In the late 1980s and early 1990s, following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the United States as the sole superpower, many developing nations experienced intense pressure, internally and externally, to switch from single-party to multiparty rule. Multiparty administrations were perceived as better alternatives to single-party administrations, which were labeled dictatorial and tyrannical. Multipartyism was believed to provide more freedom of expression, in addition to checks and balances on officials in government; however, as this article will show, it did not always do so, especially when the opposition failed to oust the incumbent government from power.
This article provides a historical overview of language use in Kenya before and after independence. It argues that the language policy adopted by Kenyan administrations was aimed at sidelining most people from active participation in making decisions and ordering their own lives. The paper argues that the mere adoption of multiparty democracy did not guarantee freedom of expression, especially where a change in administration did not take place. Even though multipartyism saw an increase in the number of newspapers and radio and TV programs in different languages, the authorities continued to limit freedom of expression, through legislation and the misuse of police forces. The paper concludes with suggestions for ensuring freedom of expression and the empowerment of local languages.