The Republic of Kenya is a country in East Africa. It is bordered by Ethiopia to the north, Somalia to the northeast, Tanzania to the south, Uganda to the west, and Sudan to the northwest, with the Indian Ocean running along the southeast border.

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Kenya History, People & Culture

Kenya's 30 million people principally originate from many different parts of the African Continent. Generations of migration have resulted in a diverse ethnic and linguistic mix. There were more than 70 tribal groups initially, and though some distinctions have inevitably become blurred over the years, as modern life imposes itself on traditional ways of life, the country still has a very strong tribal framework. The Kenyans in the urban areas may have left their tribal villages long ago, but they still possess a pronounced awareness of their tribal identity.

Kenya's population is almost entirely African, although there are small and influential minorities of Asian and European. Although Indian traders have been coming to East Africa for centuries with the monsoons, it was the British project to build a railway across East Africa, the much maligned 'Lunatic Express' that led to large numbers of Indian labourers arriving.

Many from Gujerat and Punjab, they were brought to East Africa by the British as indentured labour. Many chose to stay on laying the foundations for the present day affluent business and trading community of Kenyan Asians.

Migrations into what is today Kenya took place over thousands of years. Before the arrival of the Europeans in the 19th century, the three main migratory movements can be identified as those of the agricultural Bantu, of the pastoral Cushites and the Nilotic Speaking tribes. Kenyans speak a variety of languages, hardly a surprising fact given the number of different tribes there are in the country. English is widely and fluently spoken in towns.

The three main groups of languages are a small number of Cushitic speakers and speakers of the Nilotic languages represent about one thirds of the population while the rest are the Bantu. The tribes in Kenya represent a cross section of African life, covering a wide spectrum from the unchanged to the assimilated.

In a society like Kenya where tribal bonds are still very strong, much of the culture is less on a national basis than on a regional one. Different tribes have their own dances, their own stories as well as their own way of dressing and decorating themselves with their own distinctive jewelry and tatooing.

Many of Kenya's tribes were, and still are nomadic. Before the arrival of the Europeans in the late 19th century, virtually no towns or villages existed other than the ancient Swahili city states along the coast. The interior of the country was populated by scattered settlements and it was the Europeans who set about founding permanent towns and cities.

Both music and dance have long been important in Kenya social and religious life. The drum is widely used and is the basic source of rhythm in much of Kenyan music. Instruments are usually very simple and made from locally available sources such as reeds which are used to make simple pipes, or two sticks with which to beat out a rhythm.

Tribal dances celebrated and still do celebrate many things like war, religious events, births, marriages etc.

KENYA'S POPULATION

Kenya's population agglomerates tribes, cultures, religions and languages. According to what we know today, the country's human map was started 6,000 years ago, when the native inhabitants of this land were first invaded by the northern Nilotic and Cushite peoples. Then came the Bantus, followed by the Arabs, Asians, Europeans... The skin colors of the Kenyans cover all the range of clears and darks.

The nearly 30 million Kenyans are distributed in a very uneven way throughout the country, given that the north and northeast regions are arid and little hospitable for human settling. In this regions, population density hardly reaches 2 inhabitants per sq km, whereas in the rich and fertile western the rate rises to 120 inhabitants per sq km. In the Rift Valley, density varies among areas, with an average around 13 inhabitants per sq km.

Most of the Kenyans dwell in the Highlands, where the climate is mild. Urban population is nearly 25% of the total and is concentrated in a few large cities, mainly in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu. The rural population is confined to the fertile areas and lives on agriculture. Only 4 million people work, including small farmers and nomad shepherds. Women account for 30% of the total active population.

Kenya's population is mostly black. The different tribes are grouped according to their linguistic origin. Around 65% of the total belong to bantu tribes, dwelling in the Central Highlands, the southeast and the coastal regions. The nilotic 30% settle in the southwest and the central Rift Valley region, whereas the 3% cushites inhabit the northern areas. The population spectrum also comprises some minorities, such as Hindus, Arabs and Europeans. This diversity is the cause for most Kenyans speaking more than one language. The native tongues persist, but Swahili is the common language for all East Africa. English is official and Kenyans learn it at school.

Diversity is a source of wealth, but also of conflicts. Despite the government's efforts to inspire in Kenyans the idea of one united people with a common destiny, the truth is that in Kenya, as in many other African countries, the feeling of nation applies mainly to the own tribe. Many Kenyans, especially those who do not have the chance to receive education, do not yet assume the concept of state. The Maasai land was split by the arbitrary border between Kenya and Tanzania, little more than one hundred years ago.

Time remorselessly tears apart the destinies of the Maasai at either side of the border, but the collective memory still keeps the notion of one people. Thus, the Maasai find it difficult to understand why the way to their cousins' villages is cut by an imaginary line that is difficult to cross. Even today, penetration of a tribe within other tribe's territory is received with distrust at the very least, and frequently with hostility.

The following is an abstract of the general data about Kenya's population. Except when specified, figures correspond to 1999.

