Intro to Kenyan Politics
In the nation of Kenya, as with most post-colonial African nations, democracy has not been around for a long time. Also, for virtually every African nation scarred by colonialism, the ethnic groups that exist in modern borders could very well have rivalries that date back centuries and these rivalries were exacerbated by colonialism’s divide and conquer mindset where Europeans would empower a minority tribe and have them espouse a reign of tyranny over the other tribes. The Kikuyu were one such tribe.
Kenya gained its
independence from the United Kingdom on the 12th of December 1963
through the Kenya Independence Act of 1963, with its first Prime Minister being
Jomo Kenyatta. In fact, one year, after Kenyan independence, Queen Elizabeth
remained the head of State, however once the Republic of Kenya was established
the UK is no longer officially involved in Kenyan politics and Kenya became a
Representative Presidential system with Jomo Kenyatta as its first president. There
have only been four presidents in total for all of Kenya’s existence, Daniel
arap Moi from the Kalenjin who followed Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki. In
modern day Kenya, the current President is Jomo Kenyatta’s son, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Demographics of Kenya
Demographics wise, Kenya has a population of 38.6 million, its largest ethnic group being the Kikuyu (6.6 million), followed by the Luhya (5.3 million), Kalenjin (4.9 million), Luo (4 million), Kamba (3.8 million), Kisii (2.2 million), Somalis (2.3 million), and Arabs (40 thousand), Europeans (67 thousand), and Asians (81 thousand). Much of the European population is a vestige of colonialism and the Asian population is there due to development deals with China and in 2017 Kenyan Asians were recognized as the 44th Tribe of Kenya.
Kenyan Tribal Corruption
During the Kibaki Presidency 2002-2013, corruption was rampant with some estimates that 42% of the Kenyan GDP was based around Fraud, and Kibaki pledged to deal with the corruption in the 2002 general election and through the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) comprised of all the tribes won by a landslide with 62% of the vote. The NARC was based upon a Memorandeum of Understanding in which tribal discrimination would end and four new cabinet positions would be created to be filled by the various tribes. Yet in the first five years of the Kibaki administration approximately $1 billion USD were lost to corruption, Kibaki raised the salaries of his administration staff dramatically and almost all of the government posts belonged to members of his tribe, the Kikuyu. The corruption was so vast that his government was nicknamed the “Mount Kenya Mafia”. Kibaki had aims to raise his salary to $40,000 USD a year however this failed, in contrast approximately 42% of Kenyans live on less than $1 USD a day. Additionally, during both the Moi and Jomo Kenyatta presidencies, members of the president’s tribe were allotted land grants that removed native tribes from those lands. Most notably the Rift Valley area.
Prior to Kibaki, under the Moi presidency, Kenya became a one-party state through an amendment to the Constitution of 1969. The one-party that dominated was the Kenya African National Union (KANU). Kibaki’s tribe, the Kikuyu had so much power because they had the land. During British rule, white settlers stole land from the native tribes, then the Kikuyu being the favorited tribe, was able to buy that land at cheap rates following de-colonization. Whoever controls the land, controls the country and the Kikuyu definitely controlled the country. In Kenya, the process of decentrialization is known as Majimbo, this would create a federal government and give the tribes some autonomy. Kenya is an extremely centralized state, with practically all spending of tribes needing to be authorized by the central government. All spending over $150 USD by a city/tribe required authorization.
The Kikuyu genocide -height:200
During the Presidential election of 2007, Kibaki ran against Raila Odinga from the Luo tribe. Luo’s are not considered to be real ‘men’ by Kikuyu because they do not practice circumcision and therefore, they were socially banned or discouraged from being President. However, Odinga rallied the minority tribes against Kibaki and he had eclipsed Kibaki in the final half of the election. Kibaki fearing the results rigged the election in his favor and won the election. Odinga’s supported knew Kibaki had done this and the violence soon began.
Within 59 days of the
election results being announced, 1,500 people were dead, 3,000 innocent women
raped, and 300,000 people were left internally displaced.
On February 28, 2009 a power sharing deal brokered by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan between Kibaki and Odinga and it was signed, and perpetrators of the violence were tried in the International Criminal Court, and peace was created. Kibaki ultimately remained President until 2013 and Odinga became Prime Minister under the Power sharing agreement.
The Kenyatta Presidency and Authoritarianism
During the Uhuru Kenyatta presidency from 2013-present, the Security Laws Amendment Bill of 2014 was passed. The Security Bill would add “new criminal offenses with harsh penalties, limit the rights of arrested and accused people, and restrict freedoms of expression and assembly” also included are efforts to quell violence committed by Islamic terror in the southern provinces of Kenya, this was said to be the primary reason behind the passage of the Security Bill. However, many see it as a consolidation of power and a restriction against and dissent from the various tribes. The Anti-Terrorism Police Unit been linked to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in the context of counter-terrorism operations and operations aimed at Al-Shabaab. It has been said that the Bill’s implication could return Kenya to the police state that existed during the 1980s and 90s.
However, in Kenya, there is no tradition of democracy and most tribes view the executive as a strong-man anyway and during the elections of 2017 three years after the passing of the Security Act there were only three killings related to the election. Even though election violence is a sign of weak institutions and weak democratic norms, this is progress from the 2007 election violence.
So, if Kenya went the path of the Majimbo and decentralized power to the tribes would violence have occurred in the first place? Or has this increased centralization of power led to the conditions needed for establishing the norms of a peaceful transition of the Executive?
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