About Kenya

There’s more to discover about Kenya than falls within the scope of a single summary page on our website.
However, we hope you find something of interest here.

Pre-History

Kenya is commonly known as the ‘cradle of humanity’ as archeological discoveries have revealed hominid habitation dating back millions of years.
One of the most famous skeletons ever discovered (and the most complete) is Turkana Boy – found in 1984 and dated as being approximately 1.6 million years old. He was discovered at Lake Turkana, where the oldest stone tools in the world have also been found.

Around 2000BC, Cushitic speaking people from North Africa are thought to have arrived in modern-day Kenya, and by 1000AD, Arab traders had arrived on Kenya’s coast and established colonies. The Swahili language is likely to have developed as a lingua-franca between these Arab settlers and the Nilotic and Bantu people who had begun to arrive further inland.

Arrival of the Europeans

The Portuguese arrived in 1498 and established military naval bases on the coast to gain control of the Indian Ocean. However, by 1840, the land had been taken by Arabs from Oman who set up a capital in Zanzibar and began to create trade routes into the interior of the country.

On August 7th 1885, German warships arrived at Zanzibar and threatened the Sultan of Oman’s palace in an attempt to take control of the mainland areas. It is at this point that the British first became involved.

Division of Land

In an attempt to keep the peace, Britain proposed a division of land between several countries.
By the end of 1886, Oman retained just a small strip of the coastline. The British took control of the land North of latitude 1°S, whilst Germany were handed the southern land. This boundary remains and is now the division between Kenya and Tanzania.

The East Africa Company

However, the British government were not keen to take responsibility for this territory and handed it to a commercial company – The East Africa Company. This company’s charter was revoked in 1895 when it became apparent that they were unable to control the land or achieve their aims, through various civil wars and ‘squabbles’ between the various European nations with a stake in the region. At this point, the British government took control of what was now the East Africa Protectorate.

1895-1920: The East Africa Protectorate

Settlement was encouraged for farmers of European origin, often using forced African labour to work the land.
Native Africans were settled on ‘reserves’, forbidden to grow cash crops, and had no rights in policy making or law.
With the arrival of large numbers of Indians (labour for the building of a railway, taken from Britain’s Indian empire), racial tensions grew and more people began to demand a say in the political life of the country.

1920-1952: Colonial Kenya

The region officially became the Kenya Colony in 1920. Africans were often formally dispossessed of their land, which was given to European settlers.
Political tensions continued to rise, with the Indians gaining seats on the legislative council. Africans soon made their voices heard in demands for representation.
Steps were taken towards reform in the early 1950s but were soon overwhelmed by an independence movement known as Mau Mau.

1952-1960 – The Mau Mau Uprising

In October 1952 the Mau Mau Uprising began with atrocities committed by both sides. By 1960, around 100 Europeans had been killed, plus over 11,000 of the Mau Mau who died either in fighting or in British prison camps.
In 1960, London decided to give Africans the majority of seats on the legislative council.

1963 – Independence

Kenya gained independence under Jomo Kenyatta in December 1963, developing a free market economy and significant political stability.

All native Kenyans belong to one of the country’s tribes.
In the past, the tribes lived very separate lives. However, as people have migrated to the cities, many people of different tribes live side-by-side. Inter-tribal marriages are also becoming increasingly common, resulting in children who identify as half-caste. There is debate as to whether these children should be ‘classified’ by their father’s tribe or their mother’s.
In rural areas, the tribes are still very distinct.

Although the number is debated, there appear to be 41 main tribes within Kenya.  Of these, the Kikuyu are the most prominent, being the largest percentage of the population and holding most of the important political and economic positions.  The current president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, is Kikuyu.  Support for the different political parties tends to depend more on tribe and less on policy.

Tribes at Future Stars

Kibera is home to people from many different tribes.  At Future Stars, we house and educate children from a number of tribes, without discrimination.
The children currently using the Centre are mainly a mixture of Luo, Luhya, and Kisii.

Luo:

  • Barrack Obama’s father’s tribe (and also the tribe of Mama Aggy and her family).
  • Consist of around 12% of Kenya’s population and are split into 12 sub-groups.
  • Traditional territory extends into Uganda, Tanzania, and Sudan.
  • Traditional industry is fishing
  • Language: Dholuo.
  • Traditionally polygamous although this is no longer common. It is unusual for a Luo man not to be married. The groom is expected to pay money or cattle to his bride’s father.
  • One of the few tribes not to practice ritual circumcision.
  • Music is very important – modern Kenyan pop music ‘Benga’ is based on Luo musical themes.
  • Active in politics and usually hold oppositional views to the current Kikuyu leadership.