  • Population: 28,808,658
  • Population structure by ages:0-14 years: 43% (6,244,321 male, 6,104,181 female)
    15-64 years: 54% (7,845,083 male, 7,826,442 female) Over 64 years: 3% (343,449 male, 445,182 female)
  • Population growth rate: 1.59%
  • Birth rate: 30.8 births per 1,000 inhabitants
  • Death rate: 14.58 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants
  • Migration rate: -0.34 emigrants per 1,000 inhabitant

History of Kenya

The thousand years from around 500BC to AD500 saw the constant arrival of different tribes from all over the African continent: Cushitic, Nilotic and Bantu, all drawn by the region's fertile land. Even up until the turn of this century, there was still much movement within the country including competition for land rights which was always of vital importance in what was then a totally agrarian society.

All the early tribal migration took place in the interior of the country, whereas the coastal strip had a very different history. One of the earliest descriptions of the Kenyan coastal strip is from the log of a Greek explorer, Diogenes, who lived in Egypt and who visited the coast around AD 110. Diogenes noted the various types of merchandise at the Mombasa docks which even then included ivory and rhinoceros horn.

From the 8th century onwards, Arabs and Persians began to visit the East African coast to trade, importing glass, textiles and wine and exporting ivory rhinoceros horn and slaves. Many of the people were converted to Islam and some of the visitors settled down, laying the foundation for the distinctive Swahili character of the Kenyan coast. Over the centuries, the trading links extended across to India, even as far afield as China.

It was into this atmosphere of Islam and relative prosperity that the Portuguese sailed in 1498, rounding the Cape of Good Hope in search of sea route to India. Under the command of Vasco da Gama, they sailed into Mombasa harbor to an unsympathetic welcome from the Arabs, but they received royal welcome a little further north in Malindi. After a series of punitive raids over the next century, the Portuguese finally occupied Mombasa and set about building Fort Jesus from 1593-98 with admirable determination.

During the 18th century, the Omanis established themselves along the coastal belt, nominally, but ineffectively, under the control of the Sultan of Oman who was later assassinated when Sultan Seyyid Said arrived. In 1822, with his throne safe and his income ensured through the highly lucrative slave trade, the Sultan sent an army to subdue the troublesome islands of Pate, Pemba and Mombasa. Mombasa was at the time ruled by Mazruis, a very violent, local aristocratic Mombasa family who were reluctant to bow to the authority of Muscat. At this stage, one of the more bizarre incidents in the coast's history occurred. Desperate in the face of the Omani build-up, the Mazruis asked captain of a British ship, Captain Vidal, for protection against the Omanis, who unfortunately for the Mazruis, were at that time British allies.

In 1832, Seyyid Said moved his court to the island of Zanzibar and the British, who were actively and vocally anti-slavery, established a consulate at his court and set about pressurizing the Sultan to ban slavery, which he finally did in 1847.

The Germans, who were also as keen as the British to abolish slavery and to convert Africa to Christianity, arrived in Kenya in 1844, in pursuit of their religious and humanitarian aims, travelled far into the Kenyan interior. Two of the earliest German explorers were missionaries, Johan Krapf and Johanne Rebmann whose motivation was the abolition of slave trade and the conversion of Africa to Christianity.

When the Germans produced a rough map of the East African interior showing a large inland sea or lake, the quest began in earnest to find out if this was indeed the source of the River Nile. In 1856, Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke set out from Zanzibar to try and discover whether this lake was indeed the head of the Nile.

One of the most colourful and epic expeditions was the one to Maasailand, led by an irrepressibly confident 26 year old Scot called Joseph Thomson. Thomson's adventures inspired other explorers to set out to fill in the new blanks in his charts and maps.

KENYA POPULATION.

Kenya's population agglomerates tribes, cultures, religions and languages. According to what we know today, the country's human map was started 6,000 years ago, when the native inhabitants of this land were first invaded by the northern Nilotic and Cushite peoples. Then came the Bantus, followed by the Arabs, Asians, Europeans... The skin colors of the Kenyans cover all the range of clears and darks.
The nearly 30 million Kenyans are distributed in a very uneven way throughout the country, given that the north and northeast regions are arid and little hospitable for human settling. In this regions, population density hardly reaches 2 inhabitants per sq km, whereas in the rich and fertile western the rate rises to 120 inhabitants per sq km. In the Rift Valley, density varies among areas, with an average around 13 inhabitants per sq km.

Most of the Kenyans dwell in the Highlands, where the climate is mild. Urban population is nearly 25% of the total and is concentrated in a few large cities, mainly in Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru and Kisumu. The rural population is confined to the fertile areas and lives on agriculture. Only 4 million people work, including small farmers and nomad shepherds. Women account for 30% of the total active population.

Kenya's population is mostly black. The different tribes are grouped according to their linguistic origin. Around 65% of the total belong to bantu tribes, dwelling in the Central Highlands, the southeast and the coastal regions. The nilotic 30% settle in the southwest and the central Rift Valley region, whereas the 3% cushites inhabit the northern areas. The population spectrum also comprises some minorities, such as Hindus, Arabs and Europeans. This diversity is the cause for most Kenyans speaking more than one language. The native tongues persist, but Swahili is the common language for all East Africa. English is official and Kenyans learn it at school.

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