Kenya: A History in the Making


Addis Ababa, September 09, 2017– Structural factors are those that create a potential climate for violent conflict without, however, making its eruption inevitable. They include such interrelated political, social and economic factors as population density, the level and distribution of wealth and opportunity, the state of the resource base, the structure and ethnic make-up of society, and the history of intergroup relations. For instance, a politically dominant group that controls the state and access to wealth, education and status, often suffers from a high-degree of vulnerability to conflict.

An analysis of political aspects of conflicts in Kenya by Oakland Media Services necessitates a trend analysis of Kenya’s political development. This trajectory is largely seen to be divided into five phases. This analytical approach more or less examines Kenya’s politics in each decade since independence.

The major political disputes in Kenya’s first post independence decade (1960 – 1970) were feuds between President Jomo Kenyatta and Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (he later resigned in 1966). There was rising autocracy in Kenyatta’s regime, and later, the assassination of Tom Mboya, a leading politician. Secondly, between 1970 and 1980, the independence euphoria had died down and the country was more aware of ills in Kenyatta’s regime. There was also a change in the constitution movement that aimed to block Vice President Daniel Arap Moi’s ascension to presidency in the event of Kenyatta’s demise. Thirdly, from 1980 to 1990,
President Moi entrenched personal rule. The legislature and the judiciary became virtual rubber stamps of presidential whims and Kenya became a de jure one-party state.

The fourth phase was between 1990 and 2002. In this period, Kenya returned to multiparty politics and with this the eruption of ethnic land and electoral clashes. The final phase was the post-Moi era. There were conflicts characterized by disagreements between members of the
cabinet in 2003 following President Kibaki’s failure to honor a pre-election memorandum of understanding (MoU) between him and alliance colleagues. This schism widened in the 2005 constitutional referendum, in which the pro- Kibaki and anti-Kibaki members of the cabinet took opposing stands. This fallout reached its apex in the 2007 general elections when bungled elections became the center of the country’s worst electoral violence. Therefore, politicization of ethnicity has become the strongest single determinant in the domain of governance in Kenya.

In the recent 2017 elections and according to Keny’s National Bureau of Statistics, the largest native ethnic groups are the Kikuyu (6.6 million), the Luhya (5.3 million), the Kalenjin (5 million), the Luo (4 million) and the Kamba (3.9 million). They vote according to the dictates of their
tribal kings, and political parties have formed alliances based on tribes. The Kikuyus and Kalenjins support the Jubilee Alliance of Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto. The opposition National Alliance is a union of tribes led by Raila Odinga, a Luo from Western Kenya, Musalia Mudavadi, a Luhya from Western Kenya, and Kalonzo Musyoka from the Kamba tribe.

Why Kenya: 2017 election
Kenya is an important partner of the United States and other countries that are fighting transnational terrorism, especially al-Shabaab. Kenya is also a member of the
Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and has played a critical role in IGAD’s efforts to improve security and peace in South Sudan. Additionally, Kenya is a leading center for industrial production and is an economic powerhouse for the East Africa region. Nairobi is the regional headquarters for many transnational corporations and international organizations, and the country has a strong influence on its less stable or more burdened neighbors.

At least 80% of Kenya’s population is made up of people aged 35 and below. According to Kenya’s demographics, the country claims of the most youthful voters in the East African region. More than half of the 19 million voters in Kenya were considered youth, their participation in the August 8 general elections was crucial and did determine who won the presidency.

But this goes without saying that these youth actively voiced their concerns on several issues regarding unemployment, corruption and security threats related to Al-Shabaab’s activity in the region. According to a report obtained about the unemployment rate in Kenya, it has increased to 40% in 2011 from 12.70% in 2006. Unemployment Rate in Kenya averaged 22.43% from 1999
until 2011, reaching an all-time high of 40.00% in 2011 and a record low of 12.70% in 2006.

Corruption is a major impediment to doing business in Kenya with allegations of misappropriation of public funds on the rise. The 2016 Corruption Perception Index released by Transparency International (TI) ranked Kenya among the most corrupt countries at 145 out of 176 countries. Kenya faces insecurity threats most notably from Al-Shabaab: the Somalia-based Islamist group. Even though terrorist attacks within the country have reduced drastically, there are still sporadic attacks. In January this year, Al-Shabaab militants attacked Kenyan soldiers deployed with AMISOM at a Kenyan military base in Kulbiyow, near the Kenyan border with Somalia.

