Facts: Culture

Kenya will host its first live presidential debates

  • Kenya will have its first-ever live presidential debates this election season, with the first debate set for November 26.  Two additional debates are set for January 14 and February 11 of next year, ahead of the elections on March 4.
  • The first debate will be broadcasted by eight television stations, 32 radio stations and streamed online.
  • Kenyan citizens will be able to submit questions for the presidential candidates and participate by expressing their opinions live through social media.

Source: Voice of America

Dallas Mavericks Superstar Dirk Nowitzki had a traditional Kenyan wedding

  • NBA star Dirk Nowitzki married his longtime girlfriend Jessica Olsson, born of a Swedish father and a Kenyan mother, over the July 15 weekend in Kenya.
  • The Kenya ceremony was a traditional Kikuyu wedding ceremony, commonly referred to as Ngurario, meant to announce to the community that the daughter is engaged.
  • Olsson wore a traditional Kikuyu garment while Nowitzki wore a dark brown traditional outfit with orange hues. Jessica was also presented with a kiondo by elderly kikuyu women. After the ceremony, the couple and the guests danced to Mugithi songs, featuring one man guitarists strumming electric benga tunes.

Source: Jambo News Spot
Source: Newstime Africa

Kenyan Track Star David Rudisha is a top favorite for the London Olympic Games

  • Kenya's David Rudisha broke the 13-year-old men's 800-meter world record for the second time in eight days in August 2010. He clocked 1 minute, 41.01 seconds in the two-lap race meeting in Rieti, shaving 0.08 seconds off his mark set the previous weekend in Berlin.
  • He is the only runner to have run under 1 minute 43 seconds this year and has lost only one race in nearly three years – last September in a sprint finish at the end of a long season
  • London 2012 will be Rudisha's first Olympic experience since an injury kept him out of the Beijing Games. Experts consider him a likely athlete for gold medal glory and even perhaps a new world record at the London Games.

Source: Guinness World Record
Source: Sport24
Source: Vanity Fair

President Obama recently honored the legacy of the late Kenyan activist Dr. Wangari Maathai, and has urged other countries to follow her example

  • Speaking to ministers and conservationists at the Durban climate talks this month, Obama hailed Maathai's life as “a testament to the power of a single person’s idea that the simple act of planting a tree can be a profound statement of dignity and hope first in one village, then in one nation, and now across Africa.”
  • Maathai's legacy and accomplishments were commemorated last week in TIME Magazine's “Person of the Year” issue. Oprah Winfrey, writing for TIME, called Maathai a “peaceful warrior who used her voice for the voiceless.” She is also the subject of the 2008 documentary “Taking Root.”
  • In 2004, Dr. Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Green Belt Movement, a pro-democracy and women's rights group that inspired activists around the world. She was the first African woman to receive the prize, as well as the first female in East Africa to earn a Ph. D.

Source: The Guardian
Source: TIME
Source: The Green Belt Movement
Source: “Taking Root” Website

Kenyan runner Vivian Cheruiyot Was Named Sportswoman of the Year

  • In a ceremony held in London's Central Hall on Monday, February 9, Vivian Cheruiyot was given the Laureus Award for Sportswoman of the Year. Cheruiyot won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs at last year's Track and Field World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
  • Laureus is an organization dedicated to bringing people together through sport. Cheruiyot received her award alongside Laureus's Sportsman of the Year Novak Djokovic, and joined fellow Laureus award winners like golfer Rory Mcilroy and the FC Barcelona soccer team.
  • Cheruiyot, already a two-time Olympian, is among the favorites to medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

Kenyans are among the most prolific users of Twitter in Africa

  • A report by Kenya-based Portland Communications and Tweetminster titled “How Africa Tweets” found that with 2.5 million tweets over a period of three months, Kenya was the second most active country in Africa.
  • Uses for twitter vary: over 80 percent of those polled said they mainly used it for communicating with friends and 68 percent said they use it to monitor news. The study also found wide use of other social media services in Africa. Of the people using Twitter, 94 percent also used Facebook, 69 percent used YouTube, 46 percent used Google+ and 37 percent used LinkedIn.
  • Twitter became a key tool during the Kenyan constitutional referendum in 2010. Voters and poll watchers used Twitter to communicate in real-time, and help ensure a peaceful and successful referendum.


