Kenya Country Meeting

Registration for this meeting is closed.

On 28 September we will organize a country meeting on Kenya in the framework of the past elections. Speakers: Joshua Maiyo (VU University Amsterdam) and Belindah Okello (ASCL). The programme will also include a panel discussion with the speakers and with Alice Kubo (ASCL). Former ASCL director Ton Dietz will act as moderator.

The full programme can be found here.


The tyranny of numbers: Ethno-political polarization and electoral contestation in Kenya (Joshua Maiyo)

In Kenya, political violence has been a recurring feature of electoral contestation since the return to multi-party politics in the mid-1990s. While a robust multi-party-political system has taken root in the country, political organization and electoral mobilization is deeply entrenched in an increasingly polarized ethno-political culture. The deadly violence following the 2007/08 elections was a culmination of decades of simmering tensions from deep-rooted social grievances channeled through the politics of ethnic identity. The ensuing socio-political crisis catalyzed the passing of a new constitution that promised the dispersion of political power from an authoritarian centralized system, reduction of the powers of an imperial presidency, and more equitable distribution of resources to hitherto marginalized communities.

In this discussion, we examine the conduct and outcome of the 2017 general election in order to assess whether and how the political culture in Kenya has evolved in the last decade.

a. Alien concepts or instruments of control? What is the role and effectiveness of Kenyan political parties as avenues for political organization and channeling (peaceful) political contestation?
b. A game of thrones? How has hereditary politics shaped the structure, pattern and conduct of Kenyan politics? What next after the Kenyatta vs Odinga dynasties?
c. New sheriffs in town? How has the (new)devolved system of government and the rise of Country governors redrawn power relations and reshaped the high-stakes contest for the presidency?
d. Squeezing the men (and women) in the middle? What does the shrinking space for civil society and the rise of an increasingly militarized state portend for human rights and civic freedoms in Kenya?
e. Howling in the wind? Do traditional ‘development partners’ still have a voice for ‘good governance’ in a multipolar and polycentric international order?

My reflections will draw on my background as a journalist in Kenya in the late 1990s –the early years of multi-party politics, a decade-long comparative study of political party democracy in East Africa since 2007, as well as recent and ongoing research on the rising influence of China on the political economy of Kenya and Uganda.

Sacralizing Politics: Patterns in Kenya’s 2017 Elections (Belindah Okello)

This discussion expounds on a distinct pattern in the 2017 election in Kenya, whereby political actions and discourses were imbued with religious explanations. Members and followers of the two main opposing political camps namely, National Super Alliance (NASA) and Jubilee Party, referred to not only reason, but also to a sacred calling in their appeals for election/re-election. The NASA brigade equated their political agenda to the salvation of Israelites as narrated in the biblical story of their (Israelites) journey from captivity in Egypt to “freedom” in Canaan. On its side, members of the Jubilee Party heavily relied on the concept of a Davidic Kingdom. The party’s existence was because it and its leaders were chosen by God.

The key areas for discussion are:

- NASA’s “Road to Canaan”.
- Jubilee Party’s concept of “Leaders are Chosen by God”.
- Religious justification of political choices by followers of the two political parties.

The discussion will rely mainly on data obtained from print and electronic media. Members and followers of the two political parties heavily relied on newspapers, radio call in sessions, blogs, and social media for propaganda purposes, and to also give their opinions on the politics of the day. This lecture will therefore demonstrate that religious sanction can be used to effectively mobilize a group to support a specific cause; and as such religion can be a powerful tool for reinforcing specific developments.

Date, time and location

28 September 2017
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 1A01