Luhya:

  • Consist of around 14% of Kenya’s population and are split into 16-18 sub-groups.
  • The largest and most traditional group of the Luhya are known as Bukusu.
  • Traditional territory is in Western Kenya, between Lake Victoria, the Nandi Escarpment, and the Ugandan border.
  • Traditional industry is agriculture.
  • Traditionally polygamous.  The wives are also free to take lovers.
  • Marriages are generally arranged with a dowry paid by the family of the groom.
  • The traditional household is strictly patriarchal.
  • Most Luhya have converted to Christianity, although they retain traditional fears of witches and spirits.
  • Males are circumcised between the ages of 8 and 15.
  • Originally, deaths were huge celebrations involving a whole village and lasting for 40 days.  Today, the period is usually only a week, with an extra celebration taking place after 40 days.

Luhya:

  • Consist of around 14% of Kenya’s population and are split into 16-18 sub-groups.
  • The largest and most traditional group of the Luhya are known as Bukusu.
  • Traditional territory is in Western Kenya, between Lake Victoria, the Nandi Escarpment, and the Ugandan border.
  • Traditional industry is agriculture.
  • Traditionally polygamous.  The wives are also free to take lovers.
  • Marriages are generally arranged with a dowry paid by the family of the groom.
  • The traditional household is strictly patriarchal.
  • Most Luhya have converted to Christianity, although they retain traditional fears of witches and spirits.
  • Males are circumcised between the ages of 8 and 15.
  • Originally, deaths were huge celebrations involving a whole village and lasting for 40 days.  Today, the period is usually only a week, with an extra celebration taking place after 40 days.

Kisii:

  • Consist of around 7% of the population.
  • Territory is in the far West of Kenya, in some of the most densely populated areas.  The territory is still, in modern Kenya, known as the Kisii district.
  • The Kisii are a prosperous tribe as their territory includes extremely fertile land that is used for coffee and tea plantations.
  • They have the fastest growing population in the world!
  • Viewed as very strong and aggressive.
  • More than 75% are now Christian, although many still fear witchcraft and evil spirits.
  • Most important in the Kisii tribe are the medicine men.
  • Families are large and tend to live together in close groups of homes.
  • Occasionally polygamous but very rarely in current times.
  • Both males and females are initiated into adulthood by circumcision.  Female circumcision is now illegal in Kenya but is still frequently performed amongst the Kisii.

Kenya is often known as The Cradle of Humanity.
It lies across the equator in East-Central Africa, on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Kenya borders:

  • Somalia to the east
  • Ethiopia to the north
  • Tanzania to the south
  • Uganda to the west
  • Sudan to the northwest.

The country has everything from snow-capped mountains to deserts to savannah grasslands.

In the north, the land is arid; the southwest corner is in the fertile Lake Victoria Basin; and a length of the eastern depression of the Great Rift Valley separates western highlands from those that rise from the lowland coastal strip.
The coastal region has long stretches of beautiful beaches that meet the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.

Western Kenya experiences rainfall throughout the year and temperatures of 15-36°C.
Rift Valley and Central Highlands have two distinct rainy seasons and cooler temperatures of 10-28°C.
Semiarid bushlands in the North and East are generally dry with occasional violent storms. Temperatures range from 20-40°C.
Coastal regions experience monsoon-dependent rainfall and temperatures of 22-30°C.

Whilst the rainfall and temperatures tend to follow the pattern indicated, the rains can be unpredictable and the temperatures across Kenya can drop as low as 12°C and rise as high as 43°C.

Largest City (and capital): Nairobi.
Second Largest City: Mombasa.

Highest Mountain: Mount Kenya – also the second tallest mountain in Africa.

Population: 46 million (in 2015)
Area: 580,367 square kilometres.
Coastline: 536km.

Natural resources: limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, zinc.

Current affairs in Kenya are covered by both national and international media.
Four of these media outlets are linked below.
From the UK, we have The BBC and The Guardian.
From Kenya, we have The Star and The Daily Nation.
(please note: the inclusion of these links does not indicate any opinion of Chaffinch or anyone who works for Chaffinch. We hold no responsibility for the safety or content of any external links).

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