The Supreme Court’s ruling and way forward

In what was considered to be unprecedented and historical, a 4-2 decision, the Supreme Court determined that the recently concluded presidential election

was not conducted in accordance with the Constitution and is invalid.

On August 11, Kenyatta was declared the winner with 54% of the vote against opposition candidate Raila Odinga’s 44%. International observers including former US Secretary of State John Kerry had endorsed the outcome. However, Odinga went to court alleging that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC’s) computer systems had been hacked to favour Kenyatta. It also stated that there was a breach in the constitution in the transmission of election results and therefore ruled the results invalid.They have also called for the resignation of IEBC officials as well as prosecution for criminal charges, the view being that they cannot be entrusted with conducting the rerun, given the previous irregularities.

The rule of law and fidelity to set procedures are at the heart of democratic government. This ruling affirmed both loud and clear. By annulling Kenyatta’s re-election, the courts showed that not even the president is above the law. And in insisting that the rerun election be conducted in “strict conformity with the Constitution and applicable elections laws,’’ the court reinforced the idea of procedural fairness as a cornerstone of democratic government.

This move has made Kenya the first country in Africa and the fourth in the world after Australia, Moldova and Ukrain.

In practical terms, this means that Kenyans will have a second presidential election within the next 60 days – expensive in terms of money and time, but worth it for a clear and decisive declaration that democracy in Kenya is maturing. With this ruling, the court has vindicated advocates for credibility, arguing that Kenyans deserved free, fair and credible – not just good enough” -elections.


The court has 21 days to deliver a detailed ruling, but it seems one of the main problems with the election was IEBC’s ignoring many aspects of the Constitution and electoral law. Fundamentally, this ruling was about reminding the IEBC that it cannot pick and choose which parts of the constitution to obey.

Kenyatta in a statement he gave said “We do not agree with the ruling but we respect the decision of the court. I urge you to maintain peace and love each other. We believe in democracy and we are ready for the second round. We believe in the peace and unity of our country. I thank Kenyans for electing Jubilee leaders and enabling us to have a majority”.

Reflecting on the same his opposition Odinga who initiated the petition leading up to the court’s decision, said “It’s a very historic day for the people of Kenya and by extension the people of Africa. For the first time in the history of African democratization, a ruling has been made by a court nullifying irregular election of a president. This is a precedent-setting ruling”.

The National Super Alliance (NASA) Coalition, Odinga, also stated that a new Kenya has been born and that the ruling is a first step in ensuring electoral justice in Kenya.

Indeed this is echoed by thousands of Kenyans who took it to the streets and celebrating the ruling in front of the Court. Nonetheless, as there are many celebrating there are also confused citizens who cast their votes. Their concern mainly is, with a hankering for insight and facts, if the next election could actually bring about the expected change or if the polls will be any different. Yet the new dawn of democracy and hope not just for Kenya but Africa is what is giving them hope. Despite their political differences, they are discussing the future of their country.

“This is the right decision. We will vote again and make the change”, said one. “This is not right. We have already voted and we have a sitting president already. What is this madness? It will just be draining resource that could have been used to build the country”, said another. One celebrating and the other observing the dancing and singing.

However, the case as the current lead in office, Uhuru Kenyatta and the Jubilee Alliance must show Kenyans that they have successfully delivered on at least some of the promises that they made when they came to power in 2013. After having to win this year’s election and that, if given the opportunity in 2017 to govern again, they would significantly improve the security situation in the country, eliminate extra-judicial killings and other forms of government impunity, eradicate corruption, deal with the frustrations of the many citizens who are forced by circumstances to live a life of hopelessness and poverty in rundown urban areas and rural villages.

This will help to significantly improve economic conditions; including creating jobs, especially for urban youth, and produces a viable long-term plan to deal fully and effectively with the factors. For instance, a feeling of marginalization by some ethnic groups that led to violence in the aftermath of the 2007 elections. The Kenyatta government must, of course, also convince Kenyans of how it plans to deal with continuing security threats from al-Shabaab. This however is to be seen in the coming months to come and upon the final verdict of the upcoming re-election to behold in 60 days.

By Elyab Tilahun

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