The continuing importance of Kenya's institutional colonial inheritance has been underestimated because the impact of decolonization on Kenya's formal political institutions has rarely been systematically addressed. Consequently, there is a pressing need to reevaluate the structure of government in the colonial and postcolonial periods in a manner that takes a critical perspective on the domestic relationship between government and opposition. In addition to introducing the papers that follow, this essay examines the factors that underpin the continued supremacy of the executive-administrative axis in the Kenya postcolony. It develops the twin concepts of political linkage and political space as tools to describe the political landscape of the colonial and postcolonial eras. Institutional factors, it is argued, must be central to any attempt to explain the longevity and eventual breakdown of KANU rule.
In 1957 and 1958, elections were held across Kenya for seats within the colony's Legislative Council. In Central Province, these elections took place in the aftermath of the Mau Mau rebellion. Following the insurgents' military defeat, the colonial government turned to ensuring the political victory of its African allies and the disenfranchisement of Mau Mau sympathizers. It achieved its aim by restricting the vote to elites and those who could prove their loyalty to the regime. The process of registration and the restriction of the franchise contributed in part to the transformation of temporary and ambiguous wartime allegiances into fixed, postconflict political identities. By controlling the institutional transformations demanded by decolonization, elites successfully reproduced the state as they negotiated the transfer of power without radical socioeconomic reform.
Luo (Kenyan and Tanzanian people) -- Ethnic identity.
Luo (Kenyan and Tanzanian people) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
Ethnicity -- Political aspects -- Kenya -- History -- 20th century.
Riwruok E Teko (Unity Is Strength) was the slogan of the Luo Union, an East African ethnically based welfare association, for all of its nearly sixty-year official existence. From its origins in the urban centers of colonial Kenya to its official demise in 1980, it sought to forge and govern a broad-based cultural identity among a diverse Dholuo-speaking population, yet in the context of contemporary Kenya, its image and popular memory induces little social debate on the components and control of Luo identity. Instead, mention of it more commonly evokes tributes to the famous football clubs that it sponsored and to accusations of being a "tribalist" breeding ground for ethnic politics. By closely examining its activities, the historian of East Africa begins to see beyond football and regional politics to the evolution of Luo cultural identity.
Through a comparative analysis of human-rights activism in Kenya and Cameroon, this paper illustrates how contemporary human-rights discourse in Kenya is rooted in a contested political language, based on the memory of the Mau Mau insurrection. The strength of Kenyan human-rights nongovernmental organizations derives partly from this symbolic and ideological heritage. Manufacturing heroes and combining ideologies and moral standpoints requires the erasure of contradictions and, at times, the simplification of history in order to fit the past into contemporary political movements. Nevertheless, recurrent references to the past have allowed human-rights defenders to further their cause and justify their demands regarding wealth and accountability in the national community.
The conclusion examines the Kenyan postcolony by focusing on the colonial origins of Kenya's political institutions and their impact in the postcolonial era, using the articles in this special issue as examples of that process. The reigning paradigm—neopatrimonialism—gives inadequate attention to institutions, limiting its ability to explain the relative stability and moderation of Kenya's authoritarian state. The article uses Migdal's concept of social control to understand key political institutions: the provincial administration, the electoral system, harambee, the Luo Union (and similar ethnic-based groups), and the recent mushrooming NGOs, such as human-rights groups. The last section argues that the institutions that evolved from Kenya's colonial experience in turn shaped the contours of Kenya's democratization process.