Source: Washington Post
Source: Christian Science Monitor

Kenyan animators are using technology to reach a global audience

  • Kenyan animators are now able to collaborate with production companies and other artists from around the world thanks to the arrival of fiber-optic cable in East Africa along with other technological advances.
  • Nairobi-based “Homeboyz Animation” offers the most recent success story. The company worked with a U.K. production company and the BBC to produce the popular children's cartoon “Tinga Tinga Tales” (pictured above).
  • The future for Kenyan animators is bright. New opportunities for international collaboration, as well as rising demand for content from Kenya's own broadcasters, means that entrepreneurs like Pete Mute, who launched  the animation company “African Sci-Fi Factory,” will be able to share their work with larger and larger audiences.

Source: Variety

Kenyan runner Patrick Makau set a new world record at the 2011 Berlin Marathon.

  • Makau finished the 26.2 mile Berlin Marathon in a record-setting two hours, three minutes and 38 seconds.
  • His victory shaved 21 seconds off of the previous world record set by Ethiopia's Haile Gebrselassie in the 2008 Berlin race.
  • Continuing Kenya's tradition of marathon excellence, Kenya's Florence Kiplagat also won the Berlin Marathon's women's race, clocking in at two hours, 19 minutes and 44 seconds.

Source: The New York Times

Kenya is home to some of the world's earliest records of human existence.

  • In the 1900s, scientists found evidence of man's earliest advanced tools near Kenya's Lake Turkana. Originally estimated to be between 1.4 million and 1.6 million-years-old, in 2011 geologists discovered the stone tools were approximately 1.76 million years old, making them the oldest known advanced human tools.
  • A skull excavated near the Turkana site in 2010 suggests that Homo erectus – one of modern man's early ancestors – created these tools.
  • In 2007, 1.44 million-year-old Homo habilis and 1.55 million-year-old Homo erectus skulls were also discovered near Lake Turkana.

Sources: The New York Times (1), The New York Times (2)


Kenya is home to six United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Sites.

  • Fort Jesus – constructed by the Portuguese in the late 1500s – and the Kenya Lake System in Kenya's Rift Valley were both added to UNESCO's World Heritage List in June 2011.
  • Kenya is also home to four other World Heritage Sites – the Lake Turkana National Parks, Mount Kenya National Park and Natural Forest, Lamu Old Town and the Sacred Mijikenda Kaya Forests.
  • UNESCO's World Heritage List includes 936 properties around the world that form “part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee regards as having outstanding universal value.”

Sources: AFP 1, AFP 2, UNESCO

A Kenyan runner was named the 2011 World Athlete of the Year.

  • Kenyan runner Patrick Makau was named the 2011 Association of International Marathons and Distance Races' (AIMS) World Athlete of the Year, one of the most highly coveted awards in running.
  • Makau had an outstanding year in 2010, winning the 36th annual City-Pier-City Half Marathon in The Hague, the Rotterdam Marathon and the Berlin Marathon.
  • In winning the prestigious award, Makau joins the ranks of past Kenyan winners Benson Masya, Paul Tergat, Josephat Kiprono and Sammy Wanjiru.
  • “This is my first AIMS/ASICS Athlete of the Year Award and I hope it will be the first of many,” Makau said. “I am truly honored for my name to be listed among some of the greatest athletes and distance runners of all time.”

Sources: Afrique Jet, Daily Nation, International Association of Athletics Federations


A Kenyan scientist helped develop a groundbreaking new drug to treat Hepatitis C.


  • Dr. George Njoroge, the Kenyan-born director of medicinal chemistry at the Merck Research Laboratories, was at the center of the development of Victrelis, which was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • The development of Victrelis is the biggest breakthrough in the treatment of the Hepatitis C virus in the last decade. The first-of-its-kind pill has been shown to cure more patients in less time than other drugs presently used.
  • “Victrelis is an important new advance for patients with hepatitis C,” said Dr. Edward Cox, director of the FDA’s office of antimicrobial products. “This new medication provides an effective treatment for a serious disease, and offers a greater chance of cure for some patients' Hepatitis C infection compared to currently available therapy.”

