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The Republic of Kenya is a country of 50 million in Eastern Africa. It shares borders with Ethiopia, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda and Sudan. Its coastline borders the Indian Ocean. Peace had prevailed since an uprising in the former British colony in the 1950s. A political crisis exploded into violence in early 2008, with a resolution finally reached in mid-April. Kenya faces herculean challenges, as the poor nation must deal with a fast-growing population, exploding slums and diminishing available land. During the crisis Kenya's infrastructure suffered severe damage with countless houses, shops, businesses, factories and schools burned out, and the lucrative safari tourist business almost shut down. The crisis ignited long-standing ethnic grievances, which violently split the nation along ethnic lines.[1]

Government and 2008 crisis

Kenya is a Presidential Representative Republic, where the President acts both as head of State and head of Government. Executive power is wielded by the government. Legislative power is shared between the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary acts independently of both legislative and executive organs of government. The position of prime minister, to be held by opposition leader Raila Odinga, was created in Feb. 2008 as part of a compromise brokered by former UN head Kofi Annan to end the election crisis. The exact powers of the new position are unclear.[2] After six weeks of tense negotiations a cabinet was announced on April 14, with 94 members, including Odinga as prime minister.[3]

The constitution dates from the year of its independence (1963). The unicameral legislature consists of 222 members, with 210 directly elected. The remaining twelve are appointed by the President. The legal system is influenced by English, tribal and Islamic law. The country is subdivided into seven provinces and area surrounding the capital, Nairobi.

Kenya has had a relatively stable political history since independence (omitting recent political unrest and rioting). It escaped much of the internal tribal warfare and civil war which crippled neighbouring nations such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Somalia. It held elections in December 2002 which were deemed free and fair by international observers. Kenya has until recently been used as an example of a recovering African nation free of many of the domestic problems which beset many of her neighbouring states. The 2002 election heralded a peaceful transfer of power from the Kenya African Union to the National Rainbow Coalition.

Kenya exploded into violence following a disputed election in December 2007 in which the government proclaimed incumbent president Mwai Kibaki had defeated Raila Odinga, leader of the Orange Democratic Movement, by 4.58m votes to 4.35m.[4] Wide civil strife displaced over 600,000 people. This is an ethnic conflict with the Kikuyus taking the brunt of the attacks. They have controlled the government and most business since 1963 while comprising 22% of the population.[5] The philosophy of "majimboism," which initially meant minority rights, has transformed into local policies of expelling other groups. Thousands have died in ethnic cleansing, and the UN estimates over 600,000 people have been uprooted. About half have gone to camps in churches, police stations, stables and prisons; conditions are poor. The growing ethnic segregation is pulling students and teachers out of schools and leaving thousands of jobs vacant across the economy.[6]

(PD) Image: Central Intelligence Agency

Geography & natural history

Kenya's climate is Tropical. It is hot and humid on the coast, temperate inland and dry in the north/northeastern parts of the country.

Kenya elevates from low-lying coastal lands along the Indian Ocean to the Highlands in the center of the country. The Kenyan highlands are one of the most productive agricultural regions in Africa. The highlands have one of the highest points in Kenya, Mount Kenya and is also home to a rare specimen to Africa, glaciers. Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa lies along the Kenya/Tanzania border.

Kenya enjoys a rich variety of flora and fauna within its borders; Several safari parks operate under its jurisdiction and it provides a large income in tourism for the nation. The tourism industry collapsed in early 2008 as tourists canceled reservations.


Immediately following independence Kenya enjoyed a period of economic growth, mainly due to public investment and high levels of foreign investment. From the mid 1970s to 1993, her economic performance declined as a direct result in the downturn in the international agriculture market, poor credit and higher oil prices. In the mid 1990s, Kenya began a economic liberalisation effort in tandem with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. This allowed a sharp increase in economic fortunes despite setbacks in the early 21st century. However, the IMF suspended Kenya's Enhanced Structural Adjustment Program due to the government's failure to maintain reforms and curb corruption. [7] Over the following few years efforts at reform were top priority in order to get the IMF back on board. Recent efforts at the highest level has been to combat corruption in government which is believed to be widespread from the local level to the very highest level of government.


Many Kenyans engage in subsistence farming. Cash crops, such as coffee and tea are grown on the Kenyan Highlands, as well as crops used for domestic consumption such as wheat and corn. On the lower lying areas coconuts, pineapples, cashew nuts, cotton, sugarcane, sisal, and corn are all grown, following a similar subsistence level of farming. Kenya has a relatively large white population (some 30,000) who engage in agriculture also. Some of these large farms have been subdivided among the African population.

Much of the country is savannah, where cattle is the primary animal of trade. Kenya also produces milk, cheese, eggs, pork and poultry.

Mineral production involves limestone, soda ash, gold, salt, and fluorospar.


