Readings on Kenyan Democratization April 12/13

Kenneth Good, (1968) “Kenyatta and the Organization of KANU,” Canadian Journal of African Studies, Vol. 2, 2: 115-136. Kenyatta and the Organization of KANU

Karrim Essack, (1978) “Kenya under Kenyatta,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 13, 41: 1729-1731. (SHORT)Kenya under Kenyatta

Rok Ajulu, (1992) “Kenya: The Road to Democracy,” Review of African Political Economy, 53: 79-87 Kenya- The Road to Democracy

Wa’Njogu Kiarie (2004) “Language and Multiparty Democracy in a Multi-ethnic Kenya,” Africa Today, Vol. 50, 3: 55-73. Language and Multiparty Democracy in Kenya

Sebastian Elischer, (2008) “Do African Parties Contribute to Democracy? Some Findings from Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria,” Africa Spectrum, Vol. 43, 2: 175-201. Do African parties contribute to democracy?


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10 Responses to Readings on Kenyan Democratization April 12/13

  1. Dylan P. says:

    The aftermath of the Mau Mau and the single-party rule of leaders like Kenyatta and Moi provide an interesting juxtaposition to what was perceived as an inclusive and democratic movement. In particular, the use of language and media by these leaders is telling of the nature of their power and their desire to rule. The article by Kiarie makes it clear that even when the symptoms of free and open exchange of information were present the reality was not so. The ruling elite still imposed their views on the media as mouthpieces for their ideas, and there was only nominally a multiparty system. It reminds me in some ways to the film “The Matrix” because people rejected a world that was too perfect. So, the computers generated a world with pain to make it more believable. Similarly, the Kenya people did not believe that there was no dissent at all in the social-political realm. Thus, the ruling class allowed a controlled voice of dissent to sort of ease the pressure and make it seem as if the regime were not authoritarian. In a strange way, these semi-manufactured voices of decent lend credibility and feasibility to what might otherwise be dictatorial. In many cases, party officials—to monopolize the flow of information on both sides of an issue and drown out the voice of legitimate dissent—funded different forms of media. We see these tactics in some ways in the American media—though not necessarily from the government. Interest groups with enough media attention or the resources to gain the attention can conflate issues to make them more or less desirable, misrepresent the arguments of an opposing side, or simply dominate the airwaves so that a different issue does not get any airtime.

  2. Leslie H. says:

    “Language of the multiparty democracy in Kenya” demonstrated why the First Amendment is so important to democracy in the United States. While we have a three-branch government with a checks and balances system, I believe that the press functions as an unofficial fourth branch. Sure, today’s 24 hour news cycle can cause us to ask whether we’ve reached the point of too much press, but reading about the restriction of information in Kenya made me realize that I would gladly take a 24 hour news cycle over censorship and state-run media. While it’s a topic of miniscule importance compared to democracy in Kenya, a recent Arkansas news story has taken the national news by storm—the firing of head Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino. If we have access to the phone records of a football coach, imagine the enormous amount of information we also have access to that has true long term importance. Comparing this to Kenya, as a result of state-run media, unfavorable stories about even the Kenyan president would never come to the surface.

    The disregard of many Kenyan languages and their lack of incorporation into what little media does exist was also troubling. It made me think about the United State’s reputation as the “melting pot” yet we often strongly criticize those who choose not to or possibly cannot learn English. How do they feel when they want to pick up a newspaper but the letters on the page don’t make sense to them? Again, thanks to the First Amendment, they have access to radio, television, the internet, etc. and can find media sources written in languages they understand. Kenyans do not always have that ability. Then what? What options exist to become informed and work toward change based on that information?

    The author points out that the internet may be the key to unlocking media for Kenyans. I’d like to learn more about what internet access is like in Kenya today compared to when the article was written in 2004.

  3. Veena says:

    While reading the article on Kenyatta and the history of the KANU, I could not help but come back to one overarching question: if the elite members of the group did not agree with the way Kenyatta was organizing the party, why did they not act earlier to try to do something about it? As I got further into the article, it kept coming up that Kenyatta was not concerned about the internal organization of the party and how others within the party were not happy about it. The article mentioned a few people who questioned his leadership, but overall, it did not seem as though anyone was willing to publicly do anything about it. The article also did not explain both why Kenyatta was imprisoned in the first place, and why his presence was so needed and desired for the future of the KANU. I know he was an influential figure in the fight for independence, but it did not provide any kind of background about him or his work. As someone who does not know anything about the Kenyan fight for independence, I would have found some information regarding that to be helpful in my understanding of the independence struggle. I felt as though this article expected the reader to know more about the background than I did, and so it was difficult to keep track of all the names and dates without having that foundation.