Sources: Daily Nation, Cox News

National Geographic's upcoming film “The First Grader” tells the compelling, true story of Kenyan Kimani Nganga Maruge.

  • Maruge, a freedom fighter who helped Kenya gain independence from Britain, attended school for the first time in his life at the age of 84, alongside his grandchildren.
  • Maruge's education was made possible when the Kenyan government in 2003 made primary education free for all Kenyans. Until his death in 2009, Maruge was the Guinness World Record holder for being the oldest person to begin primary school.
  • The film has received critical acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival and the Palm Beach International Film Festival, where it was named Best Feature Film. The film premieres in selected U.S. cities starting this month. For more info, visit www.thefirstgrader-movie.com.

Sources: Indie Wire, The Seattle Times, Zenit

Twenty-five Kenyan men and women have won the Boston Marathon since 1988.

  • Kenyan Catherine Ndereba holds the record for the most victories in the women's division after winning the race four times in six years.
  • In 2010, Kenyan runner Robert Kiprono Cheruiyot won the men's race for the fifth time and set a new course record of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 52 seconds. Kenyan Margaret Okayo set the course record for the women's race in 2002 after completing the 26.2 mile course in 2 hours, 20 minutes and 43 seconds.
  • Kenyan Ambassador to the United States Elkanah Odembo ran the marathon in 1979.

Sources: Wikipedia, Adventure-Marathon.com, RunWithKenyans.com



Kenya is home to East Africa's only women's university

  • Nairobi's Kiriri Women’s University of Science and Technology opens doors for women in the traditionally male-dominated fields of math and science.
  • The university engages its students in special seminars on women's ability to excel and manage in the workplace, says Deputy Vice Chancellor Njeri Gikonyo. “When they graduate, they end up being very special and in that way, they make a name for themselves in the market,” she explained.
  • Educators say girls' and women's access to education is improving in Kenya as the country strives to reach its UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Vision 2030 economic goals. Last year, girls made up 45 percent of Kenya’s secondary school enrollment.

Source: Voice of America

Kenya's Edna Kiplagat won first place in the women's division in the 2010 New York City Marathon

  • Kiplagat finished the grueling 26-mile race at 2 hours, 28 minutes and 40 seconds, 20 seconds ahead of second place women's division winner American Shalane Flanagan.
  • Kiplagat, 31, is the first Kenyan woman to win the New York City Marathon since Margaret Okayo set the course record of 2 hours, 22 minutes and 31 seconds in 2003.
  • “This year has gone very well with me,” Kiplagat said, also referencing her victory in the Los Angeles Marathon earlier this year. “I am happy that I have closed the year with New York success.”

Source: Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

Britain's Prince William proposed to his fiancée, Kate Middleton, in Kenya

  • Prince William proposed while on holiday at the Lew Downs Safari Lodge, a 55,000-acre game reserve.
  • He proposed with his late mother's 18-carat oval sapphire and diamond ring. Prince William said of the ring, “it's very special to me. As Kate's very special to me now, it was right to put the two together.”
  • Prince William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, was in Kenya on a tour of the Commonwealth when her succession to the throne was declared in 1952.

Sources: Suite101.comNYT EuropeBBC

Kenya has been the location for dozens of Hollywood films since the 1950s

  • The 1986 Academy Award-winning film Out of Africa, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, was filmed in Kenya.
  • World-acclaimed films like The Constant Gardener and the 2003 Academy Award winner Nowhere in Africa were also filmed in Kenya.
  • The 1966 movie Born Free, based on the true story of an orphaned lion cub raised by Joy and George Adamson and released into the wild as an adult, was filmed entirely on location in Kenya. The film's stars, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, went on to form The Born Free Foundation – a charity that continues to support conservation work in Kenya.

Source: Kenya Film CommissionKenya High Commission

There are over 6,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Kenya

  • Approximately 5,500 NGOs are national organizations and the remainder are international NGOs.
  • Kenya has a National Council of NGOs that supervises and coordinates the affairs and functions of NGOs in Kenya.
  • Kenya's National Council of NGOs carried out civic education projects ahead of the August 4 Constitutional referendum to ensure its peaceful passage.

