Political, Social and Economic Developments and Challenges in Kenya from 1960 to 2010

Essay, 2010
14 Pages, Grade: 0.6

















Kenya has had tremendous progress since the country achieved political independence in 1963. This has been in the political, social and economic fields. At independence Kenya lacked the necessary capital to undertake the major development projects. The government was faced with the difficult task of devising ways and means of bringing about rapid social and economic development so as solve the three major problems: poverty, disease and ignorance facing the nation1. Over the past 50 years, Kenya has experienced to date. This paper seeks to identify and highlight the progress made as well as the challenges experienced.

The developments and challenges will be divided into time frames of 10 years beginning from 1960 to 2010. The major argument to be presented is that: whereas Kenya has made strides in the economic, political and social fields. Major challenges continue to exist that are hindering perfect attainment of progress in the aforementioned fields.


Politically, in January 1960, the first Lancaster House Conference was held in London. A Constitutional change was arrived at leading to retention of 12 specially elected members, creation of 33 open seats in the Legislative Council and 20 reserved seats. This constitution gave the Africans, a measure of control over the Legislative Council as they were assured of majority of the unofficial members2. In March 1960, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) was formed by former KAU leaders only for minority ethnic groups to form the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) in opposition to domination by the Luo and Kikuyu in KANU. Elections were held in 1961 with KANU winning 19 seats to KADU’s 11. In August 1961, Jomo Kenyatta was released from prison and assumed leadership of KANU.

The Second Lancaster House Conference was held in February 1962, arriving at a federal constitution and a bicameral legislature. Elections were held in May 1963 in which KANU won 73 seats to KADU’s 31. Jomo Kenyatta became the first Prime Minister of Kenya. On June 1st 1963, Kenya achieved responsible self-government. On December 12th 1963, she attained full independence, becoming a republic in 19643. In December 1964 after persuasion, KADU leaders led by Ronald Ngala and Masinde Muliro crossed over to KANU. The APP of Ukambani was also absorbed into KANU making Kenya a de facto one party state even though the constitution had provision for a multi-party system. There were several constitutional amendments made between 1965 and 1966 which mostly strengthened the executive particularly over the control of the provincial administration.

The senate was absorbed in1966 and amalgamated to the single chamber parliament. The first challenge as well as political development came from radicals within KANU who were not at ease with the pace at which the changes were taking place against the conservatives who wanted to preserve the status quo. These differences contributed to the major split in KANU at the Limuru conference of 1966 in which the KANU constitution was amended leading to creation of 8 provincial Party Vice-presidents instead of a single national Vice-President. Led by Oginga Odinga, the radicals broke way and formed the Kenya People’s Union (KPU) and demanded more socialist measures and policies4.

A constitutional amendment was passed in April 1966 requiring any member of parliament who resigned his seat from KANU to relinquish his seat in Parliament and seek a fresh mandate. Fresh parliamentary elections were called. Known as the “Little General Election”, 29 seats were vied for KANU winning 21 of them in the Lower House to KPU’s 7. In the senate, KANU took 8 and KPU 2. Bitter rivalries persisted between KANU and KPU from 1966 to 1969 when KPU was proscribed following fracas purportedly instigated by its supporters during the official opening of the Russian sponsored New Nyanza General Hospital in Kisumu by President Kenyatta. Kenya thus became a defacto one-party state under KANU.

Other political challenges in this decade were the assassinations of charismatic politician Pio Gama Pinto outside his residence in the city in 1965, Tom Joseph Mboya on July 5, 1969 shocking the entire nation. Earlier on, there had been the secession threat by Kenyan Somalis leading to protracted civil war and the promulgation of emergency law from 1963 to 19925.


On attaining independence, Kenya lacked necessary capital and qualified manpower. There was the problem of uneven development as some parts of the country were far ahead of others in development and provision of essential services. Most Africans did not have an opportunity of participating in the economic and political affairs of the country. The government through the \ministry of Lands and Settlement (formed in 1963) established and expanded settlement schemes in the country. These resettled African farmers on many small-scale farmers, created by the sub-division of large-scale farms formerly owned by European settlers. Cooperatives and land buying companies were also formed to help purchase farms for members. There were also efforts to establish schemes to help in other areas especially in the Coast Province where there was plenty of underdeveloped land6.