The countries leading industries are the production of plastic, furniture, textiles, cigarettes, and leather goods; refined petroleum; processed food; cement; and metal products. Shortages of electricity and corruption have hampered industrial development. However, the present policy of economic liberalisation has seen support for privatization. [8]

At the port of Mombasa is an oil terminal, in poor repair. If a proposed pipeline from south Sudan is ever built, Mombasa could displace Port Sudan as the Sudanese export terminal, which would have immense effects on the economy of the dominant north of Sudan.


As most developing countries show, the service sector of the Kenyan economy is underdeveloped. Kenya does attract wealthy foreign tourists attracted by its beaches and wildlife. The stunning variety of wildlife in the country is protected in Tsavo National Park (8,034 sq mi/20,808 sq km) in the southeast of the country.

International Trade

Kenya's main exports are tea and coffee. When prices fall for these crops it affects the economy profoundly. Leading imports are machinery, transportation equipment, consumer goods and petroleum. Major trading partners include the United Arab Emirates, Britain, Uganda and Tanzania.

Kenya's population growth continually exceeds its economic growth, causing unemployment and budget deficits. Her infrastructure has been neglected in recent years, but has a reasonable system of rail and roads compared to her African counterparts.


Kenya's ethnic groups comprise the following: Kikuyu 22%, Luhya 14%, Luo 13%, Kalenjin 12%, Kamba 11%, Kisii 6%, Meru 6%, other African 15% and non-African (Asian, European, and Arab) 1%.[9] The 1999 census dropped its ethnic categories in order to ease social tension in which questions of ethnic identity had created a climate of distrust and suspicion among Kenyans. Recent elections have seen these groups generally vote along ethnic and tribal lines, but with exceptions. In the cities, such as Nairobi, old ethnic divisions are less stark than in the more traditional countryside.[10]

Kenya's religious groups comprise the following: Protestant 45%, Roman Catholic 33%, Muslim 10%, indigenous beliefs 10% and other 2%.


Kenyan education can be divided into three periods: Colonial era (1890s to 1961), 1961-73, 1973-88, and 1988- present. Western education was pioneered by Protestant and Catholic missionaries, but missionary influence has diminished as the public education system has been extended. During the colonial period most schooling was segregated by race. Since independence all its schools have become multiracial. By the 1980s 2/3 of children of school age attended, including 77% at the primary level and 13% at the secondary. In 1990 5.4 million children attended 14,700 primary schools, with 640,000 students in some 2,650 secondary schools. More than half the secondary schools are aided or maintained by the government. A majority of the adult population remains literate.

The leading center is the University of Nairobi, with 200 programs in six colleges on seven campuses. Founded in 1956 as the Royal Technical College, it had links with the University of London, and took its present name in 1970, when it had 2700 students. By 1992 it had about 14,000 students, mostly Kenyans. By 2004 it enrolled 29,000 undergraduates, and 7,000 graduate students. There are 4,000 staff members, and 90,000 alumni.[11]

Many Kenyans study at universities abroad. The most famous is Barack Obama, Sr. (1936-1982), born a village in Nyanza Province, of Luo ethnicity. He became a graduate student at the University of Hawaii where in 1960 he married an American graduate student Ann Dunham. Their only child was Barack Hussein Obama Jr., now a leading candidate for president of the US. The father deserted and the marriage ended in divorce; Obama Sr. studied economics at Harvard and returned to Kenya as a senior civil servant. Frustrated as a Luo by the Kikuyu dominance, he turned to drink and died in 1982. "His ideas about how Kenya should progress often put him at odds with the politics of tribe and patronage," his son said in a 2006 speech in Nairobi, "and because he spoke his mind, sometimes to a fault, he ended up being fired from his job and prevented from finding work in the country for many, many years." The son visited the village, where his grandmother still lives.[12]

The recent period since 1980 has been marked by a major reduction in funding and attendance at the primary level.



The interior is a history of migrations, and the activities of most of the major tribes are not well known before the 19th century. On the coast, trading settlements were established by 150 AD. By 1000 AD Persian and Arab traders were well established. A Swahili culture developed in the towns, notably Pate, Malindi, and Mombasa. The Portuguese arrived in 1498, with a powerful navy. The goal was not settlement but the establishment of naval bases that would give Portugal control of the Indian Ocean. After decades of small-scale conflict the Portuguese were defeated in Kenya by Arabs from Oman. Under Seyyid Said, the Omani sultan who moved his capital to Zanzibar in the early 19th century, the Arabs created long-distance trade routes into the interior. The dry reaches of the north were lightly inhabited by seminomadic pastoralists. In the south, pastoralists and cultivators bartered goods and competed for land as long-distance caravan routes linked them to the Kenya coast on the east and the kingdoms of Uganda on the west. Arab, Shirazi, and coastal African cultures produced an Islamic Swahili people trading in a variety of up-country commodities, including slaves.


