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The Republic of Kenya is a country in East Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the northeast, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, and Sudan to the northwest, with the Indian Ocean running along the southeast border.

Background History

Founding president and liberation struggle icon Jomo Kenyatta led Kenya from independence in 1963 until his death in 1978, when President Daniel Moi took power in a constitutional succession. The country was a de facto one-party state from 1969 until 1982 when the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) made itself the sole legal party in Kenya. Moi acceded to internal and external pressure for political liberalization in late 1991. The ethnically fractured opposition failed to dislodge KANU from power in elections in 1992 and 1997, which were marred by violence and fraud, but were viewed as having generally reflected the will of the Kenyan people. President Moi stepped down in December 2002 following fair and peaceful elections. Mwai Kibaki, running as the candidate of the multiethnic, united opposition group, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), defeated KANU candidate Uhuru Kenyatta and assumed the presidency following a campaign centered on an anticorruption platform. Kibaki's NARC coalition splintered in 2005 over a constitutional review process. Government defectors joined with KANU to form a new opposition coalition, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which defeated the government's draft constitution in a popular referendum in November 2005. Kibaki's reelection in December 2007 brought charges of vote rigging from ODM candidate Raila Odinga and unleashed two months of violence in which as many as 1,500 people died. African Union-sponsored mediation led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in late February 2008 resulted in a power-sharing accord bringing Odinga into the government in the restored position of prime minister. The power sharing accord included a broad reform agenda, the centerpiece of which was constitutional reform. In August 2010, Kenyans overwhelmingly adopted a new constitution in a national referendum. The new constitution introduced additional checks and balances to executive power and significant devolution of power and resources to 47 newly created counties. It also eliminated the position of prime minister following the first presidential election under the new constitution, which occurred on 4 March 2013. Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of founding president Jomo Kenyatta, won the March elections in the first round by a close margin and was sworn into office on 9 April 2013.



Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Kenya
  • conventional short form: Kenya
  • former: British East Africa


  • name: Nairobi
  • geographic coordinates: 1 17 S, 36 49 E
  • time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 1 July 1962 (from UN trusteeship under Belgian administration)

Government Type:

  • republic

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Uhuru Kenyatta (since 9 April 2013); Deputy President William Ruto (since 9 April 2013)
  • head of government: President Uhuru Kenyatta (since 9 April 2013); Deputy President William Ruto (since 9 April 2013)
  • elections: president and deputy president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); in addition to receiving a simple majority of votes, the presidential candidate must also win 25% or more of the votes cast in each of more than half of the 47 counties to avoid a runoff; election last held on 4 March 2013 (next to be held in 2017 or 2018)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral parliament and National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court; Court of Appeal; High Court


People & Society


  • 45,010,056 (global rank: 31)
  • growth rate: 2.11% (global rank: 47)


  • noun: Kenyan(s)
  • adjective: Kenyan

Major Cities:

  • Nairobi (capital): 3.363 million; Mombassa 972,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Kikuyu 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 6%, other African 15%, non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) 1%


  • Christian 82.5% (Protestant 47.4%, Catholic 23.3%, other 11.8%), Muslim 11.1%, Traditionalists 1.6%, other 1.7%, none 2.4%, unspecified 0.7%


  • English (official), Kiswahili (official), numerous indigenous languages

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 63.52 years (global rank: 180)
  • male: 62.06 years
  • female: 65.01 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 40.71 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 52)
  • male: 45.33 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 35.99 deaths/1,000 live births


  • adult prevalence rate: 6.1% (2012 est.) (global rank: 12)
  • people living with AIDS: 1.646 million (global rank: 4)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 87.4%
  • male: 90.6%
  • female: 84.2%