Source: National Council of NGOs

The 2009 CNN African Journalist of the Year is Kenyan

  • John-Allan Namu is an anchor, reporter, and features editor for Kenya's Nation TV.
  • Previously, Namu anchored the Kenya Television Network's “Business Today” program, the daily business segment of KTN Prime, and KTNWeekend Prime.
  • As the winner of the Television Bulletin, Television Features, and MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Awards, Namu traveled to CNNoffices in Atlanta and met with 12 other international journalists to share their field experiences.

Source: CNN

Kenya is home to the oldest person to start primary school

  • In 2004, Kimani Nganga Maruge started primary school at the age of 84.
  • Kenya's introduction of free primary school in 2003 made it possible for Maruge to join two of his grandchildren at Kapkenduiywa School.
  • The great-grandfather held a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest person in the world to start primary school from 2004 to 2010. His story inspired the 2010 film The First Grader.
  • In September 2005, Maruge boarded a plane for the first time in his life to address the United Nations Millennium Development Summit on the importance of free primary education.

Source: BBC NewsHollywood Reporter

70% of Kenyan coffee is produced by small-scale farmers

  • It is estimated that the coffee industry directly or indirectly employs 6 million Kenyans, including 700,000 growers.
  • The small-scale farmers are members of cooperative societies which process their own coffee.
  • The major coffee growing regions in Kenya are the High Plateaus around Mt. Kenya, the Aberdare Range, Kisii, Nyanza, Bungoma, Nakuru and Kericho.

Source: BBC NewsHollywood Reporter

Kenya's Paul Kibbi Tergat is considered one of the most successful long-distance runners of all time

  • Paul Kibbi Tergat held the world record in the marathon from 2003 to 2007.
  • During his career, he won a long list of gold, silver and bronze medals in running competitions around the world.
  • Since 2004, Tergat has been an ambassador for the UN World Food Program, which provided him with school lunch as a child, since his parents were too poor to send him to school with food. Tergat says he could not have finished school without this program.

Source: Kenya Advisor.com

A Kenyan girl was the first African to be awarded an International Eco-Hero Award

  • The International Young Eco-Hero Award recognizes young people for their environmental achievements.
  • Winne Owade, a 14-year-old girl from Kenya, was awarded third place in the 2005 International Eco-Hero awards for organizing a feeding program to sustain local monkeys that were damaging crops in the surrounding areas as they searched for food.

Source: Free Press.com

Kenya is home to the tallest tower in all of East and Central Africa

  • The Times Tower is located in Nairobi and stands 38 stories high
  • This magnificent facility took four years to construct and was completed in 2000
  • The Times Tower is home to the Kenya Revenue Authority

Sources: Howard Humphreys Consulting EngineersKenya Revenue Authority

The Lion King's song “hakuna matata” means “no worries” in Kenya's national language, Swahili

  • The Swahili language is derived from several globally spoken languages, including the local Bantu dialect and Arabic.
  • Swahili also incorporates German, Portuguese, English and French words into its vocabulary.

Source: University of Toronto

Kenya is home to one of the world's best marathon runners

  • Robert Kipkoech Cheruiyot is the four-time winner of the Boston Marathon, having taken the top prize in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2008.
  • He also won the first ever Marathon Majors series, with three wins and a fourth-place finish in the most prestigious races in the world.

Source: World Marathon Majors

Coast Causerie, a column in Kenya's newspaper The Standard, holds the world record for the longest running newspaper column

  • The Coast Causerie column ran uninterrupted for 58 years, between 1943 and 2001.
  • Columnist Edward Rodwell, who was still writing the column when he died at the age of 95, started the column as a “personal hobby” telling the “off-beat story of strange occasions and the people involved.”

Source: Kenya Coast Week

There are 62 languages spoken in Kenya

  • Many Kenyans are multilingual, speaking several African languages and English.
  • Kenya has a rich multilingual history and Kenyan languages come from the Middle-East, Asia and Africa.
  • Swahili is spreading in popularity outside Kenya and is now widely spoken in parts of Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia and the Sudan.
  • The African languages of Kenya come from three different language families – Bantu languages spoken in the center and southeast, Nilotic languages spoken in the west and Cushitic languages spoken in the northeast.

Source: University of TorontoEthnologue, Languages of the World