By 1850 European explorers had begun mapping the interior. British interest in the area developed later in the century, stimulated by German competition, and in 1887 the Imperial British East Africa Company, a private concern, leased from Seyyid Said his mainland holdings, a 10-mile (16-km)-wide strip of land along the coast. In 1895 the British government took over and claimed the interior as far west as Lake Naivasha; it set up the East Africa Protectorate. The border was extended to Uganda in 1902, and in 1920 the enlarged protectorate, except for the original coastal strip, which remained a protectorate, became a crown colony. With the beginning of colonial rule in 1895, the Rift Valley and the surrounding Highlands became the enclave of white immigrants engaged in large-scale coffee farming dependent on mostly Kikuyu labor. This area's fertile land has always made it the site of migration and conflict. There were no significant mineral resources--none of the gold or diamonds that attracted so many to South Africa.


The British government decided, primarily for strategic reasons, to build a railway linking Mombasa with the British protectorate of Uganda. A major feat of engineering, the "Uganda Railway" (that is the railway inside Kenya leading to Uganda) was completed in 1903 and was a decisive event in modernizing the area. As governor of Kenya, Sir Percy Girouard was instrumental in initiating railway extension policy that led to construction of the Nairobi-Thika and Konza-Magadi railways.[13]

Some 32,000 workers were imported from British India to do the manual labor. Many stayed, as did most of the Indian traders and small businessmen who saw opportunity in the opening up of the interior of Kenya. Rapid economic development was seen as necessary to make the railroad pay, and since the African population was accustomed to subsistence rather than export agriculture, the government decided to encourage European settlement in the fertile highlands, which had small African populations. The railway opened up the interior, not only to the European farmers, missionaries, and administrators, but also to systematic government programs to attack slavery, witchcraft,[14] disease, and famine. By the time the railroad was built, military resistance by the African population to the original British takeover had petered out. However new grievances were being generated by the process of European settlement. Governor Percy Girouard is associated with the debacle of the Second Maasai Agreement of 1911, which led to their forceful removal from the fertile Laikipia plateau to semi-arid Ngong. To make way for the Europeans (largely Britons and whites from South Africans), the Masai were restricted to the southern Loieta plains in 1913. The Kikuyu claimed some of the land reserved for Europeans and continued to feel that they had been deprived of their inheritance.

In the initial stage of colonial rule, the administration relied on traditional communicators, usually chiefs. When colonial rule was established and efficiency was sought, partly because of settler pressure, newly educated younger men were associated with old chiefs in local Native Councils.

First World War

Kenya became a military base for the British in the First World War (1914-1918), as efforts to subdue the German colony to the south were frustrated. Before the war African political focus was diffuse, but after the war an immediate hardship caused by new taxes and reduced wages and new settlers threatening African land led to new movements. The experiences gained by Africans in the war coupled with the creation of the white-settler-dominated Kenya Crown Colony, gave rise to considerable political activity in the 1920s which culminated in Archdeacon Owen's "Piny Owacho" (Voice of the People) movement and the "Young Kikuyu Association" (renamed the "East African Association") started in 1921 by Harry Thuku (1895-1970), which gave a sense of nationalism to many Kikuyu and advocated civil disobedience. From the 1920s, the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) focused on unifying the Kikuyu into one geographic polity, but its project was undermined by controversies over ritual tribute, land allocation, the ban on female circumcision, and support for politician Harry Thuku.

Much activity between the wars was local, and this succeeded most among the Luo of Kenya, where progressive young leaders became senior chiefs. By the later 1930s government began to intrude on ordinary Africans through marketing controls, stricter educational supervision, and land changes. Traditional chiefs became irrelevant and younger men became communicators by training in the missionary churches and civil service. Pressure on ordinary Kenyans by governments in a hurry to modernize in the 1930s to 1950s enabled the mass political parties to acquire support for "centrally" focused movements, but even these often relied on local communicators.[15]


Kenya became a locus of resettlement of young, upper-class British officers after the war, giving a strong aristocratic tone to the white settlers. If they had ₤1000 in assets they could get a free 1000 acre farm; the goal of the government was to speed up modernization and economic growth. The set up coffee plantations, which required expensive machinery, a stable labour force, and four years to start growing crops. The veterans did escape democracy and taxation in England, but they failed in their efforts to gain control of the colony. The upper-class bias in migration policy meant that whites would always be a small minority. Many of them left after independence.[16]

Power remained concentrated in the governor's hands; weak legislative and executive councils made up of official appointees were created in 1906. The European settlers were allowed to elect representatives to the Legislative Council in 1920, when the colony was established. The white settlers, 30,000 strong, sought "responsible government," in which they would have a voice. They opposed similar demands by the far more numerous Indian community. The European settlers gained representation for themselves and minimized representation on the Legislative Council for Indians and Arabs. The government appointed a European to represent African interests on the Council. In "Devonshire declaration" of 1923 the Colonial Office declared that the interests of the Africans (comprising over 95% of the population) must be paramount--achieving that goal took four decades.

