|Map of Kenya (click here to enlarge)
by A. Joseph Lynch
Physical Ecology: Natural Resources and Physical Geography
At roughly 225,000 square miles, Kenya is slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Kenya is situated in east-central Africa with the equator running laterally across the heart of the nation and the mostly dormant volcano and lake-filled Great Rift Valley dividing its far west from the east. Kenya's capital city of Nairobi is located in the nation's south, placing it in the southern hemisphere. Farther south on the Indian Ocean is Kenya's major port city of Mombasa. The tropical climate on the coast turns into savanna grasslands further inland before becoming more arid in the north and east, particularly around the Chalbi desert. Kenya's west borders Lake Victoria, the largest tropical fresh water lake in the world. Kenya is also home to the continent's second-highest mountain, Mt. Kenya.
Kenya's natural resources includes limestone, soda ash, salt, gemstones, fluorspar, zinc, diatomite, oil, gas, gypsum, wildlife and hydropower. Kenya's economy, however, is dominated by the services industry (61% of GDP) in relation to tourism, while agricultural production ranks second (24% of GDP). Despite being the most industrially developed nation in region, Kenya manufacturing totals only 14% of the nation's GDP.
Communal Loyalties: Ethnicity, Language, and Religion
Kenya may be about the size of Texas, but its population of 45 million is roughly equal to the populations of Texas and New York state combined. Moreover, 73% of Kenya's population are under the age of 30, placing an already populous nation in the middle of a boom. The ethnic population of Kenya is more or less divided among two major groups, the Bantus (who comprise two-thirds of the population) and the Nilotes. Within the two groups are approximately 69 different languages spoken despite the fact that English (due to Kenya being a British colony from 1888-1962) and Swahili are Kenya's official languages. Kenya is 83% Christian (48% Protestant and 24% Catholic) and 11% Muslim (8% of these are Shiite and 73% are Sunni). As a Christian nation, Kenya soundly rejected the lecturing of President Obama on the topic of homosexuality.
Geopolitics: Political Geography and Foreign Policy
Kenya borders Tanzania to its south, Uganda to its west, South Sudan and Ethiopia to its north, and Somalia to its east.
While Kenya resists the "ideological colonization" of the atheist West, Kenya is geographically situated on the civilizational fault line that divides Africa's Islamic north from its Christianizing south. Due to a porous border with Islamic Somalia, Muslim terrorists belonging to Al Shabaab often attack Christian Kenya (recall the 147 Christian Kenyans killed this past April). As a result, Kenya has at times been forced to launch military operations in Somalia (see our past Map on Monday posts regarding African terrorism and the Horn of Africa for more).
Kenya is a founding member of the East African Community with its five member nations consisting of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. As 76% of the population in these nations are Christian, it is no wonder that Islamic Sudan's application to the EAC was rejected in December 2011 while Christian South Sudan is considered to be the most likely next member nation. Other nations which may be integrated into the EAC include Malawi (68% Christian), Congo (95% Christian) and Zambia (98% Christian and constitutionally-declared Christian). Although Islamic Somalia seeks integration into the EAC, the decision to allow it entry has been deferred since last February.