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Africa 2006,

The discovery of fossilized remains of humanlike beings and Stone Age relics from archaeological sites in Kenya gave rise to the belief that this region might well be the cradle of humanity. Paleontologists estimate that people may first have inhabited Kenya 2 million years ago. The Nilotic people expanded southward during the beginning of Christian era into western Kenya where they absorbed the Cushitic and Omotic communities. They were joined by the Bantu-speaking peoples and in the 10th Century Muslim merchants began to develop ports and trading stations along the coast. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was the first European to drop anchor at Mombasa in 1498. The region became a British protectorate in 1890 and a crown colony in 1920. In 1905 Nairobi, strategically located halfway along the newly completed railway to Lake Victoria, became the capital of British East Africa. To the chagrin of the locals, white settlers had occupied almost all the prime agricultural land by the 1950s. Discontented with the slow progress towards meaningful land reform and political change, the Kikuyu-dominated Mau Mau movement engaged in a drawn-out, costly struggle. Independence was granted by Britain in 1963 and Jomo Kenyatta of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) was elected president. In 1978 when Kenyatta died, he was succeeded by Vice-President Daniel arap Moi, a member of the minority Kalenjin group, chosen as a compromise candidate by the Kikuyu-dominated KANU to promote unity. Moi's regime consolidated power in the hands of the KANU ruling party, maintaining a firm hold on the country until domestic and international pressure for democratic reform forced him to begin holding multi-party elections in 1992. Moi was able to hold onto power through the 1992 and 1997 elections due to rampant malpractice and fraud, but in 2002 the pressure on Moi reached such a point that he was forced to step down. The elections that year saw the opposition parties unite around Mwai Kibaki of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) to defeat KANU's Uhuru Kenyatta in the presidential race, ushering in the first democratic transition of power in the country's history. Since 2002, the economy and the practice of democracy in the country have vastly improved, but pressing issues such as constitutional reform and poverty alleviation remain. The next national elections are scheduled for December 2007.