Second World War

In the Second World War (1939-45) Kenya became an important British military base for successful campaigns against Italy in the Italian Somaliland and Ethiopia. The war brought money and an opportunity for military service for 98,000 men, called "askaris". The war stimulated African nationalism. After the war, African ex-servicemen sought to maintain the socioeconomic gains they had accrued through service in the King's African Rifles (KAR). Looking for middle-class employment and social privileges, they challenged existing relationships within the colonial state. For the most part, veterans did not participate in national politics, believing that their aspirations could best be achieved within the confines of colonial society. The social and economic connotations of KAR service, combined with the massive wartime expansion of Kenyan defense forces, created a new class of modernized Africans with distinctive characteristics and interests. These socioeconomic perceptions proved powerful after the war.[17]

Rural trends

British officials sought to modernise Kikuyu farming in the Muang'a District 1920-45. Relying on concepts of trusteeship and scientific management, they imposed a number of changes in crop production and agrarian techniques, claiming to promote conservation and "betterment" of farming in the colonial tribal reserves. While criticized as backward by British officials and white settlers, African farming proved resilient, and Kikuyu farmers engaged in widespread resistance to the colonial state's agrarian reforms.[18]

Modernisation was accelerated by the Second World War. Among the Luo the larger agricultural production unit was the patriarch's extended family, mainly divided into a special assignment team led by the patriarch, and the teams of his wives, who, together with their children, worked their own lots on a regular basis. This stage of development was no longer strictly traditional, but still largely self-sufficient with little contact with the broader market. Pressures of overpopulation and the prospects of cash crops, already in evidence by 1945, made this subsistence economic system increasingly obsolete and accelerated a movement to commercial agriculture and emigration to cities. The Limitation of Action Act in 1968 sought to modernize traditional land ownership and use; the act has produced unintended consequences, with new conflicts raised over land ownership and social status.[19]

Political mobilisation

In 1944 Thuku founded and was first chairman of the multi-tribal Kenya African Study Union (KASU), which in 1946 became the Kenya African Union (KAU). This acted as a constituency association for the first black member of Kenya's legislative council, Eliud Mathu, who had been nominated in 1944 by the governor after consulting élite African opinion. The KAU soon became dominated by the Kikuyu, the African group most affected by the European presence and the most politically active. In 1947 Jomo Kenyatta, former president of the moderate Kikuyu Central Association, became president of the more aggressive KAU to demand a greater political voice for Africans.

In response to the rising pressures the British Colonial Office broadened the membership of the Legislative Council and increased its role. By 1952 a multiracial pattern of quotas allowed for 14 European, 1 Arab, and 6 Asian elected members, together with an additional 6 African and 1 Arab member chosen by the governor. The council of ministers became the principal instrument of government in 1954.

Mau-Mau Rising

A key watershed came from 1952 to 1956, during the "Mau Mau" rising, a terrorist movement directed principally against the colonial government and the European settlers. It was the largest and most successful such movement in British Africa, but it was not emulated by the other colonies. The protest was supported almost exclusively by the Kikuyu, despite issues of land rights and anti-European, anti-Western appeals designed to attract other groups. The Mau Mau movement was also a bitter internal struggle among the Kikuyu. Harry Thuku said in 1952, "To-day we, the Kikuyu, stand ashamed and looked upon as hopeless people in the eyes of other races and before the Government. Why? Because of the crimes perpetrated by Mau Mau and because the Kikuyu have made themselves Mau Mau." The British killed over 4000, and the Mau Mau many more, as the assassinations and killings on all sides reflecting the ferocity of the movement and the ruthlessness with which the British suppressed it.[20] Kenyatta denied he was a leader of the Mau Mau but was convicted at trial and was sent to prison in 1953, gaining his freedom in 1961. To support its military campaign of counter-insurgency the colonial government embarked on agrarian reforms that stripped white settlers of many of their former protections; for example, Africans were for the first time allowed to grow coffee, the major cash crop. Thuku was one of the first Kikuyu to win a coffee license, and in 1959 he became the first African board member of the Kenya Planters Coffee Union.

Constitutional debates

After the suppression of the Mau Mau rising, the British provided for the election of the six African members to the Legislative Council under a weighted franchise based on education. The new colonial constitution of 1958 increased African representation, but African nationalists began to demand a democratic franchise on the principle of "one man, one vote." However, Europeans and Asians, because of their minority position, feared the effects of universal suffrage.

