Kenya in 1979

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According to, Kenya has an estimated population (in 1990) of 24.03 million residents. (it was 15,327,061 residents at the 1979 census). The most important and dominant ethnic group on the economic and political life of the country is that of the Kikuyu, followed by other groups of the Bantu stock. A large part of the population is concentrated in the area of ​​the central highlands, which offer the best climate and the best arable areas, but which represent only a very small part (less than 5%) of the total area of ​​the country. The most populous city is the capital Nairobi (1,429,000 residents, 1989 estimate) where a large part of the population flows, leaving the villages or nomadic pasture areas. Immigrants settle in neighborhoods that have sprung up in the surrounding area and are made up of clusters of precarious homes that contribute decisively to the worsening of the urban, social and economic situation of the capital. The very high rate of population increase (the birth rate exceeds 47ı, while the mortality rate fluctuates around 11ı) creates serious problems as the arable areas are now overcrowded and too intensely exploited. The agrarian reform begun in 1961, corrected and resized several times and completed in 1988, assigned all the fertile areas of the central highlands (formerly belonging to the British colonists, who had made these high lands an exclusive area for whites: the White Highlands) to local farmers, progressively reducing the area allocated to each family to reach a company size of less than one acre in recent years, absolutely uneconomical and impossible to manage profitably.

The vast areas of the central plateaus have been parceled out in a dense network of small farms which, being too intensely cultivated, have almost never reached levels of productivity sufficient to support families. Land reform has thus not been able to contain the increase in population within rural areas. As a result, there was a rush towards the capital and towards Mombasa with very negative effects on the urban organization of these two centers. The intensification of crops has caused a rapid degradation of forest areas (also destroyed to produce vegetable charcoal, which is the main source of thermal energy for families) and, together with stray grazing, a strong erosion of the sloping surfaces,

Even the areas of nomadic pasture show serious symptoms of crisis as the increasingly reduced possibility of movement of the nomads Maasai, Samburu, Rendille, Turkana, Gabbra and other minor groups forces these populations to intensify farming in increasingly smaller areas with a progressive impoverishment of the sparse vegetation cover of the steppe areas. Nomads today tend to gravitate more towards wetlands, where, moreover, irrigation projects aim to obtain new surfaces for farmers.

Agriculture and livestock still represent the primary source of employment, but only commercial crops such as coffee and tea give good economic results.

Coffee (Nyeri) is the most important product (in 1990 production was 90,000 tons, for 155,000 hectares cultivated): coffee is grown in small and medium-sized farms and is controlled by a specific government body, which seeks to reduce the effects of the price fluctuation of the international market on the Kenyan economy. The second most important product is tea, which experienced a rapid increase after 1970: currently 55,000 ha are grown by 145,000 small owners, while 23,000 ha belong to large farms; Kenya’s tea is of excellent quality and always gets good prices on international markets. The cultivation of agave sisalana is in a phase of contraction, while pyrethrum, grown in small family farms, today seems to have few prospects.

The industrial activity, concentrated in the areas of Nairobi and Mombasa, makes use of the hydroelectric energy production of the new large artificial basins of the Tana River, but has never reached great importance in the national economy. Tourism, on the other hand, seems destined for further expansion, and the number of people who visit the Kenya annually exceeds one million. The preferred tourist area is the coastal one (Mombasa, Malindi, Watamu), followed by those of Nairobi and Nyeri. The increasing presence of tourists in national parks and nature reserves is however causing, together with poaching, a rapid destruction of the naturalistic heritage of the Kenya, worryingly reducing one of the most important economic resources.

History. – Despite the great and intrusive personality of J. Kenyatta, first head of government and first president after independence, who died in 1978 after a few years in which his physical decline was accompanied by a climate of growing authoritarianism and machinations at the level of the family and of clan, the Kenya successfully passed the much feared moment of succession. The new president was proclaimed vice-president DA Moi, a member of the small Kalenjin ethnic group. The principle of an informal alliance, and of a kind of compensation, between Moi and the elite of the Kikuyu (the dominant ethnic group both numerically and economically and culturally) seemed to be acquired ; However,, which precisely means “following in the footsteps” (of Kenyatta) – Moi managed to build his own power base while at the same time strengthening the weight of the Kalenjin in the public administration. The party was strengthened and in 1982 the KANU (Kenya African National Union) became in effect, even by law, the single party.

The regime was in grave danger due to the military coup of 1 August 1982, hardly repressed by the loyalist armed forces, with a high loss of life. Another sign of crisis was the “ Njojo affair ”, which exploded sensationally in May 1983, when the name of the influential minister was made in conjunction with the rumors of a plot to replace Moi for the presidency: C. Njojo was removed from all the offices, in the government and in the single party, and resigned as a member of parliament. But the investigation ended without ascertaining precise responsibilities, and Njojo was cleared, although not rehabilitated. Another cause of turbulence has long been student protests: the University of Nairobi has been closed for long periods to facilitate ” normalization ”. For some years, a Mwakenya, who in 1991 formed a cartel of opponents called FORD (Forum for the Restauration of Democracy).

Elections for the Assembly were held in March 1988 according to a new ” open-air ” voting system, the cause of much controversy: behind the candidates, who had been selected by KANU, the voters had to ” line up ” ‘, depending on your preference. Also in 1988, Moi was re-elected president for the third time without opponents. Criticisms of the methods of government and the protection of human rights were often moved by circles connected to the Church, finding some response in Great Britain and the United States. Constitutional amendments, in 1986 and 1988, however, increased the powers of the president over Parliament and the judiciary. A very serious crisis followed the assassination in unclear circumstances of Foreign Minister R. Ouko in February 1990.

Kenya has intensified collaborative relations, including military ones, with Western countries. In 1980, it granted the use of its airports and ports for the strategic arrangement of the United States in the Indian Ocean-Arabian Gulf area. On the regional level, Kenya has tried to play a role of mediation and hegemony, with particular regard to the long guerrilla warfare in Uganda.

Kenya in 1979

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