The Neighbour With The Machete: An explaining view at the violence in Kenya following the General Elections on Dec. 27, 2007 from the perspective of four different theoretical models

Master's Thesis, 2008

88 Pages, Grade: A











I. Introduction

“High up in the mountains of the northern Rift Valley is the village of Kiambaa, a place of maize farms and mud huts where the air is so light and pure, it is said to hold the secret of Kenya’s world-beating distance runners, who train in the surrounding hills. On New Year’s Day, a mob of several hundred people armed with machetes, clubs and bows and arrows surrounded Kiambaa’s tiny tin-roofed church, where up to 200 men, women and children were huddled. The mob freed those who gave up mobile phones or money, raped the women, then closed the doors on the rest, heaped mattresses and dry maize leaves against the entrances and set them alight.”

(from Alex Perry and Laura Blue, in: TIME, 2008-01-10)

The Kenyan General Election on December 27, 2007 was supposed to be an important step to build a stable country in the midst of a critical region. Presidential and parliamentary elections were held together and the incumbent head of state, Mwai Kibaki, was facing a terrible loss to the opposition leader Raila Odinga after only 5 years in office. The election was regarded as a sign of stability. People thought that other than in Zimbabwe or the likes, the system in Kenya worked and a transition of power was not a problem; that the people were willing to play by the rules of democracy. People lined up to cast their votes and everything looked just beautiful. The international media didn’t care about minor pre-election violence, since it happened less than the years before the elections, and a good picture of Kenya should be shown.

Three days later, the system was upside down. The seemingly endless period of time until the results were declared on December 30 was raising suspicion. Prior, both candidates had claimed victory as first reports of vote-rigging were already leaking. It was said that

Odinga lead by about one million votes but overnight this lead vanished and in the morning of the 30th, Odinga had only 100,000 votes more – a lead that was shrinking over the course of the day. More news of rigging came in and then Kenya and the world saw a remarkable scene:

“[T]here was a sudden power blackout at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, where the returns were being announced. Hundreds of GSU (General Service Unit) paramilitaries suddenly marched in. Ejected all media except the government mouthpiece Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.”

(from the “Open Letter to Samuel Kivuitu by Shailja Patel”, 2008-01-25)

Samuel Kivuitu, the chief of Kenya’s election commission (which was set in place by the president), announced Kibaki the winner. Just minutes after this incident he was sworn in as president. Later, Kivuitu admitted under heavy pressure that he had been pushed to do so and did not now who had actually won. Immediately after the announcement, neighbours in Kenya turned on to each other with machetes. Heads were split open. Limbs were cut. People had to run for their lives. It seemed that Kenya was suddenly not the same place anymore. “The events of the first month of 2008 have dramatically altered the ethnic makeup of many parts of Kenya” (HRW 2008: 56). And the once “poster nation of the African renaissance” (ibid., emphasis added), a term coined lately by South African President Thabo Mbeki, became a killing ground with machete brandishing neighbours.

Nevertheless, with 45,000 dying per month in Congo’s Civil war, Sudan being an ongoing tragedy of huge extends, the situation in Chad increasingly getting worse and now Zimbabwe having a similar situation, Kenya aroused much more attention from the international community than any of those other cases. On one hand, this is due to the fear of Kenya becoming a second Rwanda, where the genocide killed 800,000 people in short time. On the other hand, Kenya is an economic hub for the region, a tourist hot spot and a close ally to the USA in the war on terror. Kenya is Africa. It’s tribal differences, it’s sharp difference between rich and poor, it’s problems with corruption. Somehow, “[t]he nation embodies the best and the worst of the continent” (Perry/Blue 2008-01-10). If Kenya fails, Africa will fail.

The lasting solution to this has to be found by others, whereas this thesis will explore the reasons behind the post-eleciton violence from the perspective of political science. This goal will be accomplished with the help of chosen theories. Only when the causes are understood, a solution can be tackled.

II. Methodology

As the introduction has suggested this Master's Thesis will be exploring quite a complex topic. Therefore, it is considered essential to adhere to methodological rules and techniques of research. The reasons for my choice of the case Kenya will shortly be outlined and what scientific research that has already been concluded is presented. Proceeding to the guiding research question, the methodological approach is explained. Finally the author will briefly defend the structure of the thesis.

1. Relevance of the case and level of current research

As numerous researchers in methodology point out, a scientific research should address two basic spheres of problems: the real world and the scientific world (in King/Keohane/Verba 1994: 15). The relevance of the chosen case Kenya for the real world cannot be contested with regard to the violence that has just occurred and that is already outlined in the introduction. It is now the task of researchers to analyse the reasons for the violence thereby contributing to a greater understanding and feasible solutions for the future. The second point, the relevance for the scientific debate shall not be neglected. Up to now, there is little data and thought about the latest violence outside the media. Frequent coverage led to an amount of cited reasons, none however has been looked at with the help of a theoretical model. This thesis aims at filling the gap between general knowledge of the involved people and press and the scientific world by putting the facts in terms and structures that can further be used by science and policies.