At a conference held in 1960 in London, agreement was reached between the African members and the English settlers of the New Kenya Group, led by Michael Blundell. However many whites rejected the New Kenya Group and condemned the London agreement, because it move away from racial quotas and toward independence. Following the agreement a new African party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), with the slogan "Uhuru," or "Freedom," was formed under the leadership of Kikuyu leader James S. Gichuru and labor leader Tom Mboya. Mboya was a major figure from 1951 until his death in 1969. He was praised as nonethnic or antitribal, and attacked as an instrument of Western capitalism. Mboya as General Secretary of the Kenya Federation of Labor and a leader in the Kenya African National Union before and after independence skillfully managed the tribal factor in Kenyan economic and political life to succeed as a Luo in a predominantly Kikuyu movement.[21] A split in KANU produced the breakaway rival party, the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), led by R. Ngala and M. Muliro. In the elections of February 1961, KANU won 18 of the 33 African seats while KADU won 11. (Twenty seats were reserved by quota for Europeans, Asians, and Arabs.) Kenyatta was finally released in August and became president of KANU in October.

In 1959, nationalist leader Tom Mboya began a program, funded by Americans, of sending talented youth to the United States for higher education. There was no university in Kenya at the time, but colonial officials opposed the program anyway. In 1959 Barack Obama Sr. arrived in Hawaii in the first wave. The next year Senator John F. Kennedy helped fund the program, which trained some 70% of the top leaders of the new nation, including the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, environmentalist Wangari Maathai.[22]


In 1962 a KANU-KADU coalition government, including both Kenyatta and Ngala, was formed. The 1962 constitution established a bicameral legislature consisting of a 117-member House of Representatives and a 41-member Senate. The country was divided into 7 semi-autonomous regions, each with its own regional assembly. The quota principle of reserved seats for non-Africans was abandoned, and open elections were held in May 1963. KADU gained control of the assemblies in the Rift Valley, Coast, and Western regions. KANU won majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, and in the assemblies in the Central, Eastern, and Nyanza regions.[23] Kenya now achieved internal self-government with Jomo Kenyatta as its first prime minister. The British and KANU agreed, over KADU protests, to constitutional changes in October 1963 strengthening the central government. Kenya became independent on Dec. 12, 1963. In 1964 Kenya became a republic, and constitutional changes further centralized the government.

The British government bought out the white settlers and they mostly left Kenya. The Indian minority dominated retail business in the cities and most towns, but was deeply distrusted by the Africans. As a result 120,000 of the 176,000 Indians kept their old British passports rather than become citizens of an independent Kenya; large numbers left Kenya, most of them headed to the UK.

Kenyatta regime: 1963-1978

Once in power Kenyatta swerved from radical nationalism to conservative bourgeois politics. The plantations formerly owned by white settlers were broken up and given to farmers, with the Kikuyu the favoured recipients, along with their allies the Embu and the Meru. By 1978 most of the country's wealth and power was in the hands of the organisation which grouped these three tribes: the Gikuyu-Embu-Meru Association (GEMA), together comprising 30% of the population. At the same time the Kikuyu, with Kenyatta's support, spread beyond their traditional territorial homelands and repossessed lands "stolen by the whites" - even when these had previously belonged to other groups. The other groups, a 70% majority, were outraged, setting up long-term ethnic animosities.[24]

KADU disbanded in 1964 and KANU was the only party until 1966 when a faction broke away as the Kenya People's Union (KPU). KPU advocated a more "scientific" route to socialism--criticizing the slow progress in land redistribution and employment opportunities-- as well as a realignment of foreign policy in favour of the Soviet Union. In June 1969 Tom Mboya, a Luo member of the government considered a potential successor to Kenyatta, was assassinated. Hostility between Kikuyu and Luo was heightened, and after riots broke out in Luo country KPU was banned. The government used a variety of political and economic measures to harass the KPU and its prospective and actual members. KPU branches were unable to register, KPU meetings were prevented, and civil servants and politicians suffered severe economic and political consequences for joining the KPU. Kenya thereby became a one-party state.[25]

Ignoring his suppression of the opposition and continued factionalism within KANU the imposition of one-party rule allowed Mzee ("Old Man") Kenyatta, who had led the country since independence, claimed he achieved "political stability." Underlying social tensions were evident, however. Kenya's very rapid population growth rate and considerable rural to urban migration were in large part responsible for high unemployment and disorder in the cities. There also was much resentment by blacks at the privileged economic position in the country of Asians and Europeans.

Foreign policies

Independent Kenya, although officially non-aligned, adopted a pro-Western stance.[26] Kenya worked unsuccessfully for East African union; the proposal to unite Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda did not win approval. However, the three nations did form a loose East African Community (EAC) in 1967, that maintained the customs union and some common services that they had shared under British rule. The EAC collapsed in 1977 and it was officially dissolved in 1984. Kenya's relations with Somalia deteriorated over the problem of Somalis in the North Eastern Province who tried to secede and were supported by Somalia. In 1968, however, Kenya and Somalia agreed to restore normal relations, and the Somali rebellion effectively ended.