  4. Nathan says:

    In Sebastian Elischer’s article on “Do African Parties Contribute to Democracy?” the three main types of political parties are discussed, ethnic, clientelistic, and programmatic. Reading about the differences made me think about the different phases that the main political parties in America have gone through. I would argue that the parties in America have gone through phases of each type that Elischer discusses. One of the main qualifications of ethnic parties is that they are not nearly as nationalistic, and have their support concentrated in one area of the country. This has definitely been the case with some political parties across the course of American history. If you look at the Democratic Party from the beginning of Reconstruction to the election of John F Kennedy in 1960, the party had a strong regional flavor. In particular, it relied on the “solid south.” Though states outside the south would occasionally vote for the Democratic Party candidate, the south always did, literally. It was such a strong party in the south, which sometimes the Republican Party candidate would not even be on the ballot. From 1880 until 1948, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina always voted for the Democratic Party candidate. Not coincidentally, the Democratic Party did not have a progressive party platform on race issues until 1948, when some Democrats walked out of the convention to form their own party, the Dixiecrats. In the earlier 1800s, the parties were more clientelistic than ethnic. The corrupt bargain of 1824 exemplifies that. The House of Representatives ended up electing the President. This ended up with more than a little quid pro quo, classic clientelistic behavior. Now both parties are more programmatic, since we no longer have states with only one candidate on the ballot. Parties are more ideological, another programmatic party indicator.

  5. Trish says:

    In considering modes of social change in various cultures and eras, the components of each situation is highly complex and nothing short of a commitment to a long-term resolution process will serve to improve the situation and the lives of those affected. In the case of Kenya, I wonder, ‘If not Kenyatta then who?’. Initially, his story seems to be full of potential and hope, growing up in unprivileged circumstances only to find the doors of opportunity opening in his education abroad and political life at home in Kenya. Struggling through imprisonment and personal sacrifice, Kenyatta became a charismatic leader for the masses of landless oppressed in Kenya. Yet after all was said and done with the successful overthrow of the oppressive British colonial government, the all too common temptations of development seem to have replaced what should have disappeared with the imperialist regime; the exploitation of Kenya’s resources and human capital. However, the abuse of power seems to have continued under Kenyatta’s presidency with the privatization of many of Kenya’s businesses and the overabundance and priority given to foreign investors. Essack asks the question of who actually benefitted from this social change. He points out that those who really benefitted from this transfer of power were the Kenyans with high level jobs previously held by foreigners, Kenyans who directly received land and a small conglomerate of Kenyan tradespeople. This leaves out a majority of Kenyans who are small landholders and workers in the rural and urban sectors. In the case of Kenyatta and the continued corruption in Kenya’s allocation of resources, it seems that those who struggled for equality and a better life still have a long way to go. I am eager to hear about the perspective of my colleagues who might have more information to shed on this study of social change.

  6. Katie Milligan says:

    Kenya under Kenyatta by Karrim Essack

    This article highlights some of the critical questions our section asked in class last week. Kenyatta’s amplification in Kenya as a savior, father of the nation, dictator, and hurtful politician show an interesting paradox in the country. While hindsight is usually 20/20, it seems that Kenyans cannot come to consensus on who Kenyatta was in Kenya. As an outsider, it makes it difficult to really examine how the social change took place. It looks like the power shift went from one evil to another. This power shift ties in with the language used to promote ideologies in Kenya. Because of the power concentration in the media, only certain ideas could be promoted. I think this directly correlates with why the mindset about Kenyatta is so convoluted. The reality is that this is such an easy trap to fall into in any country. Those who wrote it distort the history. This particular article about Kenyatta reminded me of our own politicians and their close ties with big business. Who would write the obituaries of our own politicians? Would it be the private investment firms, private defense firms, and oil companies? While it can be argued that they do not have direct control in the US as they did with Kenya; their influence cannot be denied. The even more disturbing thought is how that will be reflected in our own history, how it is portrayed now, and what that means for the US in the future. It is important to take the stories of Kenya and closely examine the realties of our current situation. The hard lessons of Kenyatta should not be downplayed in our own country.

