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  • Multi-Party Politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta and Moi States and the Triumph of the System in the 1992 Election
  • Stephen N. Ndegwa
Throup, David, and Charles Hornsby. 1998. Multi-Party Politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta and Moi States and the Triumph of the System in the 1992 Election. Oxford: James Currey. 660 pp. $59.95 (cloth); $29.95 (paper).

This book is full of useful information about Kenya’s transition election of 1992 and provides an extensive discussion of the background and of the immediate context. In a nutshell, Throup and Hornsby argue in this 600+ page tome that the client system that took root under Jomo Kenyatta (1963-1978) and that was perpetuated, if reconstituted, by Daniel Moi (1978-present) survived the transition from single-party to multiparty politics. Indeed, in spite of the opposition’s success at forcing the liberalization of [End Page 146] the political system in 1991, its failure to dislodge Moi and his party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), was a consequence of the resiliency of this client system. Throup and Hornsby’s concluding statement captures this best: “In Kenya at least, in the multiparty democracy crisis of the early 1990s, the ancient regime survived: the system triumphed” (p. 603).

The book is divided into thirteen chapters covering an overview of the independence struggle and Kenyatta’s regime (Ch. 2); the rise and consolidation of the Moi state (Ch. 3); the assault on the single-party state by reformers (Ch. 4); the consolidation and eventual break up of the opposition parties (Ch. 5 & 6); an almost blow-by-blow discussion of events, chiefly KANU’s intransigence and the opposition’s destructive divisions, leading up to the 1992 elections (Ch. 7-10); and, the most interesting and original chapter, a discussion of why KANU won in 1992 (Ch. 11). The book also includes nearly 100 tables and figures, 15 photographs, and an appendix which provides election results from the KANU primary elections and from the national presidential and parliamentary elections. In short, this book contains a wealth of information for any student of Kenyan politics. This is possibly its strongest claim to staying power.

On the other hand, apart from Chapter 11 and a smattering of analysis along the way, nothing very original is proposed. Indeed, the first half of the book covers much of the same terrain that has been well documented. It thus adds little to previous analyses by, for instance, Jennifer Widner’s book covering the Kenyatta and Moi regimes, several works by Joel Barkan, Frank Holmquist and Michael Ford, and B. A. Ogot and W. R. Ochieng. The chapters documenting the transition also add little to our knowledge, as much of what is offered is already recorded in the works of authors such as Michael Chege, John Harbeson, Bard-Anders Andreassen et al., and many others. However, information from new interviews and from foreign donors and embassies is new, and the latter adds veracity to claims that have previously been made by others without the necessary documentation. In this reviewer’s eyes, it was unnecessary to repeat all this information simply for the sake of providing context for the 1992 election. Indeed, Andrew Reynold’s book on the South Africa election of 1994 is a testament to how the analysis can be achieved with economy while preserving the fresh perspective and new analysis. This should not detract from the book’s value, especially as a compendium of information, or from the contribution made by the statistical analysis of the election and electoral behavior, to which we now turn.

Throup and Hornsby suggest three reasons why KANU won the 1992 elections. First, the opposition was severely divided. Second, the election was fought regionally. Third, electoral malpractice by KANU tipped an already mismatched contest. The authors make a convincing case for how severely divided the opposition movement was and how it moved from a single united movement to several ethnically and regionally based personal fiefdoms of “big men” seeking the presidency. Forging a united opposition [End Page 147] to KANU in the election was impossible, due to personal rivalries, and due to the difficulty of making ethnic alignments because of...

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