Adding to that, by combining the theories it is hoped to achieve some knowledge about how they are intertwined and what they effect togethere. The author is aware that qualitative research in general is not as suitable for the testing of theories as quantitative research (in Ragin 2007: 6), nevertheless the is aim at advancing theory (ibid.), even if it is only to a small extent.

Often, qualitative researchers chose anomalous cases for their studies in order to advance (or maybe even refute) theories, or they compare a larger number of cases to obtain insight about different conditions and effects or the convergence of structures (ibid., Appendix Table 1). However, the principal aim is an explanatory one: the analysis of the outbreak of violence in Kenya, therefore the theoretical improvement is not the priority. Secondly, it is decided not to extend the number of cases, e.g. by comparing the violence in Rwanda or Sudan with the violence in Kenya, because this would enlarge the side-effect of the explanation of the violence in Kenya – the check of four theories – over the actual objective. More to it, the extend of the paper would be to big to handle.

2. Research Question

Having explained the reasons for the choice of the case and having stated the general aims of this thesis, now the general question that will guide throughout the research is formulated. In this Master’s Thesis, four theories of ethnic violence are introduced and their explanatory value is checked concerning Kenya’s most recent clashes. Therefore, the following will be examined:

In how far can the outbreak of violence in Kenya after the last general elections be explained taking into account the theories of Security Dilemma, Resource Contesting, Corruptive Elites and Symbolic Policy ?

3. Methodology and Material

As already stated, a qualitative research limited to one case – violence in Kenya during the last months – is conducted. Consequently, the author is less concerned with breadth than with depth. The thesis is strongly process-orientated, meaning that the focus lies on looking for the specific reasons and motivations that led to the violent outbreaks. The dependence of some effect to the presence or absence of other conditions or causal mechanisms will be lightened.

In order to achieve this, the chosen theories need to be presented in a detailed manner. The selection was made do to criteria such as high profile, lucidity, tangibility and significance. While recent politics go back to the theory of Security Dilemma quite often, the contesting of resources has to be looked into as the only real material big theory. Further, Africa’s reputation as being corrupt forbids every researcher to ignore the role of elites. Last but not least it was decided to take into account the theory of Symbolic Policy, because it – on one hand – provided a more elaborated theory compared to the other three and – on the other hand – includes the factor of primordial feelings. It was seen as essential to take some irrational behaviour into account when analysing the almost incomprehensible violence.

Being aware of the fact that all sub-theories that are worth being included cannot fully be covered, it seems reasonable and appropriate to have chosen the ones below given the amount of time and the resources. They give the reader an insight into the theoretical labyrinths but also keep the research on quite an operable level. For the empirical part, there is a need to operationalize the theories. This means that the relevant aspects of the theories, the variables, have to be determined. This will then proceed to the examining to what extent each variable is relevant for my case analysis. This method will allow obtaining a structured overview of the explanatory effect of each theory for it has to divide into smaller sub-units – the variables.

Most of the information was gathered through Secondary Data Analysis, which included foremost articles on the matter. Nonetheless, the data and the sources used there have to meet several criteria in order to guarantee the scholarly standard of the research (Blatter/Janning/Wagemann 2007: 39; King/Keohane/Verba 1994: 25 ff). First of all, reliability is difficult to achieve in qualitative studies, since they are always context-bound and not easily replicable (Blatter/Janning/Wagemann 2007: 39). Nonetheless, it will be tried to make the use of data understandable. Secondly, taking all samples and empirical proof from the actual environment studied – Kenya after the last general elections – will ensure the validity of my research. No connections or events will be taken into account that have not proven themselves valid under the real existing conditions (ibid.: 40) as it would be the case with comparisons, hypothetical constructs, and so on. Finally, the researcher must pay heed to the objectivity of the data as it should be universally understandable and individually verifiable. This will be obtained by referring to the works of other authors and by meticulously accounting for the use of data and sources.

4. Structure of the thesis

Before starting with the actual research process another problem has yet to be tackled: the complexity of the topic and the prerequisite knowledge for understanding the argumentation. For solving this problem, the reader is first confronted with the background to the research object Kenya. Providing a detailed background has two reasons. Firstly, informing the reader and introducing him into the topic by also arousing interest. Secondly, making it easier and more justified to refer to people and events during the empirical part. It could have been worked as well with boxes or extensive footnotes, but it was chosen to clarify in the beginning of the thesis what seems to be important to me for the understanding of all arguments. The author is well aware of the fact that this part of his thesis does not contribute to any scientific progress since it is merely descriptive, for this reason it is not considered part of the research process but offered to the reader as an extra part for a better understanding.

