The present-day country of Kenya, like many other African nations, grew out of 19th and 20th century European colonialism. At the Berlin Conference of 1885, the great European powers first partitioned East Africa into "spheres of influence." In 1895, the British government established the East African Protectorate and opened Kenya's fertile highlands to white settlers. Britain made Kenya an official British colony in 1920, but did not allow Africans any participation in their own government until 1944. Local agitation for self-rule continued in Kenya following World War II. The country was granted independence from the United Kingdom on December 12, 1963. This day is celebrated annually as a national holiday.
Compared to other former European colonies in Africa, Kenya's transition to independence was remarkably orderly and free of racial strife, due, at least in parts, to the government's sensitivity to political rights and freedoms. Kenya has maintained remarkable stability during the many changes within its democratic system. The original bicameral legislature merged into a single body, the National Assembly.
Since independence, the ruling party has been the Kenya African National Union (KANU). In 1982, an amendment to the Constitution made the country a one-party state. KANU then became Kenya's only legal political organization. The amendment was repealed in 1991, and multiparty elections occurred. The central government has continued to pursue a policy of Africanization. However, significant participation by Asians and Europeans is accepted.
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