  7. Mitchell Adams says:

    Kenya under Kenyatta:

    This article raises some very important questions relating to social change and international development issues. First, it begs the question: What is a social change and when does a drive for social change become a “success”? The Mau Mau revolution was undoubtedly a public cry for a shift in the power structure of Kenyan society, but is trading colonialism for neo-colonialism truly that great of a shift? The transition from colonialism to neo-colonialism obviously had a great impact on Kenyan society but it still feels as if the country was stuck in the same situation. We often want to measure social change as going from oppressive to less oppressive, less free to more free, basically bad to good, and so many social changes are set-up with a narrative that supports this view. However, I don’t believe that is a helpful or constructive way to view a situation such as the Mau Mau revolution. Success shouldn’t be measured by the achievement of power; it should be measured by what happens after you take the reigns and begin to lead. Also, this reading at least shows that one perspective of Kenyatta is that he was less of leader of Kenya than a glorified puppet for International business interests. Even if that is true, I wonder how much power he actually had to change the situation even if he wanted to. With poor relations with neighbor states and an economy in need of jumpstarting, there may have been no one else was there to turn to other than those with money for investment. If you are Kenyatta, do you allow unrestricted foreign investment, get rich, and help the elite business class of Kenya to thrive while allowing the poor to suffer, or do you somehow restrict foreign investment, likely not even possible, and risk being seen as an ineffective leader if the economy fails to progress? In a country with existing social tensions, fresh off of a revolution, both options are dangerous.

  8. jake says:

    In “Kenya: The Road to Democracy”, written months before the 1992 national elections, Ajulu holds up the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD), the recently established political party/ movement leading the call for political pluralism, as the best possibility for substantive reform while also forewarning of potential rifts within FORD. As it turned out, both of Ajulu’s intuitions were correct: FORD spit into two factions, but it nonetheless ushered in the first multiparty elections. Moi retained power, but the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy–Asili’s Kenneth Matiba polled second and helped shift the balance of power. However, all of this is secondary to the primary point of the article, which provides a class analysis of the political machinations post-independence to 1992. Ajulu describes how in the early 1960s the militiant trade unionists and peasant class that led the Mau Mau uprising were immediately undermined and marginilized by the developent of a political process that factionalized class interests and encouraged more moderate accomodationists. While the KANU party was initially more radical, its alliance with KADU in 1964 led to the purging of those radical voices and to a de facto one party system. Kenyetta’s “democracy for the rich” continued the same pattern of consolidating economic and political power in the hands of a select few. Moi came to power on a wave a populist sentiment in response to Kenyetta’s rule, but replicated the same pattern of abuses that were then compounded by foreign capitalism’s successful neutering of national goverments across Africa through the 1970s and 80s. Ajulu’s main argument is that the call for multiparty rule will not be a panacea and in fact will not offer any solutions (only a changing of the guard) if it doesn’t reflect workers, landless peasants and those whose call for democracy and accountability is most sincere.

  9. Britney Sink says:

    In Wa’Njogu Kiarie’s Language and Multiparty Democracy in a Multiethnic Kenya article, the author explains how the imposition of multiparty democracy in Kenya did not bring with it the intended positive effects of unpunished criticism and freedom of expression, along with checks and balances of the government. The exclusion in political life of people who do not speak English or Swahili in reminded me of my experience working with AmeriCorps*VISTA here in the United States.

    As a VISTA I was able to learn in-depth about the effects of poverty in America, including on the individual and community levels. Such exclusion in the multiparty democracy of Kenya made me think about how poor people in the United States are often excluded, whether intentionally or not, in politics, educational systems, and other areas of society. Their limited resources and sometimes limited background and experiences further limit what people see as their ability to participate actively.

    The article references that many people tend to get their news from the television due to low literacy or access to newspapers and print media. I believe many Americans also get their news from television sources like the 5 o’clock news. This further made me think about the bias inherent in television media, dependent on what channel people watch. This has tremendous implications for the values and opinions derived from news outlets. The way people interpret events is heavily influenced by how those events are explained to them by media. In Kenya, the media is heavily supportive of the ruling party. While that is not the case in the United States, the media still plays an important role.

    While my thoughts could be seen as somewhat of a “tangent” from the rest of the readings this week, I think it is important in relation to how democracy plays out in a country. The forcing of multiparty democracy on Kenya and the diffusion of news created a situation where many citizens were not able to access news and be involved in political life. Although it is a much more dramatic situation than in the United States, I do believe there are parallels in exclusion of populations to news sources, education, and political activism.

