The Republic of Kenya (Jamhuri ya Kenya in Kiswahili) is a country in Africa and a founding member of the East African Community (EAC). Its capital and largest city is Nairobi. Kenya’s territory lies on the equator and overlies the East African Rift covering a diverse and expansive terrain that extends roughly from Lake Victoria to Lake Turkana (formerly called Lake Rudolf) and further south-east to the Indian Ocean. It is bordered by Tanzania to the south and southwest, Uganda to the west, South Sudan to the north-west, Ethiopia to the north and Somalia to the north-east. Kenya covers 224,445 square miles (581,309 km²), and had a population of approximately 48 million people in January 2017.
Kenya has a warm and humid tropical climate on its Indian Ocean coastline. The climate is cooler in the savannah grasslands around the capital city, Nairobi, and especially closer to Mount Kenya, which has snow permanently on its peaks. Further inland are highlands in Central and Rift Valley regions where tea and coffee are grown as cash crops which are major foreign revenue earners. In the West are Nyanza and Western regions, there is an equatorial, hot and dry climate which becomes humid around Lake Victoria, the largest tropical fresh-water lake in the world. This gives way to temperate and forested hilly areas in the neighboring western region. The north-eastern regions along the border with Somalia and Ethiopia are arid and semi-arid areas with near-desert landscapes. Kenya is known for its world class athletes in track and field and rugby. Thanks to its diverse climate and geography, expansive wildlife reserves and national parks such as the East and West Tsavo National Park, Amboseli National Park, Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru National Park, Aberdares National Park and white sand beaches at the Coastal region, Kenya is home to the modern safari and has several world heritage sites such as Lamu and numerous beaches, including in Diani, Bamburi and Kilifi, where international yachting competitions are held every year.
The African Great Lakes region, which Kenya is a part of, has been inhabited by humans since the Lower Paleolithic period. By the first millennium AD, the Bantu expansion had reached the area from West-Central Africa. The borders of the modern state consequently comprise the crossroads of the Niger-Congo, Nilo-Saharan and Afroasiatic areas of the continent, representing most major ethnolinguistic groups found in Africa. Bantu and Nilotic populations together constitute around 97% of the nation’s residents. European and Arab presence in coastal Mombasa dates to the Early Modern period; European exploration of the interior began in the nineteenth century. The British Empire established the East Africa Protectorate in 1895, which starting in 1920 gave way to the Kenya Colony. Kenya obtained independence in December 1963. Following a referendum in August 2010 and adoption of a new constitution, Kenya is now divided into 47 semi-autonomous counties, governed by elected governors. For the pre-colonial and colonial history of the region, please see the article about the East Africa Protectorate/Kenya Colony, using a stamp inscribed Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika.
The Republic of Kenya is named after Mount Kenya. The origin of the name Kenya is not clear, but perhaps linked to the Kikuyu, Embu and Kamba words Kirinyaga, Kirenyaa, and Kiinyaa which mean “God’s resting place” in all three languages. If so, then the British may not so much have mispronounced it (‘Keenya‘), as misspelled it. Prehistoric volcanic eruptions of Mount Kenya (now extinct) may have resulted in its association with divinity and creation among the indigenous Bantu ethnic groups, who are the native inhabitants of the agricultural land surrounding Mount Kenya.
The first direct elections for native Kenyans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Despite British hopes of handing power to “moderate” local rivals, it was the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta that formed a government.
The Colony of Kenya and the Protectorate of Kenya each came to an end on December 12, 1963, with independence being conferred on all of Kenya. The United Kingdom ceded sovereignty over the Colony of Kenya. The Sultan of Zanzibar agreed that simultaneous with independence for the Colony of Kenya, the Sultan would cease to have sovereignty over the Protectorate of Kenya — a 10-mile wide (16-km) coastal strip — so that all of Kenya would be one sovereign, independent state. In this way, Kenya became an independent country under the Kenya Independence Act 1963 of the United Kingdom.