Moi regime, 1978-2002

Kenyatta died in 1978 and was succeeded by Daniel Arap Moi (b. 1924) who ruled as President 1978-2002. Moi, a member of the Kalenjin ethnic group, quickly consolidated his position and governed in an authoritarian and corrupt manner. By 1986, Moi had concentrated all the power - and most of its attendant economic benefits - into the hands of his Kalenjin tribe and of a handful of allies from minority groups.

In mid-1982 lower-level air force personnel backed by university students attempted a coup to oust Moi. It failed and was followed by looting of Asian-owned stores by Nairobi's poor blacks and by attacks on Asian population. Robert Ouko, the senior Luo in Moi's cabinet, was appointed to expose corruption at high levels but was murdered a few months later. Moi's closest associate was implicated in Ouko's murder; Moi dismissed him but not before his remaining Luo support had evaporated. Germany recalled its ambassador to protest the "increasing brutality" of the regime, and foreign donors pressed Moi to allow other parties, which was done in December 1991 through a constitutional amendment.

The Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) emerged as the leading opposition to KANU, and dozens of leading KANU figures switched parties. But FORD, led by Oginga Odinga (1911–1994), a Luo, and Kenneth Matiba, a Kikuyu, split into two ethnically based factions. In the first open presidential elections in a quarter century, in December 1992, Moi won with 37 percent of the vote, Matiba received 26 percent, Mwai Kibaki (of the mostly Kikuyu Democratic Party) 19 percent, and Odinga 18 percent. In the Assembly, KANU won 97 of the 188 seats at stake. Moi's government in 1993 agreed to economic reforms long urged by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which restored enough aid for Kenya to service its $7.5 billion foreign debt.

Obstructing the press both before and after the 1992 elections, Moi continually maintained that multiparty politics would only promote tribal conflict. His own regime depended upon exploitation of inter-group hatreds. Under Moi, the apparatus of clientage and control was underpinned by the system of powerful provincial commissioners, each with a bureaucratic hierarchy based on chiefs (and their police) that was more powerful than the elected members of parliament. Elected local councils lost most of their power, and the provincial bosses were answerable only to the central government, which in turn was dominated by the president. The emergence of mass opposition in 1990-91 and demands for constitutional reform were met by rallies against pluralism. The regime leaned on the support of the Kalenjin and incited the Maasai against the Kiyuku. Government politicians denounced the Kiyuku as traitors, obstructed their registration as voters, and threatened them with dispossession. In 1993 and after, mass evictions of Kiyuku took place, often with the direct involvement of army, police, and game rangers. Armed clashes and many casualties, including deaths, resulted.[27]

Moi ruled using a strategic mixture of ethnic favoritism, state repression, and marginalization of opposition forces. He utilized detention and torture, looted public finances, and appropriated land and and other property. Moi sponsored irregular army units that attacked the Luo, Luhya, and Kikuyu communities, and he disclaimed responsibility by assigning the violence to ethnic clashes arising from a land dispute.[28] Beginning in 1998, Moi engaged in a carefully calculated strategy to manage the presidential succession in his and his party's favor. Faced with the challenge of a new, multiethnic political coalition, Moi shifted the axis of the 2002 electoral contest from ethnicity to the politics of generational conflict. The strategy backfired, ripping his party wide open and resulting in its humiliating defeat of his candidate, Kenyatta's son, in the December 2002 general elections. [29]

21st century

On 27 December 2002 by 62% the voters overwhelmingly elected members of the National Rainbow Coalition (NaRC) to parliament and NaRC candidate Mwai Kibaki (1931- ) to the presidency. Voters rejected the Kenya African National Union's (KANU) presidential candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta, the handpicked candidate of outgoing president Moi. International and local observers reported the 2002 elections to be generally more fair and less violent than those of both 1992 and 1997. His strong showing allowed Kibaki to choose a strong cabinet, to seek international support, and to balance power within the NaRC.

Kenya witnessed a spectacular economic recovery, helped by a favourable international environment. The annual rate of growth improved from -1.6 % in 2002 to 2.6% by 2004, 3.4% in 2005, and 5.5% in 2007. However, social inequalities also increased; the economic benefits went disproportionately to the already well-off (especially to the Kikuyu); corruption reached new depths, matching some of the excesses of the Moi years. Social conditions deteriorated for ordinary Kenyans, who faced a growing wave of routine crime in urban areas; pitched battles between ethnic groups fighting for land; and a feud between the police and the Mungiki sect, which left over 120 people dead in May-November 2007 alone.[30]

Once regarded as the world's "most optimistic," Kibaki's regime quickly lost much of its power because it became too closely linked with the discredited Moi forces. The continuity between Kibaki and Moi set the stage for the self-destruction of Kibaki's National Rainbow Coalition, which was dominated by Kikuyus. The western Luo and Kalenjin groups, demanding greater autonomy, backed Raila Amolo Odinga (1945- ) and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).[31]

In the December 2007 elections, Odinga, the candidate of the ODM, attacked the failures of the Kibaki regime. The ODM charged the Kikuyu have grabbed everything and all the other tribes have lost; that Kibaki had betrayed his promises for change; that crime and violence were out of control, and that economic growth was not bringing any benefits to the ordinary citizen. In the December 2007 elections the ODM won a landslide for Parliament, but the counting for president was rigged by the government which proclaimed Kibaki had been reelected.

