Kenya Essay, Research Paper
A Study of Kenya
As one of the many different developing countries in Eastern Africa, Kenya is
unique in its own way. With its mangrove swamps, thick forests, crystal lakes, towering
mountains, and vast deserts; this is all wrapped up in a country the size of Texas. It
attracts millions of visitors in seek for an African Safari which is much appreciated by the
government as a source of foreign capitol for this poor region. We will take a look at the
history which shaped this country into what it is today, and become aware of the way of
life these Africans live and the place they all home.
Kenya is one location of some of the earliest human settlements. Some sites
indicate nominid habitation from as far back as 2.5 million years ago. Because the tools
they used, these people are known as ‘Stone Bowl’ people and are suspected to have
come from up north. After the nomadic, came the explorers who began to settle. “The
first wave of immigrants were the tall, nomadic, caustic-speaking people from Ethiopia
who began to move south”(Fletcher,13). As time passed, migration from the Muslims
and Arabs came in from the west. This process of migration occurred through small
population movements which lasted for centuries. These groups were fluid, representing
a process of ongoing social changes. Many of the settlers started out as traders, and
ended up settling in Kenya trading wheat, wine, and textiles. The various people
absorbed others customs, beliefs, and resources. Everything was running smooth until the
Portuguese came to trade spices. They wanted to take over trade in the east, but in the
end they were forced out in the mid-1700’s. As the country began to develop it came up
with a railway system. Along with the railway came the white settlers in the mid-1900’s.
Before independence in 1963, Kenya was governed by a British colonial
administrator who had complete power. “The aim of British colonialism in Kenya was to
integrate the country into an imperical system and to develop its economic potential,
while providing security of the indigenous population and improving their general
well-being as defined according to the prevailing mentality of colonial
authorities”(Nelson, 3). The people were not allowed to vote or represented by the
government. In 1964 the people cut its ties to the British throne, then Kenya turned to a
multi-party government with KANU as its ruler. KANU is a conservative nationalist
party standing for the Kenya African National Union. “The system of government
consists of the President, who holds executive power, and a single legislative assembly
consisting of 210 members, the attorney general, the speaker, and 12 members who are
nominated by the major parties in parliament in proportion of the number of seats
won”(Fletcher, 26). The President serves as both head of state and government, serving a
5-year term, with a 2-year limit as President. Legislation passed becomes a law only after
being passed by the President. The Judiciary consists of two major courts and many
lower magistracy courts. Trial by jury is not used, only trial by judge.
Kenya’s economy was always based on trade, hunting, herding, and farming, but
when the British took over it changed to a capitalist economy. The British developed an
economy around exportation of agricultural products. Agriculture employs over 80% of
the population and leads the economy. They grow beans, cotton, maize, and fruit with
coffee and tea leading. During and after W.W.II, Kenya’s economy was forced to
produce goods that were formally imported. In 1998 the GDP, which measures the value
of goods and services, was around 12 billion. As a form of relief for the poor nation, the
U.S. gives Kenya foreign aide to as much as 921 million dollars. They currently have a
debt of over one billion to the U.S.
One of Kenya’s most interesting geographical features is the Rift Valley.
“Kenya’s Great Rift Valley is only part of a continental fault system that runs 6000km
clean across Africa from Jordan to Mozambique”(Trillo, 232). It extends 5000km down
from the Red Sea with snow covered peaks. The climate is hot, humid, with rainfall
spread through the year occurring mostly at night. The temperature varies in regions but
the average is 14-18*c and as a minimum and a maximum of 32-35*c. The population
has concentrated to the wettest areas of the country for survival. Kenya’s main resource
is its land. The rivers produce hydro-electricity. Kenya is also known for its variety of
wildlife in the African savannas. Zebras, lions, cats, and rhinos are some hunted big
game species. Elephants are the most hunted species for the ivory in their tusks.
Drought, deforestation, and overhunting has threatened the wildlife, but with restrictions
and rules, this problem is declining.
Kenya’s population is around 30 million, made up mostly of Africans. The
population growth is 3.3%, which is the highest in the world. Life expectancy is around
52 years old, but 50% of the population is 15 years or younger. Almost all the people are
black Africans, with Arabs, Europeans, and Asians making up the other 1%. The official
languages are English and Swahili. Therefore, most Kenyan’s have 3 languages: English,
Swahili, and the language of their ethnic group. There are many tribal languages taught
by the group. A mixture of English and Swahili is called Sheng. Sheng is a language
spoken by the younger generations today. Most Kenyans are some kind of Christians,
with the other 30% Muslim. Out of all the Christians, the Protestants out number the
With over 70 tribal groups, each with their own values and traditions, the people
have many different looks. They are more conservative than many may think. Women
wear shirts that cover their shoulders and skirts to the knee. Men wear shirts and jeans,
with the exception of shorts that are not accepted. Only 83% of the population is literate.
Factors such as cost, test performance, and inadequate facilities have much to do with the
literacy rate. There is a serious problem with disease like malaria, AIDS, and HIV due to
the lack ok knowledge in the country.
Kenyan families tend to be large with extended families all living in one home.
Polygyny is used in some classes and groups. Some houses are made of mud and wooden
poles, while others have brick or stone with metal roofs. Most make their money by
farming, mechanics, metal-work, or with their own specialized skill. They get to work by
walking, or buses which drive on unpaved roads. Most do not even own a phone or
television, but do have a radio as a form of entertainment and information. Kenya’s basic
unit of currency is the shilling. 60.4 Kenyan shilling equals one U.S. dollar,(as an
If you were to go to Kenya today you would expect a country nothing like we
know in the United States. They have a corrupt judicial system with some of the worst
prison systems; there are bribes, torture, and fraud. The Kenyan government is filled with
uneducated officials. It imports three-fourths of its energy despite the power station it
has. The country survives off foreign aide and loans. The people make only about three
hundred dollars a year, which is decreasing year by year. They have devastating floods
and droughts which destroy the land. Despite all this, the country is much better of than
other African countries. I have learned that to them it is not what you have, it is what you
do to get by. They make the best of their situation, when all of us in the U.S. would just
gripe. With their cultural diversity, I think it would be an interesting place to visit.
Fletcher, Matt and Finlay, Hugh and Crowther, Geoff. Kenya
4th ed. Victoria, Australia : Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd, 2000.
Nelson, Harold D. Kenya, A Country Study. 3rd ed. United States: United States
Department of Army, 1984.
Trillo, Richard. Kenya, The Rough Guide. Shorts Garden, London: Rough Guides Ltd.,