the civil service rotate and sometimes move to a new district within a few months. The government of a district consists of councils or district councils, which, however, do not have much more to say. Each district council has a number of appointed members and counselors per electoral area. The chairman is chosen from among their number, while the official secretary is often the most important person in a district.

Executive power rests with the president, who, in addition to being head of state, is also head of government and supreme commander of the armed forces. He can appoint and dismiss the vice-president and the highest court and has the power to postpone sessions of parliament. He is elected by the people for five years in direct elections. The President further appoints the Vice President and his cabinet members from the National Assembly. He also appoints the Chief Justice of the High Court.

Line up voters in front of the polling station
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Administrative division

Kenya is administratively divided into seven provinces and a provincial district: Nairobi. The provinces are divided into 53 districts. Kenya is a member of the United Nations and a number of sub-organizations of the UN, the Commonwealth, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the African Development Bank, the Arab Development Bank, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), of which Kenya is one of was and is an associate member of the EU (Lomé Convention).

Districts Kenya
afbeelding: Kimemia Maina, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made


Approx. 6 million children attend primary education in about 15,000 schools. There are about 2,500 secondary schools with about 650,000 students.

The current education system is still based on the system that was used in colonial times. British-style education was introduced in Kenya by missionaries and were of course aimed at e.g. European history and literature and certainly not African culture and history. In response, African schools were established especially in the Kikuyu area. There were also Asian schools.

At the moment there are schools with an A-level, formerly the African schools, where most children end up. These children also often end up in so-called Harambee schools, where an appeal is made to the population to maintain their own education (self-reliance). The fact that primary education is free is in fact only partly true. If the parents do not contribute to all kinds of provisions, then not much will come of education. The B-level schools are the former Asian schools where the somewhat wealthier children go to. The C-level schools are the former European schools where the elite children now attend. These are mainly private schools.

Special school for the deaf and hard of hearing in Kayeye, Kenya, attract deaf children from all over the region
photo: Moving Mountains Trust, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Education is compulsory from seven to fifteen years old and about 90% of children between six and twelve years old attend primary school more or less regularly. Only a third of eligible pupils go to secondary education. The low level of education of the teaching staff is also a major problem, as is the rapid population growth, which will double the number of students in the coming years. Many people in the classroom do not even have the required papers.

There are four universities in Kenya (together with approximately 35,000 students). The University of Nairobi (founded in 1956) and Kenyatta University (1972) are located in Nairobi. Egerton University, founded in 1939, is in Nakuru, and Moi University is in Eldoret, and was founded in 1984. About 10,000 Kenyans study abroad, several thousand in India alone. In addition, there are some higher technical vocational courses and a number of private universities.

University of Nairobi, largest university of Kenya
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Great importance is attached to the education of adults. Nevertheless, there are estimates that 18% (1979: 32%) of men and 33% (1979: 56%) of women have never attended school. Approx. 40% of the population is illiterate. About 18% of government expenditure is spent on education.

Medical care

Healthcare in Kenya is good by African standards. Each district has at least one hospital (ca. 325) and in the countryside there are health centers (ca. 520), in which medical assistants and nurses are employed and there are so-called "flying doctors" who visit remote areas with their airplanes. In 1994 there were approximately 4,500 doctors and 630 dentists. Yet about 21% of the population is deprived of direct medical assistance. Government health care is virtually free. Most cities have modern private clinics and a large number of doctors are therefore concentrated in Nairobi.

School nurse tals with pupil from school
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Missions play an important role in health care, while traditional healing methods are also important. Almost 6% of the government budget is spent on health care. The leading causes of death are diarrhea, pneumonia, TB, measles, malaria and malnutrition. Venereal diseases are common, as is AIDS.



Kenya's economy is more modern than that of the other East African countries. More than 60% of the labor force was employed in agriculture in 2017; however, the contribution of this sector to the gross national product (GNP) was only 34.5%. The vast majority of Kenyans live in an area with fair to good arable land (20% of the total area). However, nearly half of the rural population lives on the subsistence level. Still, agriculture is the most important source of foreign exchange (half of the export consists of agricultural products, especially coffee and tea), followed by the rapidly growing tourism. The recurring periods of severe drought are a major problem for the agricultural sector.

