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 Toroitich arap 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, which defeated the overnment'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. UN-sponsored talks in late February produced a powersharing accord bringing Odinga into the government in the restored position of prime minister. Kenya in August 2010 adopted a new constitution that eliminates the role of prime minister after the next presidential election.


Country Name:

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


  • name: Nairobi
  • population: 3,375,000
  • 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 Mwai Kibaki (since 30 December 2002)
  • head of government: President Mwai Kibaki (since 30 December 2002); Prime Minister Raila Amolo ODINGA (since 17 April 2008); note - according to the 2008 powersharing agreement the role of the prime minister was not well defined; constitutionally, the president remains chief of state and head of government, but the prime minister is charged with coordinating government business
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 27 December 2007 (next to be held in December 2012)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National Assembly or Bunge usually referred to as Parliament

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Court of Appeal; High Court

People & Society


  • 43,013,341 (global rank: 31)
  • growth rate: 2.444% (global rank: 29)


  • noun: Kenyan(s)
  • adjective: Kenyan

Major Cities:

  • Nairobi (capital): 3.375 million; Mombassa: 966,000

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%


  • Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, Muslim 10%, indigenous beliefs 10%, other 2%


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

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 63.07 years (global rank: 176)
  • male: 61.62 years
  • female: 64.55 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 43.61 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 53)
  • male: 48.41 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 38.71 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS (2009 est.):

  • adult prevalence rate: 6.3% (global rank: 11)
  • people living with AIDS: 1.5 million (global rank: 4)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 85.1%
  • male: 90.6%
  • female: 79.7%


Although the regional hub for trade and finance in East Africa, Kenya has been hampered by corruption and by reliance upon several primary goods whose prices have remained low. In 1997, the IMF suspended Kenya's Enhanced Structural Adjustment Program due to the government's failure to maintain reforms and curb corruption. The IMF, which had resumed loans in 2000 to help Kenya through a drought, again halted lending in 2001 when the government failed to institute several anticorruption measures. In the key December 2002 elections, Daniel Arap Moi's 24-year-old reign ended, and a new opposition government took on the formidable economic problems facing the nation. After some early progress in rooting out corruption and encouraging donor support, the Kibaki government was rocked by high-level graft scandals in 2005 and 2006. In 2006, the World Bank and IMF delayed loans pending action by the government on corruption. The international financial institutions and donors have since resumed lending, despite little action on the government's part to deal with corruption. Post-election violence in early 2008, coupled with the effects of the global financial crisis on remittance and exports, reduced GDP growth to 1.7 in 2008, but the economy rebounded in 2009-11.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $71.5 billion (global rank: 83)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $1,700 (global rank: 192)
  • real growth rate: 5.3% (global rank: 60)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 22.2%, industry: 16.4%, services: 64.6%


  • currency: Kenyan Shillings (KES)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 86.23


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

Agricultural Products:

  • tea, coffee, corn, wheat, sugarcane, fruit, vegetables; dairy products, beef, 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: 8.01%
  • permanent crops: 0.97%
  • other: 91.02%

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 almost a quarter of a million refugees, including Ugandans who flee across the border periodically to seek protection from Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) 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): 173,702 (Somalia); 73,004 (Sudan); 16,428 (Ethiopia)
  • internally displaced peoples: 250,000-400,000 (2007 post-election violence; KANU attacks on opposition tribal groups in 1990s)
  • 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: Thursday, September 04, 2008