Republic situated on the equator in E central Africa bordering on the Indian Ocean to the SE, Somalia to the NE, Ethiopia to the N, Ugand a to the W, and Tanzania to the S. Nairobi is the capital. Trade along Kenya’s coastline may have started as early as the second century a.d. By the 10th century traders from Arabia and Persia were active, and a Swahili culture flourished in the commercial cities of Mombasa, Pate, and Malindi. Explorers from Portugal land ed in 1498, but control of the coast passed to Oman. By the early 19th century the Omanis had opened trade routes into the unknown interior. Europeans began to explore inland Kenya, and in 1887 a private British company leased the Omani’s coastal territory. In 1895 the British government took over and claimed the East African Protectorate, extending as far inland as Lake Naivasha. The British built a railroad between Mombasa and Ugand a in 1903 to strengthen their strategic hold on the region, and it quickly became the key to Kenya’s rapid development.
British and South African settlers were encouraged to claim profitable farmland , and a large community of Indian merchants also developed. In 1920 all of Kenya except the coast became a Crown colony. Kenya played an important role in World War II as a staging base against Italy in Somaliland and Ethiopia. After the war African nationalism began to rise, and the colony’s government began to make concessions toward African representation. Between 1952 and 1956 a major uprising called the Mau Mau movement, whose leader was Jomo Kenyatta, battered the country. A compromise between the British government and the nationalists slowly took shape, and in 1963 Kenya became an independent member of the British Commonwealth. In 1964 Kenya became a republic, with Kenyatta as president, and maintained a pro-Western stance. The nation remained stable, but in 1968 the government initiated a drive against the Asian merchant community that controlled much of the country’s commerce. In 1972 all Asians were expelled. Jomo Kenyatta died in 1978, and Vice President Daniel arap Moi succeeded him as president. Moi consolidated his power in the late 1970s and 1980s through purges and repression of any opposition. There was pro-democracy rioting in 1988 and in 1992, the first multiparty elections reelected Moi in spite of accusations of voter fraud. Moi was reelected in 1997. In 1998, a terrorist bomb at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi killed some 250 people. In 2002, with Moi prevented from running again by constitutional limits, opposition leader Mwai Kibaki defeated Moi’s hand -picked successor, Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Kenya’s first leader. The government continues to faces problems of corruption and is also trying to deal with land reform on longterm leases forced by the British on the indigenous peoples of Kenya.