- Published: 01 July 2008
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Colleen Brown, age 13, of Missoula, Mont., for her question:
WHEN DID KENYA BECOME AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY?
Kenya, a republic that lies on the equator in East Africa, became independent in 1963 after being ruled by Great Britain for 75 years. The country, which is about the same size as the state of Texas, is famous for its beautiful national parks and wild game reserves.
Thousands of tourists visit Kenya each year to photograph great herds of elephants, lions, zebras, gazelles, buffalo and other wild animals.
There was no single governing authority in what is now Kenya before the British arrived in 1888. Arabs, who had begun to settle there in the 700s. controlled only the coast.
In 1887, a private British association leased a strip of coastal land controlled by the sultan of Zanzibar and received a royal charter as the Imperial British East Africa Company to develop the region. Great Britain ended the company's control in 1895 and then called the region the East African Protectorate.
In 1901, a railroad was built between the Indian Ocean city of Mombasa and Lake Victoria, located about 500 miles inland. Great Britain encouraged Europeans to settle in Kenya and large European farms and plantations were established.
Great Britain's colonial government wanted to set up a European style country, giving Africans little voice in the central government. Things started to change in 1957 when the first Africans were elected to the colony's legislative council.
African demands for ending European control of the government had actually started in the 1940s and a new constitution for an independent Kenya went into effect in June, 1963.
A president directs the government, assisted by a vice president and cabinet. The president, vice president and cabinet members are all members of the National Assembly, Kenya's lawmaking body. Each candidate for election to the National Assembly must be a member of a registered political party.
About 97 percent of Kenya's people are Africans. They are split among 40 widely varying groups, or tribes. The Kikuyu, Kamba, Luhya, Luo, Kisii and Kalenjim speaking people, each with about a million or more members, are the largest groups.
Most of these people are farmers. Many live in simple, round houses with mud walls and thatched roofs. They raise vegetables and such grains as corn and millet for food. Most also eat meat and drink milk.
Swahili is Kenya's official language. Some of the people also speak English. Over half of the Africans are Christians and six percent are Muslims.
Only about 30 percent of the people can read and write. Kenya has about 6,000 primary schools and about 400 secondary schools. The country has only one university. It is the University of Nairobi and it is located in the nation's capital city, Nairobi.
Only about 1,500 miles of Kenya's 26,000 miles of roads are paved. The country has about 1,500 miles of railroads. The large port at Mombasa serves Kenya, Uganda and northern Tanzania. There's an international airport at Nairobi.