North of the equator, Kenya's land is hot and dry. South of the equator are the humid coast, the temperate highlands, and tropical Lake Victoria. Almost 75 percent rural farmers and herders, Kenya's people represent more than 30 ethnic groups. Swahili is the official language.

Before the coming of the Europeans, Kenya was peopled by waves of cattle-herding African clans. The coastal areas were also home to Arab traders. This trade was later targeted by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, who gained control in 1896. During World War I, Kenya served as a British base of operations against the Germans in East Africa. After the Kikuyu-led Mau Mau Rebellion of the early 1950s, Kenya gained independence in 1963. Self-rule under Kenyatta and Moi has proved moderate, pro-Western, and progressive.

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