The father of US President Barack Obama was a Kenyan national. Kenyan athletes hold eight Commonwealth Games records and nineteen world records. Kenya hosts the UN Human Settlements Programme (UNHabitat), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and a national chapter of the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council.
Kenya lies astride the equator, extending from the Indian Ocean in the east to Uganda in the west and from the United Republic of Tanzania in the south to Ethiopia and Sudan in the north. On the east and north-east it borders Somalia.
The country is divided into eight provinces (Central, Coast, Eastern, Nairobi, North-Eastern, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western).
Nairobi (capital, pop. 3.25m in 2010), Mombasa (Coast, 917,800), Nakuru (Rift Valley, 275,300), Eldoret (Rift Valley, 251,900), Kisumu (Nyanza, 230,600), Ruiru (Central, 167,100), Thika (Central, 106,000), Malindi (Coast, 82,200), Kitale (Rift Valley, 81,300), Bungoma (Western, 76,700), Kakamega (Western, 71,300), Garissa (North-Eastern, 63,900), Kilifi (Coast, 63,900), Mumias (Western, 57,900), Meru (Eastern, 51,600), Nyeri (Central, 49,400), Wajir (North-Eastern, 41,400), Lamu (Coast, 32,400) and Marsabit (Eastern, 16,700).
63,270km of roads, 14% paved, and around 1,920km of railway. The main railway line runs between Mombasa and Nairobi, and branch lines connect with Taveta on the Tanzanian border in the south and Kisumu on Lake Victoria in the west. Mombasa is the chief port for Kenya and an important regional port, handling freight for and from Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, including a substantial volume of food aid. Ferries ply the coast between Mombasa, Malindi and Lamu. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is 13km south-east of Nairobi. Moi International is 13km west of Mombasa.
Kenya is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, East African Community, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, Non-Aligned Movement, United Nations and World Trade Organization. Kenya was a member, with Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, of the East African Community, which from 1967 had a common market and many shared services, but collapsed in 1977. The three countries again embarked on developing regional cooperation in 1993, bringing about progressive harmonisation of standards and policies across a wide range of activities and launching a new East African Community in January 2001 and East African Customs Union in January 2005. The Community was enlarged in July 2007 when Burundi and Rwanda became members. Kenya is also a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, which was established in 1986 by the six countries in the Horn of Africa to combat drought and desertification and promote food security in the region. Kenya hosts the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi.
There are four main regions. The north-east plain is arid. The south-east region is fertile along the Tana river, in the coastal strip and in the Taita Hills, which rise to 2,100m. The northwest is generally low-lying and arid but includes Lake Turkana, 260km long, and many mountains, including Nyiru (2,800m). The south-west quarter, a plateau rising to 3,000m, includes some of Africa’s highest mountains: Mount Kenya (5,200m), Mount Elgon (4,320m) and the Aberdare Range (4,000m). The Great Rift Valley runs across the plateau from north to south, 50-65km wide and 600-1,000m deep. West of the Rift the plateau falls to Lake Victoria and eastward the rivers Tana and Athi (or Galana downstream) flow into the Indian Ocean.
The coastal areas are tropical, with monsoon winds. The lowlands are hot and mainly dry. The highlands are much cooler and have four seasons. Nairobi, 1,700m above sea level, has a mean temperature that ranges from a minimum of 13°C to a maximum of 25°C; Mombasa, on the coast, from a minimum of 23°C to a maximum of 29°C. Rainfall varies from a mean annual 150mm at Lodwar in the north-west to 1,470mm at Kisumu, near Lake Victoria in the west. Northern parts of the country were hit by severe floods in the latter part of 2007.
The most significant issues are water pollution from urban and industrial wastes; degradation of water quality from increased use of pesticides and fertilisers; water hyacinth infestation in Lake Victoria; deforestation; soil erosion; desertification; and poaching.
Thornbush and grassland are characteristic of much of the country. Varied forest covers about 13,000 sq km of the south-west quarter, at 2-3,500m above sea level. Forest covers 6% of the land area, having declined at 0.3% p.a. 1990-2010. Arable land comprises 9% and permanent cropland 1% of the total land area
Kenya’s wildlife is probably the most famous in the world. Wild mammals include lions, leopards, cheetahs, zebras, antelopes, gazelles, elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotami, baboons and many kinds of monkeys. There are 359 recorded species of mammals, of which 51 are endangered. Reptiles include crocodiles and more than 100 species of snake. There is a rich variety of native birdlife and the country is visited by migrant birds whichbreed in Europe. There are 344 species of birds, 24 of which are endangered. Wildlife is protected in reserves extending to 45,500 sq km, or some 8% of the total land area. breed in Europe. There are 344 species of birds, 24 of which are endangered. Wildlife is protected in reserves extending to 45,500 sq km, or some 8% of the total land area.