On December 12, 1964, the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed, and Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya’s first president.
Concurrently, the Kenyan army fought the Shifta War against ethnic Somali rebels inhabiting the Northern Frontier District, who wanted to join their kin in the Somali Republic to the north. A cease fire was eventually reached with the signature of the Arusha Memorandum in October 1967, but relative insecurity prevailed through 1969. To discourage further invasions, Kenya signed a defense pact with Ethiopia in 1969, which is still in effect.
Once in power, Kenyatta swerved from radical nationalism to conservative bourgeois politics. The plantations formerly owned by white settlers were broken up and given to farmers, with the Kikuyu the favored recipients, along with their allies the Embu and the Meru. By 1978, most of the country’s wealth and power was in the hands of the organization which grouped these three tribes: the Gikuyu-Embu-Meru Association (GEMA), together comprising 30% of the population. At the same time the Kikuyu, with Kenyatta’s support, spread beyond their traditional territorial homelands and repossessed lands “stolen by the whites” — even when these had previously belonged to other groups. The other groups, a 70% majority, were outraged, setting up long-term ethnic animosities.
The minority party, the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), representing a coalition of small tribes that had feared dominance by larger ones, dissolved itself voluntarily in 1964 and former members joined KANU. KANU was the only party 1964–66 when a faction broke away as the Kenya People’s Union (KPU). It was led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former vice-president and Luo elder. KPU advocated a more “scientific” route to socialism — criticizing the slow progress in land redistribution and employment opportunities—as well as a realignment of foreign policy in favor of the Soviet Union. In June 1969, Tom Mboya, a Luo member of the government considered a potential successor to Kenyatta, was assassinated. Hostility between Kikuyu and Luo was heightened, and after riots broke out in Luo country KPU was banned. The government used a variety of political and economic measures to harass the KPU and its prospective and actual members. KPU branches were unable to register, KPU meetings were prevented and civil servants and politicians suffered severe economic and political consequences for joining the KPU. Kenya thereby became a one-party state under KANU.
Ignoring his suppression of the opposition and continued factionalism within KANU, the imposition of one-party rule allowed Mzee (“Old Man”) Kenyatta, who had led the country since independence, claimed he achieved “political stability.” Underlying social tensions were evident, however. Kenya’s very rapid population growth rate and considerable rural to urban migration were in large part responsible for high unemployment and disorder in the cities. There also was much resentment by blacks at the privileged economic position in the country of Asians and Europeans.
At Kenyatta’s death on August 22, 1978, Vice-President Daniel arap Moi became interim President. On October 14, Moi formally became President after he was elected head of KANU and designated its sole nominee. In June 1982, the National Assembly amended the constitution, making Kenya officially a one-party state. On August 1, members of the Kenyan Air Force launched an attempted coup, which was quickly suppressed by Loyalist forces led by the Army the General Service Unit (GSU) — paramilitary wing of the police — and later the regular police, but not without civilian casualties.
On the heels of the Garissa Massacre of 1980, Kenyan troops committed the Wagalla massacre in 1984 against thousands of civilians in Wajir County. An official probe into the atrocities was later ordered in 2011.
The election held in 1988 saw the advent of the mlolongo (queuing) system, where voters were supposed to line up behind their favored candidates instead of a secret ballot. This was seen as the climax of a very undemocratic regime and it led to widespread agitation for constitutional reform. Several contentious clauses, including one that allowed for only one political party, were changed in the following years. In democratic, multiparty elections in 1992 and 1997, Daniel arap Moi won re-election.
Constitutionally barred from running in the December 2002 presidential elections, Moi unsuccessfully promoted Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first President, as his successor. A rainbow coalition of opposition parties routed the ruling KANU party, and its leader, Moi’s former vice-president Mwai Kibaki, was elected President by a large majority.