After giving the background, the theories have to be explained. Prior to this, a general discussion of the concept of “ethnicity” seems necessary. Since there is a scientific discussion if the concept of “ethnicity” is valid and/or useful at all, it has to be justified why I still chose to operate with it. A definition of the concept as I use it is given in IV.1.

The theoretical part also encompasses the four theories Security Dilemma, Resource Contesting, Corruptive Elites and Symbolic Policy in detail. This is especially necessary as from this theoretical frame the variables for the empirical analysis have to be developed which will be outlined at the end of each theory presented.

In the empirical part of this work, the findings are arranged more or less according to the questions posed and the variables defined within the four theoretical complexes. Since the theories must be proven they will guide this thesis. However, at the end of each empirical sub- chapter, which have the same headings as the theoretical part’s sub-chapters, the author will try to make a summarizing statement. In these pre-conclusions it will be argued which variables could be proven existent and relevant and which ones are to be discarded. This will allow judging the explanatory value of the different theories in a more coherent and transparent way. After going through all points and analysing the value of each theory for Kenya, the final conclusion can be made. In addition to this, in the sub-points, it is tried to keep in mind the three-step structure of root causes, process and triggering factors, which are common in the analysis of Failed States (cf. Schneckener 2004: 18). Since Kenya as a (economically, socially, politically) developing nation, it makes sense to apply these analysis- concepts here.

The final conclusion will weigh the different theories according to their explanatory value – as found out before with the help of variables. But certainly, this master's thesis will not find the absolute truth about the violence in Kenya following the last general elections. Nevertheless it will certainly be able to explain it to some extent recurring to the four theories. As already mentioned above, this thesis will also make an attempt to advance some of the theories while equally showing where further research will be needed.

III. Background

1. General

Kenya lies in East Africa on the coast between the Horn of Africa with its constant crisis- shaken countries Somalia and Ethiopia and relatively stable Tanzania in the south (cf. Graphic 1, p. 86). Major areas of human settlement are in Mombasa – also the most important port in East Africa, - in the capital Nairobi in Central Kenya as well as around Lake Victoria in the West and South West. Today, around 37.000.000 people live in an area that “comprise[s] one of the most successful agricultural production regions in Africa” (CIA 2008, cf. Graphic 3, p. 87). The AIDS/HIV-rate is little lower that 7% and the medium life expectancy lies below 19 years. The dominant religion in Kenya is Christianity (78%), followed by Islam and indigenous beliefs (each 10%). Those however, have not led to any major incidents regarding public violence (led aside the Nairobi terror attacks in 1997). The country has a low illiteracy- rate (15%) and the official languages are Kiswahili (which is seen as ethnically neutral) and English (all data: CIA 2008). The most important fragmentation however is along the lines of ethnic descent.

2. Ethnicity in Kenya

Kenya is ethnically divided into different groups, notable the Kikuyu, which make up around 22%, the Luhya (14%), the Luo (13%), the Kalenjin (12%), the Kamba (11%), the Kisii (6%), the Meru (6%), and other African (15%) and non-African (1%) groups. These ethnicities mainly define the conflict lines in the country, although inner-ethnic (purely tribal) conflicts occur as well, for example within the Luhya (according to Foeken/ Dietz 2000: 123)1.

Kenya’s ethnic groups have different languages and cultures. Some have only begun to form a common group in the last decades (e.g. Mijikenda). Berg-Schlosser attributes “increasing means of communication and interaction at the national level” to the change in some ethnic patterns (cf. 1994: 248). Until the 1940s, the Kalenjin were still seen as “Nandi speaking” but separate groups (cf. Oyugi 1998: 288). Those ethnic groups had their distinct behaviour and patterns of interactions. Thanks to colonialism they were forced to live together in a national frame, which undoubtedly has resulted in a variety of problems.

“Traditionally, almost all of Kenya’s ethnic groups were characterized by what has become known as ‘egalitarian- segmentarian’ structures in contrast to more hierarchical forms of social and political organization.”

(Berg-Schlosser 1994: 249)

Hence, the groups were ordered by descent and internally by sex and age with the Luo being an exception, having no age-set system (ibid.: 249f). Today, some analyse that a certain identification with the clan is still present among all rural respondents but has decreased in urban settlements (ibid.). To counteract behaviour along ethnic divides, President Moi banned all organizations with an ethnic background (e.g. the Luo Football club) in 1980 (cf. Berg- Schlosser 1994: 253). But according to Foeken/ Dietz (2000: 124) the “subnational/ethnic identities [were…] still very strong, and under President Moi’s leadership they have intensified.” Before Moi, even a general de-concentration of ethnic groups in Kenya could be observed. This tendency was reversed in half of the areas by the mid-1980s. Wainaina states in a contribution to The New York Times that in the beginning, Kenya was quite successful with the experiment to build a unifying Kenyan national identity (2008-01-06), but this didn’t last:

“Our Kenyan identity, so deliberately formed in the test tube of nationalist effort, has over the years been undermined, subtly and not so subtly, by our leaders – men who appealed to our histories and loyalties to win our votes.”

(Wainaina 2008-01-06)

3. A Short History of Kenya

As with most African countries, the history of colonialism and what happened afterwards is crucial in order to understand today’s problems. Kenya became independent from Great Britain December 12, 1963 following a guerrilla war (the Mau Mau rebellion). The Kikuyu Jomo Kenyatta became the first president. At this time, two movements existed in Kenya: the radical left Kenya Africa National Union (KANU), which included mainly Kikuyu and Luo interests, and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), which was more moderate and open towards decentralization. Since both parties melted soon after independence, the Luo leader Odinga Odinga, father of Raila Odinga (who ran for President in 2002 and 2007), formed the left-wing Kenya Peoples Union (KPU) in 1966. Prior, the ruling KANU party was faced with a strong opposition in both Chambers in the early 1960s, which made constitutional changes hard to adopt. So it tried to pull over persons from KADU, which it dislodged by that (cf. Oyugi 1994: 155ff). By doing so, the ‘moderates’ within KANU gained in strength and pushed the ‘radicals’ out. Kenya was always more aligned with the West, while other countries like its southern neighbour Tanzania tended more towards communism. To contain the opposition – less because it was ‘left’ than because it was threatening Kikuyu dominance – Odinga Odinga was arrested and his KPU banned. By this, Kenya became a de facto one-party state. A little later, the assassination of the Luo top-politician in KANU, Mboya, in July 1969 resulted in strong animosities between Luo and Kikuyu within the ruling party and therefore within the state. “The State became a willing partner” of KANU with its interests ”intricately inter-linked in a way” (ibid.: 163). Still, “all cabinets have consisted of an (admittedly often somewhat lopsided) “grand-coalition” of representatives from all major ethnic groups” (Berg-Schlosser 1994: 266).

Kenyatta died in 1978 and Daniel arap Moi – a Tugen (which belongs to the a Kalenjin) – managed to become his successor. In the first two years, his main concern was the dismantling of Kikuyu power by carefully directing resources towards his own clan. Hereby, he relied on a wider base of ethnic groups, mainly the ‘smaller’ ones (eg. Somali, Luhya, Maasai). In the early 1980s, Kenya became a de jure one-party state under Moi. The society in the country showed a “mostly ‘peripheral-capitalist’ social formation” (ibid.: 148).

It was not until 1990, when a new Kikuyu-Luo alliance against the KANU was in the air (Oyugi 1998: 300), that Kenya opened slowly its system to multipartyism under intense internal and external pressure from donors and the civil society. This time became known as “The Second Liberation”, with (Raila) Odinga being the most successful of a group of new politicians (cf. Ogosia 2008-04-14). The then established FORD party soon split between Luos and Kikuyus, ultimately sealing the defeat of the opposition in the 1992 general elections. Similarly in 1997: the opposition was not united and therefore could not defeat President Moi and the KANU-machine. However, in 2002 it was agreed on a single candidate within the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) to run against the incumbent. This resulted in the election of Mwai Kibaki as new leader. Among the ones who stood back was Raila Odinga, who was promised to become Prime Minister soon after. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Reforms took time and the Amendment of 2005 did not include the desired post for Raila. Hence, he built up the ‘Orange Movement’ which led to the defeat of Kibaki’s plans in a nationwide referendum. Kenya’s biggest problems are still poverty (over half of the population live under the UN poverty-line of 2$ per day) and corruption. Yet, Kibaki’s government has expanded free primary and secondary education, made reforms of the judiciary and civil services and the economy is growing stable at over 7% a year (cf. NYT 2008-01-03). He “did a good job”, but the “framework […] was not sustainable” (Wainaina 2008-01-06). This “framework” means the social and political system of the country.

4. The Political System until 2007

Kenya is a presidential republic, since the President is Chief of State and Head of Government at the same time. He is elected by popular vote for 5 years. Requirements are: the largest number of total votes nationwide and to win at least 25% in 5 of Kenya’s 8 provinces (cf. Graphic 2, p. 86). In addition, he must be an elected member of parliament. Moi introduced the 25%-threshold because his rivals at that time had a strong local base but his KANU was the only national party.

The presidency is the central position in this multi-party system. He (or she) appoints the ministers. Since an amendment in 1997, a coalition government has been possible – which leads to a possibility of rewarding political enemies with posts if they ‘behave’.2 The government also shares the legislative power with the parliament (National Assembly) while the judiciary is independent.

The National Assembly has 210 elected members (from winner takes all -constituencies) plus 12 members from the parties (based on their proportional share of the votes) and the attorney general and the speaker. Election for the parliament is on the same day as the presidential one. The last one was held Dec. 27, 2007. The office of a Prime Minister – also as a balance to the strong presidency – was introduced by the amendment in April 2008.

Different forms of manipulation are common in Kenya. The Constitutional Amendment prior to the 1992-elections, which introduced the 25-rule (cf. above) and also prevented coalition-governments (until 1997), can be seen as a legal manipulation. Since no party seriously challenged the reforms of 1992, it can be regarded as a strong indicator “that in the end all candidates and parties aim for the same: absolute majority, meaning unshared power” (Foeken/ Dietz 2000: 130). The president nominates the majority of the Electoral Commission, which is in charge of the whole election process including the form of the constituencies (11 out of 21 members, the rest is appointed by the opposition). Through this, ‘gerrymandering’3 can occur. In fact, the term “Moimandering” became known in 1994. Since the constituencies are relatively homogeneous outside the urban centres, it became more common to play with the their size. In the KANU-stronghold, more constituencies were formed so that on average 33,000 voters equal one KANU-seat while in opposition territory an average of 52,000 voters decided about one seat in parliament. Through these means, the size of parliamentary groups could deviate strongly from the proportionate share the party gained in the presidential run4. The Rift Valley still holds a large amount of MP-seats, probably due to this gerrymandering, making it even more valuable.

Furthermore, the non-issuing of identity cards – a prerequisite to vote in Kenya – can be considered an illegal manipulation. This could explain the gap between the potential voters in the population and the actual votes. However, Foeken and Dietz (ibid.: 133) could not “find evidence that registration in ‘KANU districts’ was higher than in ‘opposition districts’ [in 1992].” Yet, a total number of 16 opposition candidates for the National Assembly were physically prevented to present their nomination papers, which left the KANU-candidates unopposed. Irregularities that fall outside the responsibility of the Electoral Commission but not necessarily outside the Presidents responsibility is the physical intimidation and harassment of opposition followers as well as vote buying. The executive was strong from the very beginning of the founding of the state and through the Provincial Administration, which was already established in the colonial period, it has an instrument “through which the State penetrated and controlled the localities” (Oyugi 1994: 180).

It is important to note that “clan affiliation is the major factor determining electoral outcomes” (Berg-Schlosser 1994: 268). While MPs are legislators on one hand, “they constitute one of the most important links betweens government and society” also because of a “patron-client relation” (ibid.). The President remains “the final source of patronage at the apex of the clientelist system” (ibid.: 269). The politics in Kenya evolve highly around single individuals, as it could be observed in the last election but also in earlier in the behaviour of supporters, dating back to the days of independence. Parties are mere vehicles of individuals. This has been the case on the eve of every election so far. Odinga, for example, split form the opposition in 1994, established an own party which later joined with the Moi government after the 1997 elections. Then, he got into a coalition with Kibaki who he abandoned later when he was not made prime Minister. Only after getting this post, Odinga agreed on signing a Grand Coalition in April 2008. When it comes to other politicians, similar stories can be told. The political behaviour in Kenya is due to the fact that losing is not really an option.

5. The Cost of Losing

As Jaindi Kisero stated (in The EastAfrican, Jan. 7, 2007), the “cost of losing elections is a high-stakes affair because it means exclusion of the losers from power and distribution of resources for five years.”

Losing means:

“the sacking of permanent secretaries, parastatal heads, directors of state corporations and other public officials […] winning an election also means preferential treatment of companies owned by the president’s tribe in the award of government contracts and the major procurement deals floated by public corporations.”


Insofar, it is interesting to see how the Kalenjin business class disappeared after the ‘fall’ of President Moi in 2003 and many Kalenjins were “sacked” (interview Amenya 2008). Yet, the new president Kibaki were not better than his predecessor: after the referendum struggle in 20055, three out of four Luo ministers were dismissed, including Odinga himself. Because of this, Kisero argues in favour of a reform that prevents the loser from losing complete power for 5 years (cf. Kisero 2007).

Reforms are hard, since people are “ready to kill and die to defend […] ethnic interests” (ibid.). Politicians use this by calling upon an “ethnically pure federalism” (majimbo) according to the Human Rights Watch 2002 Report on Kenya. To be more precise, they call for an ethnically exclusive majimboism. This began in 1990 when political competition started in Kenya from Kalenjin and Maasai politicians in ‘their’ Rift Valley Province. The hate was mostly oriented towards ‘up-landers’ – mostly Luo, Luhya and

Kikuyu communities6. Coordinated attacks then took place in all provinces west of Nairobi, leaving about 1,500 people dead and over 300,000 displaced (cf. HRW 2002). This happened mostly through the hands of youth organizations like the Youth of KANU ’92 (YK’92). Retaliation attacks against Kalenjin followed naturally. HRW (2002) also stresses the point that the possession of firearms gives the government-side a huge advantage in the rural areas. Intimidation (before) and punishment (after elections) has become usual in some areas since the 1990s. A preferential area for those operations was also the Coast area, which seemed to lack its own (national) political leaders. Here, modern hotels surrounded people in extreme poverty and foreigners and corrupt elites had taken their land. In sharp resemblance of Rwanda, “a paramilitary system of ‘civilian self-defense’ where ordinary citizens were guided by political leaders and trained and armed by soldiers, former soldiers, and police [was build]” (HRW 2002). Since the only Islamic Party in Kenya – the Coast-based IPK – was forbidden, other politicians tried to win votes by either siding with the Muslims or agitating against them. Former president Moi allegedly had blessed a “violent campaign” against the IPK and tried to divide Africa- and Arab-oriented Muslims.

The 2007-coalition PNU (Party of National Unity) of president Kibaki consisted of supporters and enemies of the (mostly Kalenjin) KANU party. But since the opposition was (relatively) united this time, the conflict became as heated as 5/10/15 years before. These time with Kikuyu and Luo most prominently being the top-enemies. Political Parties are hereby seen almost identical with ethnic groups.

6. Politicized Ethnicity

In Kenya, religious divisions between traditional, Christian and Muslim Faith do not play a central role as in neighbouring Uganda. The “caste-like situation” of racial division as it was present in the colonial time is also not a leading issue (cf. Berg-Schlosser 1994: 247). But “ethnicity has emerged as the single most important factor in political competition” (Ajulu 2002: 251). One reason are the colonial authorities who were actively pursuing tribal associations with the hope of no national sentiments against them arising (cf. ibid.: 254). No wonder that the banning of the only nationwide political organisation KAU in 1950 by the British caused a retreat into tribal associations; “politicization of ethnic groups proceeded, the ethnicization of politics became the norm” (Oyugi 1998: 293). Already the two dominant parties of the early post-independence were associated with ethnic groups: KANU got support mainly from Kikuyu and Luo districts while KADU was mainly rooted in the Western Province, the Rift Valley and the Cost. Later, Kikuyu and Luo split after KANU became the only party (cf. ibid.: 156ff).

Following Foeken/ Dietz (2000: 126), it can be seen as a form of “political ethnicity” when “several ethnic groups develop political activities based on their claims to ethnic consciousness” thus leading to ethnic voting. When an ethnic group provides two or more competing candidates for political posts, their vote might be strongly divided. It remains open so far if tribal borders then substitute ethnic ones. In 1992 two Kikuyus ran against incumbent

Daniel arap Moi while in the most recent election, all candidates were from different ethnic groups (and most notably, the long empowered Kalenjin did not have an ‘own’ hopeful7 ). Since most groups do not provide a top-runner at all they might swing towards one or divide their votes – like the Luhya in 2007. A lot of political agitation from the candidates is heavily aimed at these “undecided” groups. It is in those regions – like the Mijikenda Coast Province (around Mombasa) – where ethnic conflict is likely to be provoked by political factions.

The pivotal factors are foremost the background of the presidential candidate. However, in 1992 ‘only’ 2/3 of the members of (Kikuyu-led) FORD-Asili were Kikuyu, slightly less Luo were in (Luo-led) FORD-Kenya and only half of Kibakis DP was Kikuyu. Second, it is important to note which groups are not included. The ´92 KANU had not a single Kikuyu or Luo representative in parliament. So it received only 1% in the Kikuyu dominated Central province and only 14% in Luos home district of Nyanza (probably thanks to Kisii- votes). KANU won due to the fact that it included all Kalenjin representatives plus the majority of Kamba (12 out of 17 representatives), Somali (9 /10), Maasai (6/6), Gusii (6/9) as well as all representatives from smaller ethnic groups. It should not be seen as blindly ideological, but “the regional distribution of central government resources – for education, health, and infrastructure – has politicized ethnicity” to a great extent (Miguel 2004: 337). Above all, the problematic issues around the ownership of soil, especially in the Rift Valley Province, have contributed to this politicization.

7. The Question of Land

“One might say that Kenya was founded by successive acts of land grabbing, and hence, land grabbing is as old as Kenya, if not older” (Klopp 2000: 15): The British took the “unoccupied” land mainly form Kikuyu and Maasai areas and gave it to white settlers. The colony was highly centralized and “land allocation served as a critical tool” (ibid.: 15f) to the British occupiers. About 20% of the total Kenyan territory was taken (cf. ibid.; HRW 2000: 12). Especially the Kikuyus had to move out of the Central Province during the time of colonialism, and by this created conflict in their new regions of settlement.

“The scale of land alienation in Kikuyuland [during Colonialism] marked the beginning of squatter farming among the Kikuyu which saw them move out of Kikuyuland to especially white settled areas in the present Rift Valley. […] The anti-Kikuyu crusade among the Kalenjin and the Maasai in contemporary Kenya has to be explained largely by this colonial heritage.”

(Oyugi 1998: 290)

It is just a sad fact that – at least under Kenyatta – the Kikuyus in the ‘diaspora’, those who settled in the beginning of the last century in the Rift Valley, where not members of the ruling “Kiambu coalition which held a stranglehold on political and economic institutions of the state” (Ajulu 2002: 261). While the disporous Kikuyu worsened the image of the Kikuyu in areas like the Rift Valley, the rich Central Province Kikuyus – different from the first group in person and power – contributed to the bad image because it was the powerful elite. When the land was given back in 1963, it went not to the people to whom it belonged to originally, but to the new Kenyan government who sold it mainly according to market principles (cf. HRW 2008: 12f). The Kikuyu of Central Province were more accustomed to the ‘modern’ production modes and hence had an advantage over their neighbours. Thus, they were better at the acquisition of education, business and land (cf. Ajulu 2002: 254). The Kibaki- introduced Ndung’u Commission concluded that

“the settlement schemes... the interests of the landless [were] ignored in favour of those of ‘District officials, their relatives, members of parliament…’ and other influential people [Commission: p.147].”

(quoted in Southall 2005, in HRW 2008: 14)

According to data gathered by Berg-Schlosser in 1979, the Kikuyus' land is about 70% agricultural “high potential”, compared to almost full potential for the Luos. The Kalenjin, on the other side, have about 40% “high potential” land and therefore only little of it is cultivated. But this might also reflect their relative small size compared to ‘their’ vast land in the Rift Valley, not only material disadvantaging. Nevertheless, in my opinion the core of the problem is less based on the economic value of the land, than it is a more general matter of a the pastoralist way of life:

“The introduction of the concept of private individual property, without the recognition of collective land rights, upset the traditional arrangements of many indigenous groups, many of which based their land occupation and use on traditional collective practices, such as pastoralism.”

(HRW 2008: 12)

8. The Idea of Majimbo

As an answer to the problems of land, an idea is often brought up that focuses the homelands of groups. This conception of Majimbo dates back as far as 1954 when some Whites tried to protect their White Highlands by proposing this quasi-federalist system (cf. Ajulu 2002: 258). KADU later adopted the Slogan “Regionalism or Civil War” in the 1963 campaigns (cf. ibid.) Kenya’s very first own constitution after independence was based on Majimbo and included a share of power between the local authorities and the central government. Yet, the “centre continued to be as powerful as it had been before independence” and never fully implemented Majimbo (Oyugi 1994: 154). While the ruling KANU was opposed to it, KADU was in favour. This contributed to KANU treating KADU – the opposition, not the policy agenda – as the enemy (cf. ibid.: 157). “In ‘majimboism’ KADU hoped to protect the interests of the ‘minority’ ethnic groups” (ibid.: 294) since it was too weak at the centre and hoped to compensate for this electoral weakness (cf. Ajulu 2002: 258). The dismantling of KADU through the incorporation of it into KANU brought also the end to Majimboism in Kenya’s political landscape for a while.

President Moi had to go back to some Majimbo “for the allocation of party posts”, something which “remained a permanent feature of party elections through the life of the one party state” (Oyugi 1998: 299). Today's proponents of the system have to be checked for their motivations; do they want regional autonomy or just more supply for their patronage-system?

No wonder that the Luo-led ODM is more in favour of Majimbo than the Kikuyu- dominated PNU: while about 9 in 10 Luos live in their home district of Nyanza, only round 7 of 10 Kikuyu live in ‘their’ Central Province. Kikuyus are therefore the most dispersed group in Kenya (cf. Berg-Schlosser 1994: 279). In addition to this, the anger of Kenyans about Kibaki’s “broken promise” (no constitutional reform) gave an upsurge to the Majimbo movement, carried smartly by Raila Odinga. On the other side, Kikuyu had less of a political agenda than movements within itself that were brought up prior to and during the clashes. One example for this is Mungiki.

9. The Mungiki

This “sect” emerged about one decade after Moi took over “as a principally cultural and spiritual movement promoting Kikuyu heritage and culture” (HRW 2008: 44). Nevertheless, it engaged in organized crime in the Nairobi slums and has “alleged ties to leading politicians” (ibid.). According to Human Rights Watch, it is “a brutal criminal gang that promotes a violent brand of Kikuyu chauvinism.” (ibid.).

In 2007, the government of the Kikuyu Kibaki drove Mungiki into the underground with a violent campaign. At least 500 alleged members were executed (KNCHR in ibid.). Despite rumours, some leaders of Mungiki announced that they would remain opposed to the government and thus did not interfere in the post-election violence (cf. ibid.). In February, other rumours were that the Kenyan police was infiltrated by Mungiki (ibid.: 43f). The threat

– even the mentioning of the name – is able to cause fear and ultimately migration among communities of non-Kikuyus. More than Mau Mau, Mungiki is a cultural and (since it relies heavily on thugs) an economical unit. A prominent position of the sect in the post-election violence could turn out to be valuable for some of the theories, which will be examined in the course of this thesis.

10. The General Election 2007 and the Violence

In the 2007 elections, the incumbent president was challenged by Raila Odinga, a Luo, and his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)8 as well as by Kalonzo Musyoka. The latter, a Kamba, was head of the ODM-Kenya, a friction of the original ODM. This type of building, splitting and rearranging of parties is very common in Kenya. But votes usually go with heads and not with programmes. Parties are just the vehicles of a group of politicians and thereby of ethnic groups. So the outcome in certain regions can largely be determined before the election.

Official data of the December 27 presidential election from the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) count 4,584,721 votes for Kibaki, 4,352993 for Odinga with once hopeful Musyoka tailing with only 879,905 votes (KBC Jan. 7, 2008). Immediately after the election, Kibaki was sworn in as new president for another 5-year term. This seemed even more critical with regard to the fact that very prominent PNU politicians lost their seats and the party its parliamentary majority.

But the sudden reversal [of the lead in votes] immediately ignited suspicions, especially after results showed that many members of Parliament close to the president — including the vice president, the defense minister, the foreign minister and more than 10 other cabinet members — were voted out of office in a wave of seeming dissatisfaction with the government.

(Gettleman 2007-12-30)

Until then, the ODM, who won 99 seats compared to PNU’s 43 in the parallel parliamentary election, had already stated the vote had been invalid and stolen by Kibaki. Now, “the rigging of the 2007 presidential election was the final betrayal” for many Kenyans (HRW 2008: 3). The trust in the Electoral Commission plunged immediately.

“While both sides engaged in electoral malpractice, observers are united in agreeing that government interference was likely the deciding factor in the poll. And it is the government that has ultimate control over the Electoral Commission of Kenya which announced Kibaki as President.”

(Albin-Lackey/Rawlence 2008: 1)

The supporters of ODM – especially in the Rift Valley Province – attacked supposed PNU- supporters (foremost Kikuyus) and “assigned an ethnic dimension to the violence and angry Kikuyu then fought back” (HRW 2008: 4). Musyoka was meanwhile appointed Vice- President by Kibaki (The Standard, Jan. 9, 2008). This fast move surprised, because Musyoka

– a long-term – minister under Moi, was ousted from government after he clashed with Kibaki over a constitutional amendment in 2005. The ODM had called to massive protests and wanted to use its clear majority in parliament (an indicator that the presidential elections where rigged) to “battle it out” (The Standard, Jan. 11,2008). But after two month of protests, already 1,000 died and over 500,000 were internally displaced (HRW 2008: 2). The Kibaki government lifted a ban on live broadcasts not until February 4 and four days later a general ban on public gatherings was finally lifted. The latter resulted in “many unnecessary deaths” (ibid.: 63). The fighting parties established a Commission of Inquiry on political violence, an Independent Review Committee on the elections, and a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to find the way out of this “systematic failure of governance” (ibid.: 2). After nine weeks, a power-sharing agreement was reached on February 28 (ibid.: 63). In April, a Grand Coalition government, with Odinga as Prime Minister, was finally established and the crisis declared to be over.


1 For a better picture of the geographical distribution of the ethnic groups take a look at Graphic 4, page 88.

2 This, of course, refers to the 2007-candidate Musyoka, who was offered the Vice-presidents post and (thus?) did not challenge the close election at all.

3 The boundaries of constituencies are made in a way that group one profits more than group two from the new shapes, by having no forms of minorities in either constituency. This works only in a winner takes all- system.

4 It is seen as normal that people vote for the same party in both elections. However, further research is needed to confirm this. Usually a big deviation is an indicator of ‘ballot box stuffing’ (Foeken/ Dietz 2000: 134).

5 Odinga and Kibaki were split on a referendum on a Constitutional Amendment and Odiga’s “No”-side won.

6 It is interesting how KANU – the party in power for three decades – shifted the anger of the people towards other ethnic groups in order to avoid a loss of voters among their own ethnic group.

7 Nevertheless, Moi – still influential within the KANU – endorsed Kibaki (African News, Aug. 29, 2007) after what was seen as a gentlemen’s agreement (XN Iraki in Eastern Standard, Dec. 30, 2007). Still, the Kalenjin region within the Rift Valley Province is a hotbed of ethnic conflict following the elections.

8 It is likely that the colour orange is taken in dependence on the Ukrainian Orange Revolution.

Excerpt out of 88 pages


The Neighbour With The Machete: An explaining view at the violence in Kenya following the General Elections on Dec. 27, 2007 from the perspective of four different theoretical models
Master Program in European Political Sociology
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Georg Kössler (Author), 2008, The Neighbour With The Machete: An explaining view at the violence in Kenya following the General Elections on Dec. 27, 2007 from the perspective of four different theoretical models, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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