Banknote of 1000 shilling, Kenya
photo: Rotsee2, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Industry (approx. 17.8% of GNP in 2017) and trade in services (approx. 47.5% of GNP) are mainly based on private entrepreneurship. The industrial, agricultural and tourist sectors are largely in the hands of foreign companies. While the government advocates greater Kenyan participation in the economy, it also encourages foreign companies to invest in Kenya. An important problem is unemployment (approx. 40% in 2017), which is mainly caused by the very rapid population growth. School-leavers mainly find work in the informal sector and in a family context, in the construction of houses for their own use and in local services. The development of non-agricultural income sources, as well as the redistribution of agricultural holdings, must provide an answer to the rapid population growth.

Another problem is disappointing economic growth; the average annual growth is only 2% against a population growth of almost 4% (a good growth of 5% in 2017). The reasons for this are the lagging agricultural production and the negative results of an industrialization policy aimed at reducing imports. The dependence on foreign capital is great. The external debt amounts to 54% of the GNP. (2017)

Finally, a handicap to economic development is the lack of minerals and energy sources, such as oil, natural gas and coal.

Transport of petroleum and gas, Kenya
photo: Barracke, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, no changes made

Foreign aid is very important to the economy. In development plans the emphasis is on combating poverty and the so-called identification of the economy. Other notable points are the fight against corruption, the total eradication of illiteracy, the improvement of medical facilities and the transportation system. A lot of investments are made in the tourism sector. Development activities are often carried out by church groups, often supported from abroad.

Agriculture, livestock, fishing and forestry

Kenya is, like many other African countries, an agricultural country. Most of the population therefore lives in the countryside. Only thirteen percent of the land is well suited for agriculture, because there is enough rainfall. Half of the agricultural production is sold on the consumer market and the rest is for own use. Kenya provides for its own food needs, except for grain.

The main agricultural products are sisal, pyrethrum (raw material for an insect repellent), wheat, sugar, pineapple and cotton. Maize is the staple food that thrives especially in warm, humid regions. The production of coffee and tea is mainly stimulated as an export product. In years of good production, tea accounted for 25% of the total export income.

Start Kenya as tea producing country
photo: bandabarn, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic, no changes made

Growth sectors are also vegetables and especially floriculture, which is auctioned for about two thirds in the Netherlands. Only large agricultural companies can produce profitably, but they are an exception. After the great land reform, African farmers and cattle breeders each got their own piece of land, which was too small to be exploited profitably. Sometimes they were even too small to meet their own needs.

In addition to sheep and goats, the livestock mainly consists of cattle, which are often kept by nomads such as the Maasai. In the drier regions, livestock farming is the main economic activity combined with the cultivation of food crops such as millet and sorghum. In dry years, the vulnerable nature of livestock farming is emphasized even more. Most livestock products are consumed by the population. Meat, meat products and hides make up 6% of the total export. Due to a changed consumption pattern, more and more must also be produced for domestic demand.

Fishing in the Indian Ocean and the Great Lakes is of local significance only. In 1997 about 160,000 tons of fish were caught, of which only about 6,000 tons of sea fish. Most freshwater fish are caught in Lake Victoria. The forest cover, which is mostly located between 1800 and 3000 m above sea level, is largely protected and therefore cannot be exploited economically.

Fishermen on their traditional boats near Shimoni (Kenya).
photo: FredD, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In addition, the forest stock has been reduced from 30% to 3% over a period of fifty years due to the expansion of agriculture and the increasing demand for wood. An ecological catastrophe is imminent because 25% of the country is already desert-like. The bamboo forests for the large paper factory in Webuye are of economic importance.

Mining and energy

Mining is of limited importance. Of the many minerals mined, soda ash is the most important. Other minerals such as silver, gold, lead and limestone have been found, but these are not yet profitable to exploit.

Keniaanse inwoners die in de provincie Migori wonen, gebruiken de traditionele methode om goud te winnen
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The energy supply mainly depends on imported petroleum. About 70% of the required energy must be imported. Four hydroelectric plants are located along the Tana River and another is located in the Tukwel Gorge.


Approx. 40% of the total industrial production consists of food, beverages and tobacco. Furthermore, mention should be made of the chemical, metal, textile and leather industry and the paper and graphics industry. Most large industrial companies belong to foreign companies. Most companies are located around Nairobi and Mombasa. Some smaller industrial centers are located in Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret and Thika.

Productie van bakstenen in Nyamira County, Kenia
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In addition to large companies that take care of the lion's share of the production, there are numerous small craft businesses. Only 20% of industrial production is destined for export. Annual production growth is entirely based on rising domestic demand.


