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Political activism in Nairobi Violence and resilience of Kenyan authoritarianism Hervé Maupeu Political life in Kenyan is full of conflict and violence compared to neighbouring Tanzania, but it has not degenerated into civil war, as has been the case in Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda. #'          Nairobi. The ‘capital effect’ is probably less important than in West Africa, or at least in countries that were colonised by France. Nairobi is the key to Kenyan political life but without being the centre, even though the main political institutions are concentrated there. Indeed, Kenyan political culture remains essentially rural. Thus, the political tension that is seen in Nairobi Q  ‚         the idea of a nation is real, but all the while is being constantly contested.                #    the idea of political activism. Following the example of Dictionnaire de science politique et des institutions politiques, we can assume that “Political activism suggests a meeting of                    ”.1 Political action in Kenya essentially takes the form of demonstrations, urban revolt and even, as in 1982, attempted coups d’État. Violence is the result of constraints imposed on a society by political authoritarianism which has continually governed the functioning of the State since its appearance at the end of the 19th Century. Some central characteristics of authoritarian politics    "‚~›?“ŸThe authoritarian political scene is atrophied and strictly framed: the objective is to assure the primacy and the permanence of the executive (emir, king, president, guide, etc.) and of isolating the reversal of politics (framed by institutions in democratic regimes)”.2 This supremacy of the Executive which could not be contested, aims at maintaining economic and social practices that have been described by J.F. Médard as ‘neo1 Hermet, G., Dictionnaire de sciences politique et des institutions politiques, Paris, A. Colin, 1994, p. 172.‘ ~›?“‚€´     *     =*ƒ %¹ ! Politique, Vol.54, n°6, 2004, p. 950. 366 NAIROBI TODAY patrimonial’. It is clear that in a century of political authoritarianism, these objectives been taken up various forms and practices. The clientele system that assures a minimal legitimacy for this type of regime has also evolved constantly. From then on, the mobilisation actors and the forms of political          more than the very list of its political actions. Finally, the historical approach in this paper will show that in the State/society dialogue, the social groups acted according to their objectives which greatly evolved in the course of time. POLITICAL ACTIVISTS AND THE DIFFERENT KINDS OF MOBILISATIONS State governance created an intervention framework of protest groups and thus laid down some form of political activism (strikes and demonstrations at the expense of negotiation processes). In return, the activists obliged Kenyan authoritarianism to evolve. Thus, in the post-colonial era, there has been a change from a moderate authoritarianism to a corporate authoritarianism; then to the end of the Moi regime to a moderate sultanate. Colonial governance also changed in six decades of power. The golden era of union action (1922–1960) ~           In a country where political organisations were strictly restricted to ethnic boundaries, unions were the only structures authorised to have a national outlook. Thus, unions were important vectors in the invention of nationalism                         the 1920s; union action also takes part in the process. As Tiyambe Zeleza puts it: “Strikes were not simply struggles at the work place, but within and between communities”.3 The East African Association and the shootout of March 16, 1922 The East African Association (EAA) and its leader, Harry Thuku (1895– 1970), are considered in the mythology of Kenyan nationalism as initiators of the long combat for national freedom. It is true that the EAA was one        "  backgrounds, endowing themselves with administrative structures and using modern methods. At its roots, this was a group of urbanites defending union protests of the salaried workers in the rural world. The EAA was created in     ˆ ‹   their employees by a third. This measure provoked an outcry from the political associations that emerged after the war, particularly the Kikuyu Association, which brought together a majority of the chiefs from the Central Province, 3 Zeleza, T., ‘The strike Movement in Colonial Kenya’, in Histoire sociale de l’Afrique de l’Est (XIX– XXesiècle), Paris, Karthala, 1991, p. 295. POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN NAIROBI 367 from the Nairobi Baganda Union as well as from some Indian organisations. In the Pangani area, which was the centre of political discussions for Africans living in Nairobi, H. Thuku, an employee of the Inland Revenue, trained by the Gospel Missionary Society in Kambui, founded the Young Kikuyu Association which soon became the EAA. This...


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