NAIROBI, Kenya (AFP) – Kenya is a political and economic powerhouse in East Africa, renowned for its wildlife and stunning tropical beaches.
It has become a key player on the regional scene, but its economy has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic, a punishing drought and fallout from the war in Ukraine.
As he heads to the polls on Tuesday, here are the key facts about the country:
– End of the Kenyatta Era –
Kenya became independent from Great Britain on December 12, 1963, marked by the Mau Mau rebellion of 1952-1960 against colonial rule that killed at least 10,000 people.
Icon of the struggle for independence Jomo Kenyatta was named Kenya’s first postcolonial leader. He died in office in August 1978, succeeded by vice president Daniel arap Moi.
In late 1991 Moi left the one-party government and won presidential elections in 1992 and 1997.
Mwai Kibaki then came to power in 2002 and won re-election in 2007 against Raila Odinga, now one of the top on 9 August.
The vote-counting controversies of 2007 sparked the most severe political violence since independence, with more than 1,100 people killed in ethnic clashes.
Jomo Kenyatta’s son Uhuru Kenyatta defeated Odinga in the 2013 election despite being charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the violence.
The court dismissed the lawsuit against him in 2014 and Kenyatta was re-elected in 2017 after the Supreme Court overturned his initial victory and Odinga boycotted the reply.
Vice President William Ruto, Odinga’s main rival next week, was also charged by the ICC, but prosecutors dropped the case in 2016.
– ‘Cradle of humanity’ –
Kenya attracted around 1.5 million visitors last year to its natural parks and idyllic Indian Ocean beaches.
From the Masai Mara to Amboseli, Kenya boasts around 50 parks and reserves that are home to native wildlife including the so-called Big Five – lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffaloes – as well as giraffes, hippos and cheetahs.
The Rift Valley, which stretches from Tanzania to Ethiopia via Kenya, is also the site of important fossil discoveries showing the evolution of man and has been dubbed the “Cradle of Humanity”.
Hominid remains have been found in Kenya believed to be nearly six million years old.
– East African hub –
Kenya has a predominantly Christian population of around 50 million, according to government data, made up of more than 40 tribes, the largest of which is Kikuyu.
Together with Ethiopia, it is the largest economy in East Africa with a gross domestic product of just over $ 110 billion in 2021, according to the World Bank, and remains the region’s main trading hub.
Agriculture is the backbone of the economy, accounting for over a fifth of GDP, with key exports including tea, coffee and flowers.
Kenya estimates its economy grew 7.5% last year after declining 0.3% in 2020, when the pandemic left hundreds of thousands of people unemployed.
It is now grappling with a cost-of-living crisis as fuel and basic food prices skyrocket in a country where about a third of the population lives in poverty.
Kenya also suffers from endemic corruption. It ranked 128 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index, with the watchdog saying its fight against corruption was “stagnant”.
– Athletics stars –
Kenya is renowned for its athletes, especially long distance runners, with a number of medals and world championship records.
Among its many stars are marathon world record holders Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei and Africa’s fastest 100m man, Ferdinand Omanyala.
However, Kenyan athletics are struggling to rebuild a reputation tarnished by doping and corruption.
– Bloody attacks –
Kenya suffered a series of terrorist attacks, the deadliest on August 7, 1998, when massive attacks on the US embassy in Nairobi killed 213 people and injured 5,000. Al-Qaeda said so.
Kenya has also been targeted by Al-Shabaab, linked to Al-Qaeda, since 2011, when the Kenyan army entered Somalia to fight jihadists.
In September 2013, Islamist gunmen stormed Nairobi’s Westgate Shopping Center, killing at least 67 people. In April 2015, another Al-Shabaab attack killed 148 people at a university in Garissa in eastern Kenya.
txw / amu / ri
© Agence France-Presse