  10. Nuno says:

    Kenya: The Road to Democracy

    The article talks about the new political reality in Kenya in aftermath of the Cold War. Against a background of political mysticism ranging between neo imperialism and sporadic claims for multi- party pluralism
    Not surprisingly, KANU had to reassess its options and answer for some strong opposition against the Moi.
    The root of the problem lies on the tribal frustrations against neo colonialism and the dominant bourgeoisie.
    In 1963, the former collaborationists and pro imperialistic classes sided together to keep the status quo. Unionists had been disbanded and the new opposition mounted around young educated moderates.
    By 1950’s the convolutions of the 40’s, the radicals and militants had been won over. This situation could only be sustainable if KANU (kikuyu and Luo) and KADU (more urban elitist) both opened up their ranks to include the up and coming bourgeoisie, across each party’s traditional constituencies. This movement conferred KANU with the temporary reputation of “new radicals”, soon to disintegrate when the struggle for power started.
    But it was that conflicting and split bourgeoisie that enacted the alliance between KADU and KANU. One thing that united them was the pro imperialistic stance that kept their internal struggles aside. Democratic and progressives grew after most left were removed from their positions of influence in KANU. Some of them formed the KPU.
    KPU had a strong Luo constituency with the remains from the militant tradition from the 40s and 50s, including the landless Mau Mau, and so they were soon banned.
    This move made all efforts toward a pluralistic democracy fall and enacted the beginning of “Kenyatta’s democracy of the rich”. This period of 1969 represented the consolidation in power of the foreign capital bourgeoisie (mostly Kikuyu, majority Kikuyu-Kiambu). The end of the 60’s represented a no turning point to politics in Kenya.
    The rise and ascending of President Moi was only a small and realistic attempt to retrocede to the beginning of the KANU and KADU alliance, when Kenya was idealistic and optimistic. Moi was eventually incapable of reaching across to his own class base of support and in the 70’s the Oil Crisis revamped any little legitimacy capitalism could still garner.
    Moi’s passivity represented the waste of a crucial opportunity that led Kenya from a political crisis in the 60’s directly into an open economic state of unrest in the 80s.
    The 80’s marked the beginning of those unaccounted huge sums of petrodollars into developing economies, accompanied by multilateral waivers on countries foreign debts. Many leaders in Africa felt they had to do whatever they needed just to keep the doors open for business. Again the biggest targets were obviously the urban liberal progressives, that once supported Moi. This constant alienation of the left in Kenya until the 80’s served a purpose: Since the party alliance in the sixties that different bourgeois factions (rural and urban) had been stealing the thunder, it was a question of time until one suppressed the other or the country would go back to tribal conflicts before the settlers.
    The author however, for lack of evidence, believes that the popular masses, as the natural successors in the name of democracy should not be given free ride to replace the entrenched bourgeoisie. The reason for this natural skepticism has to do with the lack of alternatives. The author explains that the only reason why the “peasantry” presents itself as the natural successor is because of the failure of the bourgeoisie to embrace a democratic alternative.
    The synthesis of such clearly defined opposition has to be a united democratic front against Moi, including both the large property owners and the progressive forces.
    Just like in the beginning Kenya is the land of the compromises, now that governance runs across tribal bonds, it went further and crosses over social classes as well.
    The 90s presented an opportunity for reform and multi party democracy spearheaded by FORD (KANU revisionists and KPU).
    BY the time this article was written in 1992, the author observes a recent retrenchment of the democratic yet conservative wing within FORD. Realignment is a pattern in Kenya’s politics.

    After 97 some important freedom of press laws were revised from the colonial era and that contributed to the situation that culminated in 2002 with free elections, were KANU handed peacefully the power over to NARC (National Rainbow Coalition). But in 2007 elections, escalation of violence for alleged campaign corruption, NARC- Party of National Unity by a narrow margin led to genocide, returning the country to the pre 92 period.
    2008 marked an era of reconciliation between the two major parties: PNU and ODM, brokered by Kofi Annan, that ended in a power sharing coalition. Kenya now works towards judicial and constitutional reform, reduction of executive power, decentralization and, in that sense, since 2010, has earned the tolerance of the international community, but mostly Annan is being held hostage of the success and the results of this temporary stability.

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