Democratization in Kenya


Kurgat A.J., Mulongo L.S., Kerre P.


This article attempts to investigate and analyze challenges and prospects facing Kenya in its quest for democratization and construction of a viable state and cohesive society. Kenya before the post-2007 general election was viewed as an oasis of peace in a turbulent region, a situation that was enabled by stalled political transitions that never before turned to widespread violence. The post independence politics has orchestrated an ideology that does not favour democratization of the state and giving more power to the civil society. The article will seek to highlight how lack of a democratic system of government, where virtues like compromise, cooperation and consensus building are nurtured, and transitional politics in Kenya have been deeply polarized along regional and more prominently ethnic lines. Political parties, general elections results and the constitutional review tussles are cases in point. The civil society has a role to play in initiating and guiding debate on policies and their implications for a peaceful society, which in turn helps to create the type of environment in which normal political conflict and competition can be resolved without violence. Among the actors that the article will give attention is the church and other organizations. The questions this article will seek to investigate are: what impact have the political systems and the civil society had on promoting the values of compromise conciliation, consensus building and tolerance in an ethnically polarized society. Has the civil society been partisan or neutral to ethnic interests? How and when do civil societies become engaged in politics? Can it be an integrative force in nation (state) building? The answers to these questions will constitute the focus of our investigation.


Kenya, elections, democratization, political systems, civil society


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Thomas Ohlson and Mimmi Soderberg, Democratization and Armed Conflicts in Weak States, Department for Cooperation with Non-Governmental organizations and humanitarian assistance and Conflict Management, Elanders Novum AB, SIDA, 2003. P. 1–9.
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Ohlson and Soderberg, Democratization and Armed Conflict in Weak States. p.10.
“Invention” is a terminology which has been widely used by several authors in reference to nation-state building. See for instance Atieno-Odhiambo, “The invention of Kenya” in Decolonization and Independence in Kenya p. 1; David Brandling, Review of the Invention of Argentina by Nicholas Shumway, in New York Times Book Review (13th October, 1991); Eric Hobswbawn and Terence Ranger (eds), The Invention of Tradition, Cambridge, University Press, 1983.
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Barry Buzan, People, States and Fear – An Agenda for International Security Studies in the Post-Cold War Era, 2nd ed., Hemel Hampstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991, p. 82–83.
Ibid., p. 79.
Kalevi J. Holsti, The State, War, and the State of War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p. 82–98.
Ogot B.A., “The Politics of Populism” in B.A. Ogot and W.R. Ochieng (eds), Decolonization and Independence in Kenya, p. 201.
Ohlson and Soderberg, Democratization and Armed Conflicts in Weak States. p. 13.
See: Joel D. Barkan, “Protracted transitions among Africa’s new democracies”, Democratization, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2000, p. 230; Michael Bratton and Nicolas van de Valle, Democratic Experiments in Africa: Africa-Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective, Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 61–63.
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Gordon White, “Civil Society, Democratization and Development: Clearing the Analytical Ground”, Democracy Vol. 1, No. 3, 1994, p. 379.
Marina Ottaway and Thomas Carother, Funding Virtue – Civil Society, Aid and Democracy Promotion, Washington D.C.; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2000, p. 4.
Cherry Gertzel, Politics in independent Kenya, p. 7.
The East African Standard, 26th April 1966.
See T.J. Mboya, Freedom and After, London, Andre Deutsch, 1963.
Mutahi G. Ngunyi, “Building Democracy in Polarized Civil Society: The Transition to Multi-party Democracy in Kenya” in Oleke-Onyango, Kibwana and Maina (eds), Law and the Struggle for Democracy in East Africa, p. 257.
Barkan, J., “The Rise and Fall of a Governance Realm in Kenya” in Hyden and Bratton (eds), Governance and Politics in Africa, p. 176.
Jennifer A. Widner, The Rise of a Party-State in Kenya – from “Harambee” to “Nyayo”, California Press, Oxford, 1992, p. 87.
Ibid., p. 88.
Ibid., p. 100.
Mutayi Ngungi, “Building Democracy in a Polarized Civil Society: Transition to Multi-party Democracy” in Kenya in Oloke-Onyango, Kibwana and Maina (eds), Law and the Struggle for Democracy in East Africa, 1996, p. 257.
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Mathew 20:20 – 28, 1st Kings 12.
Ist Peter 5:3; II Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 5:11.
Psalms 24:1.
Amos 2:7.
John 18:37; Mathew 5:13 – 14.
Galia Sabar, Church, State, and Society in Kenya: From Mediation to Opposition, 1963 – 1993, London, Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2002, p. 3.
Deuteronomy 17:14 – 20.
John W. De Cruchy, Christianity and Democracy: A Theology for a Just World Order, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 10–12.
1st Corinthians 12:12–13.
The Economic Review, March 14–21, 1997, p. 2.
Ngunyi Mutahi, “Building Democracy in a Polarized Civil Society” in Law and the Struggle for Democracy, p. 259.
Ali Mazrui, “Current Socio-political Trends” in Frederick S. Arkhurst (ed), Africa in the Seventies and Eighties, New York, Praeger Publishers, 1970, p. 49.
Ogot, B.A., “The Politics of Populism” in Decolonization and Independence in Kenya, p. 194.
Ogot, B.A., “Transition from Single-party to Multi-party Political System, 1989–93” in Decolonization and Independence in Kenya, p. 239.
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Daily Nation, 24th December 2002, p. 19.
Ogot, B.A., “Epilogue 1989–93” In Decolonization and Independence in Kenya, p. 249.
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Ibid., p. 70.
Ibid., p. 73.
Ogot, B.A., “The Politics of Populism” in Decolonization and Independence, p. 187
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