On December 27, 2002, by 62% the voters overwhelmingly elected members of the National Rainbow Coalition (NaRC) to parliament and NaRC candidate Mwai Kibaki to the presidency. Voters rejected the Kenya African National Union’s (KANU) presidential candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, the handpicked candidate of outgoing president Moi. International and local observers reported the 2002 elections to be generally more fair and less violent than those of both 1992 and 1997. His strong showing allowed Kibaki to choose a cabinet, to seek international support and to balance power within the NaRC.
Once regarded as the world’s “most optimistic,” Kibaki’s regime quickly lost much of its power because it became too closely linked with the discredited Moi forces. The continuity between Kibaki and Moi set the stage for the self-destruction of Kibaki’s National Rainbow Coalition, which was dominated by Kikuyus. The western Luo and Kalenjin groups, demanding greater autonomy, backed Raila Amolo Odinga and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
In the December 2007 elections, Odinga, the candidate of the ODM, attacked the failures of the Kibaki regime. The ODM charged the Kikuyu have grabbed everything and all the other tribes have lost; that Kibaki had betrayed his promises for change; that crime and violence were out of control, and that economic growth was not bringing any benefits to the ordinary citizen.The ODM won majority seats in Parliament, but the presidential elections votes were marred by claims of rigging by both sides. It may never be clear who won the elections, but it was roughly 50:50 before the rigging started.
“Majimboism” was a philosophy that emerged in the 1950s, meaning federalism or regionalism in Swahili, and it was intended to protect local rights, especially regarding land ownership. Today “majimboism” is code for certain areas of the country to be reserved for specific ethnic groups, fueling the kind of ethnic cleansing that has swept the country since the election. Majimboism has always had a strong following in the Rift Valley, the epicenter of the recent violence, where many locals have long believed that their land was stolen by outsiders. The December 2007 election was in part a referendum on majimboism. It pitted today’s majimboists, represented by Odinga, who campaigned for regionalism, against Kibaki, who stood for the status quo of a highly centralized government that has delivered considerable economic growth but has repeatedly displayed the problems of too much power concentrated in too few hands — corruption, aloofness, favoritism and its flip side, marginalization.
In 2005, Kenyans rejected a plan to replace the 1963 independence constitution with a new one.
In mid-2011, two consecutive missed rainy seasons precipitated the worst drought in East Africa seen in 60 years. The northwestern Turkana region was especially affected, with local schools shut down as a result. The crisis was reportedly over by early 2012 because of coordinated relief efforts. Aid agencies subsequently shifted their emphasis to recovery initiatives, including digging irrigation canals and distributing plant seeds.
Kenya has considerable land area devoted to wildlife habitats, including the Masai Mara, where blue wildebeest and other bovids participate in a large scale annual migration. More than one million wildebeest and 200,000 zebras participate in the migration across the Mara River. The annual animal migration occurs between June and September attracting valuable foreign tourism. Two million wildebeest migrate a distance of 1,802 miles (2,900 kilometers) from the Serengeti in neighboring Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya, in a constant clockwise fashion, searching for food and water supplies. This Serengeti Migration of the wildebeest is a curious spectacle listed among the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa.
The “Big Five” game animals of Africa, that is the lion, leopard, buffalo, rhinoceros, and elephant, can be found in Kenya and in the Masai Mara in particular. A significant population of other wild animals, reptiles and birds can be found in the national parks and game reserves in the country.
Scott #601 was issued on February 14, 1994. The 5-shilling stamp, printed using the photogravure process on granite paper and perforated 15×14, portrays the African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer). This is a large species of eagle that is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa wherever large bodies of open water occur that have an abundant food supply. It is the national bird of Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Sudan. As a result of its large range, it is known in many languages. Examples of names include: visarend in Afrikaans, nkwazi in Chewa, aigle pêcheur in French, hungwe in Shona, and inkwazi in isiZulu. This species may resemble the bald eagle in appearance; though related, each species occurs on different continents, with the bald eagle being resident in North America.
