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Countries

Kenya

Kenya
Kenya
Kenya
(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
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Overview

Kenya hugs the Indian Ocean coast just to the southwest of the Horn of Africa. Its neighbors South Sudan and Ethiopia border it to the north, Somalia to the east, Tanzania to the south and Uganda to the west. Kenya’s position in East Africa has long drawn interest from outsiders. The territory of modern-day Kenya and its neighbors has been home to robust Indian Ocean trading networks that date to antiquity. This geographic proximity to global trade combined with the broader Lake Victoria region’s strengths -- which include relative cultural homogeneity and advantageous terrain for agricultural development -- helped to yield stable population and economic growth. Since it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, Kenya has struggled at times to manage its diverse ethnic populations. This has resulted in intermittent riots and other forms of unrest related to grievances of various ethnic groups that believed that they were disenfranchised from the country’s political system. Post-electoral violence in 2007-08 and again in 2017 stemmed largely from Nairobi’s mismanagement of its ethnic divisions. Nevertheless, Kenya occupies the center of gravity in East Africa. Despite Ethiopia’s massive population advantage and economic growth, it remains relatively isolated when compared with Kenya. That allows Kenya to serve as a center for East Africa’s trade, business, security and diplomatic efforts. It also remains a robust supporter of the East African Community, which is fostering closer economic and political ties among Kenya’s neighbors. Somalia's collapse and its struggles with state-building and militancy, especially the al Shabaab group, has spawned effects that spill over its border with Kenya. Ethnic Somalis -- both refugees and Kenyan citizens -- have pursued an uneasy existence on Kenya's northern coast and in various camps around Nairobi. This has posed a significant challenge for Nairobi to manage, especially as the security situation in Somalia shows no signs of dramatically improving in the years ahead.

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