Recent peaceful post-election regime changes in Sub-Saharan Africa work well for the deepening and institutionalization of democracy in Africa. However, that has not been true everywhere: For example, Gabon’s 2016 closely fought (and somewhat suspicious) presidential election in which the opposition candidate lost by only 6,000 votes produced massive post-election violence. In 2017, two elections in Rwanda and Kenya were likely to have significant impact on peace and security, governance, and economic growth and development in this important region.
Kenya is an important partner of the United States and other countries that are fighting terrorism, especially al-Shabaab. Kenya is also a member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and has played a critical role in IGAD’s efforts to improve security and peace in South Sudan. Additionally, Kenya is a leading center for industrial production and is an economic powerhouse for the East Africa region. Nairobi is the regional headquarters for many transnational corporations and international organizations, and the country has a strong influence on its less stable or more burdened neighbors.
However, Kenya is also struggling to maintain domestic stability because of the uncertainties created by extra-judicial killings, feelings of political marginalization by some ethnic groups, hopelessness among many unemployed youth, and a fear of a repeat of the ethnic-induced violence that gripped the country shortly after the 2007 presidential election.
There is fear that a win by Kenyatta’s Jubilee Alliance would be interpreted as further political marginalization of the Luo and other ethnic groups. As is the case in many other African countries, the politicization of ethnicity does not work well for the institutionalization of democracy and the rule of law in Kenya.
There has been violence especially during Raila Odinga’s much anticipated arrival from the USA. At the same time, many Kenyans remain concerned about government impunity like extra-judicial killings and high levels of corruption. For example, in early 2016, human rights lawyer Willie Kimani together with his client and their driver were brutally tortured and murdered. The client had filed a complaint against a police officer over corruption.
As the incumbent government, Kenyatta and the Jubilee Alliance must show Kenyans that they have successfully delivered on at least some of the promises that they made when they came into power in 2013 and that, if given the opportunity in 2017 to govern again, they would significantly improve the security situation in the country, eliminate extra-judicial killings and other forms of government impunity, eradicate corruption, deal with the frustrations of the many citizens who are forced by circumstances to live a life of hopelessness and poverty in dilapidated urban enclaves and rural villages, significantly improve economic conditions, including creating jobs, especially for urban youth, and produce a viable long-term plan to deal fully and effectively with the factors (e.g., a feeling of marginalization by some ethnic groups) that led to violence in Kenyans of how it plans to deal with continuing security threats from al-Shabaab.
Tribalism in Kenya is responsible for underdevelopment, corruption, the rigging of elections and violence. What can its background tell us about the future risks of Kenyan tribalism, and how to put an end to it? It needs to stop before it’s too late