The African fish eagle is a species placed in the genus Haliaeetus (sea eagles). Its closest relative appears to be the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle (H. vociferoides). Like all sea eagle species pairs, this one consists of a white-headed species (the African fish eagle) and a tan-headed one. These are an ancient lineage of sea eagles, and as such have dark talons, beaks, and eyes Both species have at least partially white tails even as juveniles. The scientific name is derived from Haliaeetus, New Latin for “sea eagle” (from the Ancient Greek haliaetos), and vocifer is derived from its original genus name, so named by the French naturalist François Levaillant, who called it ‘the vociferous one’.
The African fish eagle is a large bird, and the female, at 7.1-7.9 pounds (3.2–3.6 kilograms) is larger than the male, at 4.4-5.5 pounds (2–2.5 kg). This is typical of sexual dimorphism in birds of prey. Males usually have a wingspan around 6.6 feet (2 meters), while females have wingspans of 7.9 feet (2.4 m). The body length is 25-29.5 inches (63–75 centimeters). The adult is very distinctive in appearance with a mostly brown body with a white head like the bald eagle and large, powerful, black wings. The head, breast, and tail of African fish eagles are snow white, with the exception of the featherless face, which is yellow. The eyes are dark brown in color. The hook-shaped beak, ideal for a carnivorous lifestyle, is yellow with a black tip. The plumage of the juvenile is brown in color, and the eyes are paler compared to the adult. The feet have rough soles and are equipped with powerful talons to enable the eagle to grasp slippery aquatic prey. While this species mainly subsists on fish, it is opportunistic and may take a wider variety of prey such as waterbirds. Its distinctive cry is, for many, evocative of the spirit or essence of Africa. The call, shriller when uttered by males, is a weee-ah, hyo-hyo or a heee-ah, heeah-heeah.
This species is still quite common near freshwater lakes, reservoirs, and rivers, although they can sometimes be found near the coast at the mouths of rivers or lagoons. As their name implies, African fish eagles are indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa, ranging over most of continental Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Several examples of places where they may be resident include the Orange River in South Africa and Namibia, the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and Lake Malawi bordering its namesake country Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. The African fish eagle is thought to occur in substantial numbers around the locations of Lake Victoria and other large lakes in central Africa, particularly the Rift Valley lakes. This is a generalist species, requiring only open water with sufficient prey and a good perch, as evidenced by the number of habitat types in which this species may be found, including grassland, swamps, marshes, tropical rainforest, fynbos, and even desert-bordering coastlines, such as that of Namibia. The African fish eagle is absent from arid areas with little surface water.
The African fish eagle feeds mainly on fish, which it swoops down upon from a perch in a tree, snatching the prey from the water with its large, clawed talons. The eagle then flies back to its perch to eat its catch.
Like other sea eagles, the African fish eagle has structures on its toes called spiricules that allow it to grasp fish and other slippery prey. The osprey, a winter visitor to Africa, also has this adaptation. Should the African fish eagle catch a fish over 4 pounds (1.8 kg), it is too heavy to allow the eagle to get lift, so it instead drags the fish across the surface of the water until it reaches the shore. If it catches a fish too heavy to allow the eagle to sustain flight, it will drop into the water and paddle to the nearest shore with its wings. The African fish eagle is known to peculate other bird species (such as goliath herons) of their catch in a behavior known as kleptoparasitism. It also feeds on waterfowl such as ducks, small turtles and terrapins, baby crocodiles, greater flamingos and lesser flamingos, lizards, frogs and carrion. Occasionally, it may even carry off mammalian prey, such as hyraxes and monkeys. It has also been observed feeding on domestic fowl (chickens).
The bird is the national bird of Zimbabwe and appears on the Zimbabwean flag. The bird figures in the coat of arms of Namibia, Zambia, and South Sudan; and the Zambian flag.