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Kenya

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Kenya is in East Africa, between Ethiopia and Tanzania. Kenya borders the Indian Ocean as well. The country is slightly more than twice the size of Nevada. Kenya’s population is approximately 39 million people.

Kenya’s terrain is dominated by plains that rise to central highlands, bisected by the Great Rift Valley. The highlands comprise one of the most successful agricultural production regions in all of Africa. Fertile plateaus lie in the western part of the country. Kenya’s climate ranges from arid in the interior to tropical along the coast. The country has many natural resources, including limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, diatomite, gypsum, zinc, hydropower, and magnificent wildlife.

Kenya’s people come from a variety of ethnic groups. Kikuyu make up 22 percent of the population while Luhya, Luo, Kalenjin, Kamba, Kisii, Meru, and other people groups make up the remainder. The majority of Kenyans are Christian. Forty-five percent are Protestant and 33 percent are Roman Catholic. Muslims and adherents of indigenous beliefs and other faiths make up the rest of the population. The languages spoken in Kenya include English, Kiswahili, and numerous indigenous languages.

Like many African nations, Kenya has a long and proud history. Kenya’s modern history begins with its political independence from Britain in 1963. Liberation icon Jomo Kenyatta was the main figure to lead the country to autonomy, serving as president from 1963 to 1978. From 1969 to 1982 the country was essentially a one-party state as the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU) made itself the sole legal party. Political reforms in 1991 allowed for opposition groups to run against KANU, but they failed to remove the ruling party from power. In 2002 an opposition candidate captured the presidency from KANU. In December 2007 a contested presidential election led to two months of widespread violence resulting in the deaths of 1,500 people. The United Nations sponsored talks that produced a power-sharing accord between the two major parties. In the summer of 2010 Kenyans successfully voted on and approved a new constitution, an accomplishment some described as the most important political development in the country since independence.

Kenya is quite poor. Fifty percent of the population lives below the poverty line and 40 percent of the labor force is unemployed. Although Kenya is seen as a central figure for trade and finance within the region, the country has its challenges, economic and otherwise. Kenya’s government is full of corruption. This corruption has led the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to delay providing loans to the country from time to time, although these loans are being made once again.