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January 2008

Kenya, 1988

Kenya, 1988

Kenya, a country slightly smaller than the state of Texas, covers an area of 582,646 sq. km. (224,960 sq. mi.). Its capital city of Nairobi has an estimated population of 2.9 million people (2007); other major cities include: Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, and Eldoret. Kenya’s terrain rises from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean in a series of mountain ridges and plateaus standing above 3000 meters (9000 ft) in the center of the country. The Rift Valley bisects the country above Nairobi; Highlands cover the south, before descending to the shores of Lake Victoria in the west. Its climate is tropical in the south, west, and central regions, while arid and semi-arid in the north and northeast.

Fossils found in East Africa suggest that protohumans roamed the area more than 20 million years ago. Arab dominance on the coast was interrupted for about 150 years following the arrival of the Portuguese in 1498. British exploration of East Africa in the mid-1800s eventually led to the establishment of Britain's East African Protectorate in 1895. From 1952 to 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the Mau Mau insurgency against British colonial rule in general and its land policies in particular. The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963, and the next year joined the Commonwealth.

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. President Moi stepped down in December 2002 following fair and peaceful elections. The unicameral National Assembly consists of 210 members elected to a term of 5 years from single-member constituencies, plus 12 members nominated by political parties on a proportional representation basis. Kenya’s president appoints the vice president and cabinet members from among those elected to the assembly. The attorney general and the speaker are ex-officio members of the National Assembly. The judiciary is headed by a High Court, consisting of a Chief Justice and High Court judges and judges of Kenya's Court of Appeal, all appointed by the president.

The natural resources of Kenya include: limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, gypsum, wildlife, and hydropower. The natural hazards to Kenya include: recurring drought and flooding during rainy seasons.

CIA World Factbook; U.S. State Department Background Notes, 200712