Ethnicity and Politics in Nairobi County C. 1907 - 2002
Murathi, Antony Kimani
MetadataShow full item record
Various studies have captured different aspects of politics in colonial and post-independent Kenya. While these studies have contributed to our understanding of political processes and democratic transitions in Kenya, there are still some issues in Kenya’s politics that have not been given adequate scholarly attention and therefore require further investigation. In order to have a comprehensive analysis of Kenya’s political processes, there’s a need to investigate how ethnicity has influenced politics at the grassroots level. This study sought to examine the role of ethnicity in shaping politics in Kenya. The study focused on how the use of ethnicity as a tool for political mobilization influenced and shaped the character of politics in Nairobi County. It was premised on the assumption that ethnicity largely crystallized as the rallying point for organizing politics in Nairobi County. The study also sought to demonstrate that the ethnic allegiance of Kenya’s politics is rooted in the colonial legacy. The assumption was that the colonial experience worked in diverse ways to cement ethnic identification in Kenya. Ethnicity was thus profoundly influenced in form, scope and content by the social, economic, cultural and political forces of colonialism. After independence, political parties in Kenya continued to gravitate around the ethnic pole and to expound ethnic cleavage. Kenya’s parties have increasingly incorporated diverse communities, but they have consistently failed to bridge the country’s dominant ethnic cleavages. Consequently, all of Kenya’s significant parties have continued to represent ethnic coalitions of convenience and commitment and are thus, ethnic parties. Allegiance to political parties in Kenya strongly correlates with ethnic loyalties. The study employed an integrated theoretical approach, adopting views from a variety of theoretical paradigms such as the Marxism, the Primordial and the Instrumental perspectives. The concept of Neo-Patrimonialism with its appendage, ‘clientelism’ school of thought, was also useful in this study and helped us to analyze post-independence politics in Nairobi County with regard to ethnicity and political mobilization. The study analyzed data from both primary and secondary sources. Primary data came from field research, carried out in the three administrative districts of Nairobi County. Informants were selected on the basis of their knowledge of political affairs in Nairobi County and Kenya in general. Secondary data from various sources was subjected to historical criticism in order to verify its validity. Ultimately, data from primary and secondary sources was corroborated for authenticity and reliability. The study found that politics in Nairobi County revolved around ethnicity during the period under study, and that the elite was the main factor in galvanizing ethnicity as a political mobilizing tool. Political parties play a critical role in political mobilization in Nairobi County. It recommends that Political parties should be reformed to reflect the diversity of the people of Kenya, and should be run in a democratic manner. One way of solving the problem of ethnicity and division among Kenyan communities is to address historical injustices related to access to resources. There should be fair distribution of resources to reduce inter- community suspicion and cement peace and stability through co-existence of Kenyan communities.