Many fossils found around
Turkana, Olorgasailie or Oldupai
point to the theory that the history of mankind started in Kenya and Tanzania. 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 to the coastal towns. At the end of the 15th century Vasco da
Gama landed in Kenya
and in the following the Portuguese tried to gain control of the Kenyan coast
but were eventually driven off by the
Swahili and Omani Arab states. Slaves had been traded in Kenya for
many years and with the spread of the British anti-slavery movement, a treaty
was signed in the middle of the 19th century banning the export of slaves.
In the 1880s Africa
was devided between the European countries. The
British East African Protectorate was established in 1895 and 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 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 which increased as Kenya became a British colony in
1920. The great depression of the
1930s caused economic problems in Kenya. At the end of the 1930s
the second world war began and Abbysinia (Italian
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
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,
Germany, the Netherlands, Egypt,
South Africa and the USA. Kenya has very few mineral resources but the
beautiful country and abundance of wildlife has fuelled the tourist industry
making tourism Kenya’s
largest foreign currency earner.
At the end of the 1990s agriculture was affected by the weather phenomen El Nino, when rains destroyed crops in 1997 and
1998. Agricultural products include sugar cane, tea, coffee, corn, wheat,
rice, pineapples and sisal. Pyrethrum (used in insecticides) is alsow grown. Kenyan industrial activities are the
production of chemical products, cement, textiles, paper, beer, soft drinks,
grain and sugar milling.
The major (abt. 66 %) number of the population
is christian. Islam and Hinduism is practised mainly along the coast not
forgetting the typical traditional religions of the various ethnic groups.