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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #24 of 54: Ivory Coast | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #26 of 54: Lesotho »

June 12, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #25 of 54: Kenya

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) ---
25. KENYA
Flag of Kenya

Formal Name: Republic of Kenya.

Term for Citizens: Kenyans.

Capital: Nairobi. Population: 2,343,000.

Independence achieved: December 12, 1963, from Britain.

Major Cities: Nairobi, Mombassa.

Geography:

Kenya is located in East Africa. It is bounded in the Northeast by Ethiopia, in the Northwest by Sudan, in the West by Uganda, in the East by Somalia and the Indian Ocean and in the South by Tanzania. Kenya encompasses 224,962 square miles of land. The Equator bisects Kenya. Its Southeast abuts into the Indian Ocean and its Southwest is washed by Lake Victoria. Mount Kenya is Kenya’s highest point at 5,200 meters. Kenya contains vast forests and savannas, mangrove swamps, many national parks and game preserves teeming with wildlife. Kenya’s north and northeast consists of semiarid and arid plains.

Population:

Kenya’s population is estimated at 31,987,000. Roughly 20% of the population is urban; much of it concentrated in Nairobi and Mombasa areas.

Ethnic groups and languages:

There are more than 30 ethnic groups and languages in Kenya. The major groups are: Kikuyu (22%), Luhya (15%), Luo (14%), Kamba (13%) and Kalenjin (12%). There is substantial population of Asians, Europeans and Non-Kenyan Africans in Kenya. English and Swahili are the two official languages.

Religion:

About 80% of Kenyans’ profess Christianity, about 6% Islam and the rest adherents of indigenous African religions.

Education:

Roughly about 95% of children between the ages of six and twelve attend primary school. The literacy rate of men over age 15 is estimated at 85.1%.

Economy:

Kenya has a private enterprise economy. There is, however, extensive government participation in the economy. Agriculture still plays a dominant role in the economy. GDP estimate: $32 billion; Per Capita GDP: $1, 020. Monetary Unit: Shilling (KES).

History and Government:

Kenya has a long history, including being the possible setting for the earliest human species. However, modern Kenyan history began with the incorporation of the area into British sphere of Influence in the late nineteenth century. Modern Kenya is still heavily influenced by Britain. The Kenyan government consists of a president and his cabinet, an elected unicameral legislature and an independent judiciary. Kenya is divided into seven provinces and the provinces further divided into 40 districts and towns. Elected officers govern each of these administrative units of Kenya. Kenya is one of the most stable African countries; it has smoothly transferred power to succeeding governments, from one party to another, and from President Jomo Kenyatta to President Arap Moi, and Mwai Kibaki, the current President.


CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS

The presence of human beings in East Africa is long. Traces of proto human existence there has been traced to millions of years. However, the modern history of Kenya can be traced to the visit to the area by the Portuguese in 1498. The Portuguese were seeking ways to trade with India and established posts along the east coast of Africa, including along what is now called the Kenyan coast, particularly at Mombasa.

The Portuguese came into conflict with Omani Arabs who, apparently, were already trading on the east coast of Africa, primarily on human slaves. The two civilizations, Christian and Muslim, clashed and at onetime or another, one would push the other out, but by the 18th century, it appeared that the Arabs won and continued their trading in slaves.

By the 19th century Northern Europeans got serious about colonizing Africa, and first, the Germans came calling, and later, the English. By 1888 the British were settled in their new colony of British East Africa.

After the First World War, Britain resettled many of its demobilized soldiers in the Kenyan highlands. The settlers were encouraged to become farmers, farming coffee, tea and cocoa. This meant displacing the native Kikuyu population.

As would be expected, the settlement of over 30, 000 Britons and displacement of Africans led to resentment. The Kikuyu resisted by, among other measures, forming the Mau-Mau movement that tried to use terror to drive out British settlers and farmers.

From 1952 to 1959, the British administration fought with the Mau-Mau movement. Many innocent persons, Africans and Europeans, were killed.

In 1963, Kenya became independent from Britain and in 1964 Jomo Kenyatta was elected the first African President of Kenya. Mr. Kenyatta and his Kenyan African National Union, KANU, ruled Kenya until 1978 when Mr. Kenyatta died. He was replaced by his vice president, Mr. Daniel Arup Moi.

Mr. Moi ruled until 2002. A constitutional amendment prevented Mr. Moi from running for office, again. What he hadn’t accomplished in 24 years, in his youth, was less likely to be accomplished if he had more time, in his old age.

Mr. Mwai Kibaki was elected the president and he promised to write a new constitution and fight corruption. He has done neither; the constitution he finally managed to write, after years of dithering, gave him more power than his predecessors had and it was rejected by the people. As for corruption, it is as high as it was under Arap Moi.

The government of Kibaki is as corrupt as corrupt can be. In the meantime, the economy keeps chugging along, carried along by money from tourism and revenue generated by residual European farmers on the high lands.

Somehow, African leaders seem bereft of managerial skills. What seems obvious seems incomprehensible to them. Fighting corruption seem obvious to any one who wants to attract foreign investors, but, instead, nothing gets done in Kenya unless money exchanges hands.

The Kenyan government is, simply stated, very incompetent and lawless. Mr. Kabuki’s wife, with her body guards, thugs, really, recently went to a newspaper’s office and trashed it because a reporter dared criticize her husband, the president.

Kenya is divided into eight provinces, which are, in turn, divided into districts. The President appoints regional commissioners for the regions.

Kenya’s economy is badly mismanaged. However, because of the presence of a high number of Europeans and Asians who invest in the economy, there seems some life to the economy of Kenya. Nevertheless, unemployment remains very high and the emergent cities are teeming with unemployed youth, some of whom have taken to a life of crime. The government makes noises of working for the people but, in fact, would seem not to care, or if cares, does not have the ability to do anything about it.

Poverty stricken Kenyans find some solace in recreational sex and get infected with HIV-AIDS.

Kenya, along with many African countries, remains a mystery as to why the leaders can’t seem to do anything right to address their problems. Beyond corruption and clamping dissidents into jail, nothing can be pointed out as glorious achievement by Moi and Kibaki. Kenyatta’s achievement was in struggling for Kenya’s independence, but beyond that, no one can accuse the leaders of Kenya for exemplary economic performance. This is sad, very sad, indeed.

Ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at June 12, 2006 02:32 AM

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