Kenya

Kenya

Map of Kenya

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Situated on the equator on Africa's east coast, Kenya has been described as “the cradle of humanity”.

In the Great Rift Valley palaeontologists have discovered some of the earliest evidence of man's ancestors.

In the present day, Kenya's ethnic diversity has produced a vibrant culture but is also a source of conflict.

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After independence from Britain in 1963, politics was dominated by the charismatic Jomo Kenyatta. He was succeeded in 1978 by Daniel arap Moi, who remained in power for 24 years. The ruling Kenya African National Union, Kanu, was the only legal political party for much of the 1980s.

Violent unrest – and international pressure – led to the restoration of multi-party politics in the early 1990s. But it was to be another decade before opposition candidate Mwai Kibaki ended nearly 40 years of Kanu rule with his landslide victory in 2002's general election.

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At a glance

Politics: Presidential elections in 2007 led to widespread unrest, denting the country's reputation for stability. A power-sharing government was eventually formed. A referendum on a new constitution in August 2010 produced a resounding “yes” vote

Economy: The economy has been recovering over recent years

International: Kenya has mediated in conflicts in Somalia and Sudan

Despite President Kibaki's pledge to tackle corruption, some donors estimated that up to $1bn had been lost to graft between 2002 and 2005.

Other pressing challenges include high unemployment, crime and poverty; most Kenyans live below the poverty level of $1 a day. Droughts frequently put millions of people at risk.

Kenya has been a leading light in the Somali and Sudanese peace processes.

With its scenic beauty and abundant wildlife, Kenya is one of Africa's major safari destinations.

The lucrative tourist industry has bounced back following the slump that followed bomb attacks in Nairobi in 1998 and Mombasa in 2002. And in 2006 tourism was the country's best hard currency earner, ahead of horticulture and tea.

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