In 1963, the Government created the Ministry of Cooperative development to facilitate the growth of cooperatives and consolidate their management. In 1968, the Cooperative Bank was established and all registered societies were encouraged to become members through buying of shares and provision of loan facilities. At independence, there were parastatals created during the colonial period such as Dairy Board and the Kenya Meat Commission, but the government established the Agricultural Finance Corporation (A.F.C), Central Bank of Kenya and Kenya Commercial Bank among others.

In the social sector, in 1963 there were 6058 primary schools but in 1986 they were 13392. In 1963, there were 151 secondary schools but in 1986, there were 2485. In 1963 there was only one University College-Nairobi Royal College until 1970 when the University of Nairobi was born. Since 1963, the government has expanded health services by training many health personnel and a hospital built in every district headquarters7.


In this decade, Kenya did not witness great political developments. KANU, the only political party then continued to be strengthened as was the single chamber parliament. The only notable political development was the formation of the ‘change the constitution’ movement in 1976 spearheaded by among others Kihika Kimani and Njenga Karume. This group wanted the constitution amended so that in the event of the death of the president, fresh elections would be called as opposed to allowing the vice-president take over for 90 days before elections were held. This clamor was meant to lock out Daniel Arap Moi as Vice-President from succeeding Kenyatta. However, the movement was unsuccessful.

However, much earlier in March 2, 1975, one of Kenya’s most outspoken politicians, Josiah Mwangi Kariuki (JM), Member of Parliament for Nyandarua North had been murdered. This, left many people disillusioned with the government which set up a Parliamentary Select Committee to probe the murder and report to the National Assembly. Its findings implicated prominent public figures, causing public anxiety which greatly undermined the stability of the government for a while8.

As a challenge, in 1978, Jomo Kenyatta, died and was succeeded by Vice President Daniel Arap Moi despite earlier controversies over the issue of succession. On assuming office, President Moi assures Kenyans, that he would follow the footsteps of his predecessor in fostering national unity. Other notable developments include: the death of Harry Thuku on June 14, 1970, registration of Chief Justice Kitili Mwendwa on July 7, 1971, release of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga from detention by Presidential decree on March 27, 1971, death or Ronald Ngala through a car crash on December 129.


Kenya in November 12, 1970 Kenyan’s antiquated telephone system took a leap forward when President Jomo Kenyatta opened the Longonot Satellite Station. This was a boon to business people. Still in the same year, the Kenya shilling was devalued by 7.89% percent against the dollar following the devaluation of the dollar and Mumias Sugar Factory was launched in January 17, 1973. Socially, the United Nation Environmental Programme-a UN agency was headquartered in Nairobi. General Mathenge, the Mau Mau freedom fighter who had been missing from May 5, 1953, was reported to be in Ethiopia. Minister for Foreign Affairs Njoroge Mungai in June, 1971 promised the Government would help trace him.10


On New Year’s Eve 1980, Nairobi Norfolk Hotel was ripped apart by a powerful explosion that left at least 13 dead and almost 100 badly injured11. This would be the decade when human rights of political dissidents would be trampled upon. Among the political developments in 1980 include a summit meeting of Presidents Julius Nyerere, Daniel Arap Moi and Godfrey Binaisa in January to explore prospects for good East African Community. On June 29, 1981, Kenya hosted the Organization of Africa Unity Summit in which more than 50 resolutions were arrived at. Oginga Odinga in April 19, 1981 was excluded from the Bondo by-election by KANU despite being eligible for election12.

On August 1, 1982, Kenya experienced a coup attempt in which looting and general lawlessness were experienced. The civilian death toll was put at approximately 200-half said to be students. Over 1000 people were arrested, and the country’s reputation damaged. The coup attempt followed the passing of a motion on June 9, 1982 making Kenya a dejure one-party state. The year 1983 saw the fall of Charles Njonjo, the former minister for Constitutional Affairs and MP who was suspended from KANU, accused of being a ‘traitor’; of wanting to be President. In September 1983, snap elections were called intended to draw a line under last year’s coup and the expulsion from KANU of Charles Njonjo. He was pardoned by President Moi in 198413.

In October 1988, President Moi led the nation in celebrating a decade of Nyayoism after he took power in October 1978. In the same year, Mwai Kibaki was replaced by Josephat Karanja as Vice-President in a cabinet reshuffle in March. He (Karanja) remained in office until July 1989 when he was ousted from power to be replaced by Prof. George Saitoti. He had been accused of undermining the President14.

