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Thursday 23rd May
Kenya Information - Page 2
Many people think that the history of mankind started in Kenya and Tanzania. Fossils found around Olorgasailie and Lake Turkana point to this theory.

The East African coast has been a centre of trade since early times. Exports included ivory, tortoiseshell and slaves. Over the centuries Arab merchants had a strong influence on the coastal towns.

At the end of fifteenth century, the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, landed in Kenya. The Portuguese tried to gain control of the Kenyan coast but were eventually driven off by the Swahili and Omani Arab states.

In the 1880s Africa was divided between the European countries. The British East African Protectorate was established in 1895; a railway system was built opening up the country for colonisation. However anti-colonialist feeling spread among the African peoples leading to revolts by the Kikuyu, the Kisii and the Maasai.

Four years before the First World War (1914-18) coffee growing began on a large scale. After the War, the Soldier Settlement scheme gave land in the highlands to British ex-soldiers fuelling further resentment among Kenyans. This resentment increased as Kenya became a British Colony in 1920.

The Great Depression of the 1930s, starting with the 1929 Wall Street Crash in the USA, caused economic problems in Kenya. At the end of the 1930s the Second World War began and Abbysinia (Italian-occupied Ethiopia) declared war on Kenya. Kenyans fought with the King's African Rifles contributing towards the success of the Allied army in Africa.

In 1952 the rise of Kenyan nationalism including the activities of the Mau Mau (an underground military movement opposed to British rule) led to a State of Emergency. Many Kenyans were imprisoned, political leaders arrested and Dedan Kimathi, a Kenyan army commander, was executed.

Kenya finally achieved independence in 1963 and Jomo Kenyatta became the Republic's first President. By the end of the 1960s the new government's Africanisation policy led to many of the Asian population leaving Kenya.

On Jomo Kenyatta's death in 1978, his vice-president, Daniel Arap Moi, became Kenya's president.

For many centuries Kenya traded with merchants from Arabia and parts of Asia. Today Kenya exports to its neighbouring countries linked to Kenya by road and rail. Other trading partners include the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Pakistan and the USA.

The agricultural sector provides a livelihood for a significant percentage the population. Agricultural products include sugarcane, tea, coffee, wheat, maize, fruit and vegetables. Livestock is kept.

Oil was discovered by the British firm, Tullow Oil in 2012. Industries are oil refining, aluminum, lead, steel, cement, commercial ship repair, plastics, furniture, textiles, soap, cigarettes and food processing.

The abundance of wildlife has fuelled the tourist industry making tourism Kenya's largest foreign currency earner. (2012)

African art was traditionally the adornment of functional objects such as ceremonial masks. Today soapstone and wooden carvings are made for sale. Asian colonists introduced batik (paintings on waxed cloth) to Kenya. The batiks made in Kenya are uniquely African.

Kenyan literature dates back to centuries-old Swahili poetry. The European colonial period is marked by the the writings of authors such as Karen Blixen (Out of Africa) and the political struggles of this century have produced the works of Jomo Kenyatta (Facing Mount Kenya), Dedan Kimathi (Makers of Kenya's History) and Oginga Odinga (Not Yet Uhuru).

Traditional Kenyan music includes Tarabu (Swahili sung poetry) and Benga music which was popularised in the 1970s and 1980s. Drum music and dancing feature strongly in Kenyan tribal culture and Maasai and Samburu dance performances can be seen by tourists. Nowadays music is influenced by British, American and Jamaican music.

A variety of sporting activities are popular in Kenya. These include football, basketball, rugby, cricket and golf. The country's athletes have an excellent record of track and long distance achievements in the Olympics and international competitions.

Water sports available are snorkelling, scuba diving, water skiing, windsurfing, sailing and deep-sea fishing.

The Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter are celebrated as well as New Year. Islamic Holy Days are observed by the Muslim community. Jomo Kenyatta is remembered on Kenyatta Day.

News from Kenya can be found in Newslink.

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