"Majimboism" was a philosophy that emerged in the 1950s, meaning federalism or regionalism in Kiswahili, and it was intended to protect local rights, especially regarding land ownership. Today "majimboism" is code for certain areas of the country to be reserved for specific ethnic groups, fueling the kind of ethnic cleansing that has swept the country since the election. Majimboism has always had a strong following in the Rift Valley, the epicenter of the recent violence, where many locals have long believed that their land was stolen by outsiders. The December 2007 was in part a referendum on majimboism. It pitted today’s majimboists, represented by Odinga, who campaigned for regionalism, against Kibaki, who stood for the status quo of a highly centralized government that has delivered considerable economic growth but has repeatedly displayed the problems of too much power concentrated in too few hands — corruption, aloofness, favoritism and its flip side, marginalization. In the town of Londiani in the Rift Valley, Kikuyu traders settled decades ago. In February, 2008, hundreds of Kalenjin raiders poured down from the nearby scruffy hills and burned a Kikuyu school. Kikuyus quickly took revenge, organizing into gangs armed with iron bars and table legs and hunting down Luos and Kalenjins in Kikuyu-dominated areas like Nakuru. "We are achieving our own perverse version of majimboism," wrote one of Kenya’s leading columnists, Macharia Gaitho.[32]

Social Change

Fertility decline

Between 1980 and 2000 total fertility in Kenya fell by about 40%, from some eight births per woman to around five. During the same period, fertility in Uganda declined by less than 10%. The difference was due primarily to greater contraceptive use in Kenya, though in Uganda there was also a reduction in pathological sterility. The Demographic and Health Surveys carried out every five years show that women in Kenya wanted fewer children than those in Uganda and that in Uganda there was also a greater unmet need for contraception. These differences may be attributed, in part at least, to the divergent paths of economic development followed by the two countries since independence and to the Kenya government's active promotion of family planning, which the Uganda government did not promote until 1995.[33]


The Luo population of the southwest had enjoyed an advantageous position during the late colonial and early independence periods of the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s, particularly in terms of the the prominence of its modern elite compared to those of other groups. However the Luo lost prominence due to the success of Kikuyu and related groups (Embu and Meru) in gaining and exercising political power during the Jomo Kenyatta era (1963-1978). While measurements of poverty and health by the early 2000s showed the Luo disadvantaged relative to other Kenyans, the growing presence of non-Luo in the professions reflected a dilution of Luo professionals due to the arrival of others rather than a absolute decline in the Luo numbers.[34]


