Kenya is officially known as the Republic of Kenya. With an estimated population of nearly 40 million, there is nearly 224,960 sq miles land bordering Somalia, Tanzania, the Indian Ocean, Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia. The major cities within Kenya are Nairobi (the capital), and Mombasa, the chief port.
Kenya, which lies astride the equator, has five major regions: a narrow, dry coastal strip, bush-covered plains in the interior, high-lying scrublands to the northwest and the Great Rift Valley in the west, the location of the country's highest mountains, including Mount Kenya, elevation 17,060 ft.
Except for the temperate highlands, the climate is quite hot and dry. Kenya has a diverse ethnic population of about 40 groups. Most of the people of Kenya follow their traditional beliefs, but there are about 30% Christian and 8% Muslim. Swahili is the official language.
The majority of all Kenyans are engaged in farming. Coffee, tea, sisal and pyrethrum are the chief export products. Coconuts, cashew nuts, cotton and sugar cane are also grown there, in addition to large numbers of cattle within the grasslands. Industry, which is expanding, includes petroleum refining, food-processing and the manufacture of cement and textiles. Tourists, attracted by the Kenyan wildlife are also an important portion of the country's income.
Anthropologists have suggested that the first humans on earth may have inhabited southern Kenya some 2 million years ago. In the highlands of Kenya, farming and domestic herds can be dated to 1000 B.C. Arab traders settled on the coast by the 8th century and established several autonomous city states. The Portuguese, who first visited Kenya about 1496, gained control of much of it, but were later expelled by the Arabs in 1792.
In 1886, under a British-German agreement on spheres of influence in east Africa, most of present-day Kenya passed to Britain and in 1903, after a railroad was created, the first European settlers arrived. under Britain, Europeans controlled the government and Indians, who had arrived earlier, were active ini commerce, while Africans were largely confined to subsistence farming or to work as laborers.
Protests over inferior status reached a peak in the so-called Mau-Mau emergency about 1952-1956. An armed revold against British rule ensued. After the rebellion, Britain increased black African representation in the legislative council and in 1963, Kenya gained it's independence.
The country became a republic in 1964, with Jomo Kenyatta a president. The first decade of independence was marked by disputes among ethnic groups, especially the Kikuyu and the Luo. There was several incidents of sporatic fighting with Somalia and boundary issues.