Kenya, which was holding elections on Tuesday a decade after deadly post-poll violence, is one of east Africa’s leading economies with a crucial tourism sector based on safaris and tropical beaches.
– Post-election violence –
Kenya was a British colony until independence on December 12, 1963.
Jomo Kenyatta, the country’s first president, died in office in August 1978, to be succeeded by Daniel arap Moi.
In late 1991 Moi abandoned the single party system under international pressure and won presidential elections in 1992 and 1997.
Moi was replaced by Mwai Kibaki in late 2002 and the main opposition National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) won the legislative elections the same year.
Kibaki went on to win re-election in late 2007 against opponent Raila Odinga. A controversial vote-tallying process sparked the most serious political violence since independence, in which more than 1,100 were killed and 600,000 displaced.
In 2008, Kibaki and Odinga signed a coalition accord, with Odinga named prime minister.
In March 2013 Uhuru Kenyatta defeated Odinga, despite charges of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the 2007-2008 violence. The court dropped its case against him in December 2014.
– Bloody attacks –
On August 7, 1998, an attack against the US embassy in Nairobi killed 213 people and wounded 5,000.
On November 28, 2002 suicide bombers drove a vehicle into an Israeli-owned hotel near the port of Mombasa, killing 12 Kenyans and three Israelis.
The attacks were claimed by Al-Qaeda.
Since the entry of the Kenyan military into Somalia in October 2011 to fight the Islamist Shabaab group, affiliated to Al-Qaeda, there has been an upsurge of attacks.
On September 21, 2013, Islamist gunmen stormed Nairobi’s Westgate mall, killing at least 67 people.
On April 2, 2015, another Shabaab attack killed 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.
– East African trading centre –
Kenya has been overtaken by Ethiopia as east Africa’s biggest economy, but remains the region’s main trading hub.
It derives its income from game parks and tropical beaches, as well as exports of cut flowers.
Since the attacks claimed by the Shabaab, several western countries have advised their citizens to stay away from Kenya’s coastal zones, including the port of Mombasa, the country’s second city.
Kenya has seen growth of more than five percent since 2013, thanks to public investment in infrastructure.
However the growth has not benefited all Kenyans and the price of corn flour, the staple for many Kenyans, has spiralled.
The country suffers from endemic corruption and was ranked 145th out of 176 countries in 2016 on Transparency International’s graft perceptions index.
Kenya has a mostly Christian population of 48.5 million people, according to the African Development Bank. Its most populous ethnic groups are the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo and Kalenjin.
– Athletics champions –
Kenya is renowned for its athletes, especially its long distance runners, competing against neighbour and rival Ethiopia for world championship medals and records.
Among its numerous stars are Olympic champions David Rudisha and Eliud Kipchoge.
Kenyan athletics is nevertheless going through a deep crisis, affected by doping allegations and strong suspicions of corruption.
– Cradle of mankind –
The Rift Valley, which stretches from Tanzania to Ethiopia via Kenya was the scene of major discoveries of fossils, and has been dubbed the “cradle of mankind”.
The remains of hominids believed to be nearly two million years old have been found in Kenya.