  1. Jeffrey Gettleman, "Unity Cabinet Formed in Kenya, Ending Deadlock," New York Times April 14, 2008
  2. "Odinga pledges to rebuild Kenya" BBC News, Feb. 29, 2008
  3. Jeffrey Gettleman, "Unity Cabinet Formed in Kenya, Ending Deadlock," New York Times Ap. 14, 2008
  4. See The Economist Dec 30, 2007 at [1]
  5. Jeffrey Gettleman, "Kenya Kikuyus, Long Dominant, Are Now Routed," New York Times Jan. 7, 2008
  6. The official death estimate is 1,000, based on deaths in hospitals; journalists report the actual toll is far higher. Jeffrey Gettleman, "Signs in Kenya of a Land Redrawn by Ethnicity," New York Times Feb. 15, 2008
  7. See [2]
  9. See [3]
  10. See E. S. Atieno Odhiambo, "Ethnic Cleansing and Civil Society in Kenya 1969-1992." Journal of Contemporary African Studies 2004 22(1): 29-42.
  11. See [4] and [5]
  12. Kevin Merida, "The Ghost of a Father," Washington Post December 14, 2007 online at [6]
  13. John M. Mwaruvie, "Kenya's 'Forgotten' Engineer and Colonial Proconsul: Sir Percy Girouard and Departmental Railway Construction in Africa, 1896-1912." Canadian Journal of History 2006 41(1): 1-22. Issn: 0008-4107 Fulltext: Ebsco
  14. Richard D. Waller, "Witchcraft and Colonial Law in Kenya." Past & Present 2003 (180): 241-275. Issn: 0031-2746 Fulltext: OUP The Africans saw witchcraft as a powerful influence on their lives and frequently took violent action against suspected witches. To control this aggression, the British colonial administration passed laws, beginning in 1909, which made the practice of witchcraft illegal. These laws gave the local population a legal, nonviolent way to stem the activities of witches.
  15. J. M. Lonsdale, "Some Origins of Nationalism in East Africa." Journal of African History 1968 9(1): 119-146. Issn: 0021-8537 Fulltext: in Jstor
  16. C. J. Duder, "'Men of the Officer Class': The Participants in the 1919 Soldier Settlement Scheme in Kenya," African Affairs, Vol. 92, No. 366. (Jan., 1993), pp. 69-87. in JSTOR; Dane Kennedy, Islands of White: Settler Society and Culture in Kenya and Southern Rhodesia, 1890-1939, (1987).
  17. Hal Brands, "Wartime Recruiting Practices, Martial Identity and Post-world War II Demobilization in Colonial Kenya." Journal of African History 2005 46(1): 103-125. Issn: 0021-8537; Meshack Owino, "'For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today': A History of Kenya African Soldiers in the Second World War." PhD dissertation Rice U. 2004. 671 pp. DAI 2004 65(2): 651-A. DA3122519 Fulltext: ProQuest Dissertations & Theses
  18. A. Fiona D. Mackenzie, "Contested Ground: Colonial Narratives and the Kenyan Environment, 1920-1945." Journal of Southern African Studies 2000 26(4): 697-718. Issn: 0305-7070 Fulltext: in Jstor
  19. Amos O. Odenyo, "Conquest, Clientage, and Land Law among the Luo of Kenya." Law & Society Review 1973 7(4): 767-778. Issn: 0023-9216 Fulltext: in Jstor
  20. Demographers have refuted the often repeated allegation that 300,000 Kikuyu died in the uprising. The number was exaggerated by a factor of 10 according to John Blacker, "The Demography of Mau Mau: Fertility and Mortality in Kenya in the 1950s: a Demographer's Viewpoint." African Affairs 2007 106(423): 205-227. Issn: 0001-9909 Fulltext: OUP
  21. David Goldsworthy, "Ethnicity and Leadership in Africa: the 'Untypical' Case of Tom Mboya." Journal of Modern African Studies 1982 20(1): 107-126. Issn: 0022-278x Fulltext: in Jstor]
  22. Michael Dobbs, "Obama Overstates Kennedys' Role in Helping His Father," Washington Post Mar. 30, 2008
  23. No assembly could be formed in the Northeast Region, because separatist Somalis had boycotted the elections, and its House and Senate seats also remained vacant.
  24. Gérard Prunier, "Kenya: roots of crisis," Jan 7, 2008, online at [7]
  25. Suzanne D. Mueller, "Government and Opposition in Kenya, 1966-9," Journal of Modern African Studies 1984 22(3): 399-427. Issn: 0022-278x Fulltext: in Jstor
  26. David A. Percox, Britain, Kenya and the Cold War: Imperial Defence, Colonial Security and Decolonisation. (2004)
  27. Jacqueline M. Klopp, "'Ethnic Clashes' and Winning Elections: the Case of Kenya's Electoral Despotism." Canadian Journal of African Studies 2001 35(3): 473-517. Issn: 0008-3968 Fulltext: in Jstor
  28. Philip G. Roessler, "Donor-induced Democratization and the Privatization of State Violence in Kenya and Rwanda." Comparative Politics 2005 37(2): 207-227. Issn: 0010-4159
  29. Jeffrey Steeves, "Presidential Succession in Kenya: the Transition from Moi to Kibaki." Commonwealth & Comparative Politics 2006 44(2): 211-233. Issn: 1466-2043 Fulltext: Ebsco; Peter Mwangi Kagwanja, "'Power to Uhuru': Youth Identity and Generational Politics in Kenya's 2002 Elections." African Affairs 2006 105(418): 51-75. Issn: 0001-9909 Fulltext: OUP
  30. Gérard Prunier, "Kenya: roots of crisis," Jan 7, 2008, online at [8]
  31. Godwin R. Murunga, and Shadrack W. Nasong'o, "Bent on Self-destruction: the Kibaki Regime in Kenya." Journal of Contemporary African Studies 2006 24(1): 1-28. Issn: 0258-9001 Fulltext: Ebsco
  32. Jeffrey Gettleman, "Signs in Kenya of a Land Redrawn by Ethnicity," New York Times Feb. 15, 2008
  33. : John Blacker, et al. "Fertility in Kenya and Uganda: a Comparative Study of Trends and Determinants." Population Studies 2005 59(3): 355-373. Issn: 0032-4728
  34. Lesa Morrison, "The Nature of Decline: Distinguishing Myth from Reality in the Case of the Luo of Kenya." Journal of Modern African Studies 2007 45(1): 117-142. Issn: 0022-278x