Population and ethnicity
Kenya 's population sits just under 30 million. The largest ethnic group is the Kikuyu, who make up about one fifth of the population. The other main tribal groups are Luhya, Luo, Kamba and Kalenjin at about 10% each. With increasing national poverty ethnic conflict has risen. Most of the friction has taken place in western Kenya and been directed against the Kikuyu, many of whom have been displaced form their homelands.
Avoiding committing a social faux pas in Kenya presents a challenge as a result of the country's ethnic and religious diversity. There are over seventy tribal groups, four main religions(Catholicism, Protestantism, Animism and Islam, in descending order of numbers of followers) and the coastal Swahili society that developed independently of the inland cultures. This said there are a few general pointers that ring true throughout the country. Photography is a sensitive issue, and permission must be sought before taking portraits. In the Samburu and Maasai reserves some tribespeople make their living through charging for photos, another option is to take an address and send a copy when you return home. You won't be in Kenya long before you find that the country runs on a different clock, Africa time. Most things do eventually get done, although at their own laid back pace, getting irate won't speed things up and is likely to be met with the unofficial national motto hakuna matata - no problem. Kenyans are a fiercely patriotic people and standing is obligatory when the national anthem is played(under threat of arrest). Similarly defacing or tearing up banknotes will be met with arrest.
Tourism is one of the mainstays of the Kenyan economy, and the chief earner of foreign currency. During the 1990's the tourist industry suffered as a result of several highly publicised murders and the bombing of the American Embassy. The other main contributor to the economy is agriculture, responsible for 27% of the GDP. While Kenya has a broad agricultural base, the focus is mainly on cash crops, notably tea and coffee, which are sensitive to the weather and susceptible to price fluctuations on the international market.
The two overriding factors in Kenya 's politics are the longevity of President Daniel Arap Moi and alleged governmental corruption. President Moi has led the country since 1978 at the head of the KANU party, dominated by the Kalenjin ethnic group. It's this break down of political parties along ethnic lines that poses the biggest threat to the country's civil stability. When in 1992 Kenya became a multiparty democracy President Moi received international criticism for axing the length of the campaign period, ensuring victory for KANU.
The next elections took place in 1997, this time Moi was accused of precipitating ethnic violence(mostly against the Kikuyu), intimidation and electoral fraud. Until recently governmental corruption has largely been ignored by the media and Kenya 's populous, however now that Kenya 's coffers have run dry(and water and energy are being rationed throughout the country) changes are afoot. In the summer of 1999 the olive branch was extended to Richard Leakey, a former opponent of president Moi, when he was appointed to spearhead a governmental initiative against corruptionv.In 2003 the election of President Mwai Kibaki put and end to four decades of Kanu party rule and remains in power to date.