The trade balance is usually negative. In 2017, exports were worth $ 5.8 billion and $ 16 billion imported. The total deficit was limited due to a positive balance of services, including income from tourism and significant capital imports. Falling coffee and tea prices and rising oil prices, however, exacerbated the deficit.

Trading Kenya
afbeelding: R. Haussmann, Cesar Hidalgo,, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Mainly oil, machines, motor vehicles, iron and steel are imported. The main import partners are India, China, United Arab Emirates, United States, Japan, and Germany Coffee, tea, petroleum products, canned pineapple, hides and skins, meat, meat products and cement are exported. Main export partners are Uganda, Great Britain, Tanzania, the Netherlands, Egypt and Germany.


Since 1987, tourism has been the main source of income for Kenya. Yet tourism is vulnerable. The Gulf War and political and ethnic problems caused and continue to generate negative publicity that does not benefit the number of visitors. About 700,000 tourists come to Kenya every year, mainly from Germany, Great Britain, Italy, France and North America.

Mombasa Beach Hotel at Nyali Beach, Mombasa, Kenya
photo: CT Cooper, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported, no changes made


The traffic network in the south is good, but the situation is less favorable in the north. The length of the railways is 2733 km. The line Mombasa-Nairobi-Kisumu is for passenger transport, the other lines are only used for freight. Passenger transport by train is popular in Kenya because it is safer and the trains run reasonably on time. The road network is approximately 62,600 km long, of which 8,300 km is asphalted. The roads are usually in a reasonable condition, sometimes even of excellent quality. Buses and minibuses (matatus) run regularly in all parts of the country.

Matatu busses, Kenya
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The main seaport is Mombasa. Kenya has its own airline (Kenya Airways) that connects the main cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Malindi. There are several airports for domestic traffic. Private airlines connect Nairobi with Mombasa, Kisumu, Nanyuki, Malindi, Lamu and the Amboseli, Masai Mara and Samburu national parks.

5Y-KZC Boeing 787 Kenya Airways
photo: Mark Harkin, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Holidays and Sightseeing

Famous for the classic savannah safari, Kenya is a land of extremes. Deserts and alpine snow, forests and open plains, the Nairobi metropolis and colorful tribal cultures, freshwater lakes and coral reefs. For many people, Kenya is East Africa in the microcosm. Wildlife safaris have been Kenya's top tourist attractions for decades, other activities include hiking Mount Kenya, ballooning over the Masai Mara, and snorkeling in Malindi on the Indian Ocean coast.

Tourists drive through the Masaai Mara viewing wildebeests
photo: DEMOSH from Nairobi, Kenya, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Masai Mara park is one of the main tourist attractions in Kenya and the most popular wildlife park. Every year, the Masai Mara is visited by thousands of tourists who come here for its exceptional wildlife population and to watch the annual migration of zebras and wildebeest. The "Great Migration" takes place every year from July to October, when millions of wildebeest and zebras pass by from the Serengeti, Tanzania.

Lake Nakuru is a very shallow lake in central Kenya. The lake has an abundance of algae and attracts huge numbers of flamingos, sometimes more than a million at one time. This makes for the greatest bird spectacle on Earth, the flamingos are one of Kenya's top attractions.

Flamingos in Lake Nakuru, Kenya
photo: Xiaojun Deng, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Nairobi is the capital of Kenya. Here are a lot of interesting things to see and sights that are worth your visit. The Nairobi National Museum was established in 1920 and located in its current location in 1929. It provides visitors with information on Kenya's history, culture, paleontology and art. Many of the fascinating anthropological discoveries made by the Leakey family can be seen in this museum. The large collection of stuffed birds is also impressive.

Entrance Nairobi National Museum, Kenya
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The Nairobi National Park is only a 10 minute drive from the center of Nairobi with just a fence separating the park's wildlife from the metropolis. Despite its proximity to the city and the relatively small size of the park, Nairobi National Park is home to a large and varied wildlife population. Wildebeest and zebras gather in the park during the dry season and it is one of Kenya's most successful rhino sanctuaries.

Lion in Nairobu National Park
photo: yeowatzup from Göttingen, Germany, CC Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Click the menu button at the top left of the screen for more information


Dietz, T. / Kenya : mensen, politiek, economie, cultuur
Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen / Novib

Finlay, H. / Kenya
Lonely Planet

Het Spectrum,

Winslow, Z. / Kenya
Chelsea House Publishers

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated October 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb