Country Profile: Republic of Kenya

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2007

15 Pages, Grade: B



1. Development of the political system type

2. Parliaments and Parties

3. Elections and Referendums

4. Government and Administration

5. Federalism and Local Government

6. Privatization and Development Policies

7. Kenya’s role in regional organizations


8. References


1. Development of the political system type

Kenya gained its independence from Britain on December 12, 1963. Jomo Kenyatta, a liberation struggle icon, was given the chief responsibility to lead the country, which he did up until his death in 1978. Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu, was the head of the Kenya African National Union (KANU). The minority party, Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), dissolved itself in 1964 and joined KANU. The Kenyan government did not hold true to its initial democratic principles (Appendix A); as the 1966 banning of the small but significant leftist opposition party, the Kenya People's Union (KPU), clearly illustrated (CIA World Factbook, 2007; US Department of State, 2007).

Thus, KANU became Kenya’s solitary political party, with the country operating as a de facto one-party state from 1969 until 1982, after its political system transformed from an emerging democracy to restricted democratic practice from 1963 to 1969 (Appendix A). President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi took power in a constitutional succession after Kenyatta’s death in 1978. Moi continued the work of Kenyatta by officially making Kenya a one-party state in June 1982 after the National Assembly amended the constitution. After significant pressure on the domestic and international fronts, Moi allowed political liberalisation measures to be implemented in 1991, with the one-party section of the constitution being revoked (CIA World Factbook, 2007; US Department of State, 2007).

A year later, in 1992, independent Kenya held its first multiparty elections. The opposition took a bit of time to unify which is why Moi retained his presidency in the 1992 and 1997 elections. The 1997 election brought about Kenya’s first coalition government as KANU needed the support of minority parties in order to get the majority vote. The political system during the 1992 and 1997 elections would be best viewed as a Moderate autocracy, due to the amount of corruption and civil unrest that characterised the period. The first fair and peaceful elections took place in 2002, resulting in the defeat of KANU and the stepping down of Moi. The ushering in of Mwai Kibaki, Kenya’s third president and leader of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), represents the first time that the political system of independent Kenya can be recognised as a fully-fledged democracy (CIA World Factbook, 2007; US Department of State, 2007).

2. Parliaments and Parties

The current president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, is both the head of state and the head of government; as well as the commander in chief of armed forces. Kenya’s executive power is carried out by the government; whereas its legislative power is vested in its parliament, which consists of the president and the National Assembly. Parliament carries out its legislative capacity through the formulation of law, which takes the form of bills passed by the National Assembly (Parliament of Kenya, 2007).

The National Assembly is unicameral and contains 224 seats, which were allocated after the latest National Assembly Elections in 2002. Of the 224 seats, 210 members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms. The remaining 12 seats are appointed by the president, although they are essentially chosen by the parties in proportion to their parliamentary vote (CIA World Factbook, 2007). Interestingly, at 125 seats, NARC holds more than half of the allotted seats in the National Assembly. For a breakdown of the Assembly’s seat allocation refer to Appendix B. A table has also been added to Appendix B, illustrating the level of representation of women in the Kenyan government. It has been on the up between 1990 and 2004, increasing by 6%; the 2004 level reached 7.1%.

There are over one hundred political parties currently operating in Kenya. The ruling party, the National Rainbow Coalition, is still a registered party despite the breaking up of its fourteen member, separately registered parties in 2003. A Government of National Unity was created in 2005, and consisted of Members of Parliament from all political parties. The new coalition Party of National Unity (PNU) was formed by President Kibaki and his supporters in September 2007. The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), whose leaders were formerly allied with the president, has become the chief opposition party. This was brought about due to KANU, who had been the official opposition party, joining the pro-government coalition (US Department of State, 2007).

3. Elections and Referendums

As mentioned in section one, the first free and fair internationally accepted elections in post-independence Kenya, were held in 2002. It included the election of the president and the national assembly. Kenya had made considerable strides towards democratisation with more than ten million registered voters for the presidential election. Kenya makes use of a Proportional representation (PR) electoral system and can be described as having a two-party system, with there only being two dominant parties or coalitions. The Kenyan president is elected by popular vote and is eligible to serve for another term after his initial five-year term. The president needs to win the majority of votes in absolute terms. Added to this, he is also required to win at least 25% of the votes cast in five of Kenya’s seven provinces; as well as in the Nairobi ‘area’ (CIA World Factbook, 2007).

The National Rainbow Coalition replaced the Kenya African National Union, ending its tumultuous reign. At 62.2% Mwai Kibaki received double the amount of votes cast in favour of the main opposition leader from KANU, Uhuru Kenyatta. Kibaki appointed vice president Moody Awori in September 2003, and was also responsible for the election of his cabinet. The next elections will be held in December 2007 (CIA World Factbook, 2007). Refer to Appendix C for the 2002 presidential election results.

Kenya held its first constitutional referendum since its independence, in November 2005. The new constitution, backed by Kibaki, sought to increase the power of the presidency by diminishing the prime ministerial role. The result of the referendum proved to be a major blow to Kibaki, as only 41.88% (Appendix D) of the population supported the implementation of the new constitution. The high level of corruption experienced in Kenya proved the reason why nearly 60% of the population voted against the constitution. Some argue that because of the high degree of illiteracy in Kenya people saw it as a vote against Kibaki, and not against the principles of the constitution itself. The fact that oranges and bananas, representing “no” and “yes” votes respectively, were used as symbols in the referendum clearly supports this point. Kibaki fired his entire cabinet as a result, and will be under a lot of pressure come the next presidential elections in December (BBC, 2007).

4. Government and Administration

Looking at the structure of the Kenyan government, the executive branch is led by the president; the legislative branch consists of a unicameral National Assembly as well as the government; and the judiciary comprises the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and various lower and special courts, which includes Sharia courts. The judiciary is independent of both the legislature and the executive. The apex of the judiciary is the High Court, which consists of a chief justice and High Court judges and judges of Kenya's Court of Appeal. As mentioned earlier the president is the chief of state, head of government, commander in chief of armed forces. Not only is the president responsible for the appointment of the vice president and cabinet members, but is also required to elect all the judges within the High Court (US Department of State, 2007). The unicameral National Assembly consists of 224 members that serve 5-year terms. The exercise of legislative power can be termed Acts of Parliament. This is because bills that are passed by the National Assembly receive presidential consent, and become law. Furthermore the executive needs to implement resolutions adopted by the National Assembly (Parliament of Kenya, 2007).


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Country Profile: Republic of Kenya
Stellenbosch Universitiy
Southern African Political Economy
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Country, Profile, Republic, Kenya, Southern, African, Political, Economy
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M.A. Michael Ferendinos (Author), 2007, Country Profile: Republic of Kenya, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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