Dynamics in Party Politics in Kenya, 1963-2013; Beyond the Neoliberal Paradigm
Otieno, Isaiah Oduor
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Kenya attained independence in 1963 under a multi-party system. Within a year of independence party pluralism was abandoned for a single-party regime that was heralded for enhancing unity among the ethnically fragmented population. With the fall of communism in the late 1980s there emerged a new trajectory in world politics that ushered in multi-party politics in the African continent. With the re-introduction of multi-party politics in Kenya beginning 1991 it was highly expected that the transition to multi-party politics and regular elections would over time lead to qualitatively improved political institutions. To the disappointment of many citizens the return of party pluralism only resulted in the proliferation of a number of political parties. There seem to be a missing link between party pluralism and good governance. This study made a historical analysis of political party politics in Kenya between 1963 and 2013. To begin with, a historical reconstruction of the evolution of political parties in Kenya between 1919 and 1963 was undertaken. .The nature and character of party politics in the single party regime has been examined. The impact of the re-introduction of multi-party politics on party politics was also evaluated. With specific focus on KANU and ODM this study examined issues that dominate the operations of political parties in Kenya notably; structure, organization and management. Finally this study questioned the relevance of western neo-Iiberal thinking in the analysis of political parties in Africa. Anchored on the post-colonial theory, this study argued that political parties in Africa should be examined in the context of the African state as a colonial construct. This study did note that although political parties in Kenya emerged as colonial liberation movements the ruling elite in the post-independent period have used them to monopolize and maintain control of state power. The study also revealed that the re-introduction of party pluralism in Kenya never resulted in any substantial change in party politics, but only in the proliferation of political parties which were regional and ethnic in composition. It was further revealed that the political elite in Kenya continue to patronize and use political parties as tools of mobilization in their quest for the capture of state power.