Overview: Kenya has been hampered by corruption and by reliance upon several primary goods whose prices have remained low. Low infrastructure investment threatens Kenya's long-term position as the largest East African economy, although the Kenyatta administration has prioritized infrastructure development. International financial lenders and donors remain important to Kenya's economic growth and development. Unemployment is high at around 40%. The country has chronic budget deficits. Inflationary pressures and sharp currency depreciation peaked in early 2012 but have since abated following low global food and fuel prices and monetary interventions by the Central Bank. Recent terrorism in Kenya and the surrounding region threatens Kenya's important tourism industry. Kenya, in conjunction with neighboring Ethiopia and South Sudan, intends to begin construction on a transport corridor and oil pipeline into the port of Lamu in 2014.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $79.9 billion (global rank: 82)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $1,800 (global rank: 197)
  • real growth rate: 5.1% (global rank: 56)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 29.3%, industry: 17.4%, services: 53.3%


  • currency: Kenyan Shillings (KES)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 86.73


  • population below poverty line: 43.4%
  • unemployment rate: 40%

Agricultural Products:

  • tea, coffee, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables; dairy products, beef, fish, pork, poultry, eggs


  • small-scale consumer goods (plastic, furniture, batteries, textiles, clothing, soap, cigarettes, flour), agricultural products, horticulture, oil refining; aluminum, steel, lead; cement, commercial ship repair, tourism

Export Commodities:

  • tea, horticultural products, coffee, petroleum products, fish, cement

Import Commodities:

  • machinery and transportation equipment, petroleum products, motor vehicles, iron and steel, resins and plastics




  • Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, between Somalia and Tanzania


  • total: 580,367 sq km (global rank: 49)
  • land: 569,140 sq km
  • water: 11,227 sq km
  • comparative: slightly more than twice the size of Nevada


  • varies from tropical along coast to arid in interior

Land Use:

  • arable land: 9.48%
  • permanent crops: 1.12%
  • other: 89.4%

Natural Resources:

  • limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, gypsum, wildlife, hydropower

Current Environmental Issues:

  • water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from increased use of pesticides and fertilizers; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; poaching


Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: Kenya served as an important mediator in brokering Sudan's north-south separation in February 2005; Kenya provides shelter to an estimated 550 million refugees, including Ugandans who flee across the border periodically to seek protection from Lord's Resistance Army rebels; Kenya works hard to prevent the clan and militia fighting in Somalia from spreading across the border, which has long been open to nomadic pastoralists; the boundary that separates Kenya's and Sudan's sovereignty is unclear in the "Ilemi Triangle," which Kenya has administered since colonial times
  • refugees (country of origin): 425,879 (Somalia); 84,045 (South Sudan); 29,723 (Ethiopia); 15,290 (Democratic Republic of Congo - includes registered asylum seekers); 8,769 (Sudan - includes registered asylum seekers); 5,825 (Burundi - includes registered asylum seekers)
  • internally displaced peoples: 412,000 (represents people displaced since the 1990s by ethnic and political violence and land disputes and who sought refuge mostly in camps; persons who took refuge in host communities or were evicted in urban areas are not included in the data; data is not available on pastoralists displaced by cattle rustling, violence, natural disasters, and development projects; the largest displacement resulted from 2007-08 post-election violence
  • stateless persons: 20,000
  • human trafficking: Kenya is a source, transit, and destination country for adults and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; Kenyan children are forced to work in domestic service, agriculture, fishing, cattle herding, street vending, begging, and prostitution; Kenyan economic migrants to other East African countries, South Sudan, Europe, the US, and the Middle East are at times exploited in domestic servitude, massage parlors or brothels, or forced manual labor; children from Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda are subjected to forced labor and prostitution in Kenya; Somali refugees living in the Dadaab complex may be forced into prostitution or work on tobacco farms
  • illicit drugs: widespread harvesting of small plots of marijuana; transit country for South Asian heroin destined for Europe and North America; Indian methaqualone also transits on way to South Africa; significant potential for money-laundering activity given the country's status as a regional financial center; massive corruption, and relatively high levels of narcotics-associated activities

Published: Friday, March 13, 2015