Among the political challenges experienced in the decade are: the expulsion of Oginga Odinga from KANU in May 1982, death of Minister James Gichuru in August 1982, crackdown on journalists and students in November 1982 following the attempted coup. Moreover, there was the loss by 60 MPs in the snap polls of 1983, President Moi’s criticism of the Churches in October 1984, loss by 70 MPs in Mlolongo elections condemned worldwide as not free and fair and the jailing of Mwakenya suspects.


In November, 1980, new coins, shs.50 and shs.100 notes bearing Moi’s portrait were signed by President Moi and were to slowly replace those showing President Jomo Kenyatta. This economic development was in line with Moi’s Nyayo Philosophy of Love, Peace and Unity15. Kenya also lost millions of shillings to Dick Berg, an international crook contracted to run the 1987 All Africa Games. Still in this decade, poaching claimed huge proportions of rhinos and elephants valued for their tusks, conservationist Joy Adamson was murdered in Shaba Game reserve as was the murder of British tourist Julie Ward at Maasai Mara Game Reserve. Award winning conservationist Wangari Maathai lost her bid to bar the Kenya Times Media Trust from building a 60-storey complex at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park in 1989. In the Seoul Olympics in 1988, Kenyan athletes had a stellar performance earning Kenya global recognition16.

Political dissidents Chelagat Mutai, James Orengo and Kihika Kimani who had fled the country returned in 1984. The prestigious UN Centre at Gigiri was opened by President Moi in May 1984, justice for victims of the Wagalla Massacre was denied to them. The University of Nairobi was split into 6 colleges as a way of quelling student unrest17.


The year 1990 began on a sour note with the murder of Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Ouko in February 1990. Charged with defending Kenya against foreign criticism for its alleged human rights abuses and endemic corruption, Ouko was generally considered a master of his job. President Moi described him as “the best foreign minister Kenya has ever had”. This prompted riots by University students and demonstrations in Nairobi, Nakuru and Kisumu. On this, Reverend John Njenga delivering a sermon as All Saints Cathedral said:

“No sin could remain covered forever and whatever transpired in Ouko’s death is clear like daylight in the eyes of God. God knows who murdered Ouko and all those who were involved, and one day he will uncover the truth.”(Rev. John Njenga, Oct. 30:4)18

Later in the year, Saba Saba demonstrations whose central demand is resumption of multi-party politics were held in the country only to be violently broken by police. Several demonstrators were killed. This prompted KANU to establish the Saitoti Review Committee to collect views from Kenyans on how the party should be reformed19. These reforms did not go far to appease the proponents of multi-partyism. At another Party conference in December, 1991, KANU accepted to legalize the formation of other national political parties. Other emergent political parties owed their origin to the repeal of section 2(a) of the constitution.


1 Kenya Institute of Education; History And Government, Book 4; pg.159

2 Kenya Institute of Education ; History And Government, Book 3; pg. 152

3 Ibid, pp. 153-154

4 Kenya Institute of Education ; History And Government, Book 4; pg. 166

5 Sunday Nation, August 8, 2010; pg. 5

6 Op. Cit, pg. 169

7 Ibid, pp. 182-183

8 Ibid, pg. 167

9 Daily Nation: Kenya At 40; August 21, 2003, pp.7-9.

10 Ibid, pg. 10.

11 Daily Nation: Kenya At 40, September 25, 2003; pg. 1

12 Ibid, pg. 8

13 Daily Nation : Kenya At 40; October 2, 2003; pp. 1-12

14 Daily Nation : Kenya At 40, October 23, 2003: pp.1-12.

15 Daily Nation: Kenya At 40, September 25, 2003; pg. 6

16 Op. Cit, pp. 1-12.

17 Daily Nation: Kenya At 40: October 9, 2003;pp.1-7

18 Daily nation : Kenya At 40; October 30, 2003, pg. 10

19 Sunday Nation, August 8, 2010; pg.5.

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Political, Social and Economic Developments and Challenges in Kenya from 1960 to 2010
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Mbogo Wa Wambui (Author), 2010, Political, Social and Economic Developments and Challenges in Kenya from 1960 to 2010, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/322610


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