The Politics of Kenya, Research Paper Example

The nation of Kenya, which is officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is one of the nations on the continent of Africa. Kenya is located on the east coast of Africa, situated directly on the Equator. Kenya was a British colony in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and declared its independence as the Republic of Kenya in 1963. Kenya is currently a representative republic with a multi-party system, a president, and a parliament. In 2010 the Republic of Kenya adopted a new Constitution following the violence and political crisis that took place during the 2007 presidential election. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently engaged in proceedings related to that crisis, and several notable Kenyan political figures have been under ICC scrutiny. In the wake of this activity Kenya has announced that it plans to exit from membership in the ICC.

Although Kenya was not colonized by Britain until the 1800s, it was a busy region for European, Arab, and Asian traders for many centuries. Ships stopping at posts on the Kenyan coast moved supplies of ivory, gold, slaves and other commodities from the African continent to destinations in Asia and Europe to sell or trade for silk, spices, and other goods. By the time the British established Kenya as a colony it had already been occupied by Europeans and other settlers for centuries. Although Germany had made a claim on Kenya in the 19th century, Great Britain was in a stronger position and took control of the region in 1890. During the era of colonialism the British built rail lines and other industrial infrastructure in Kenya, while also developing reservations for tribes that the British government decided were too disruptive (Hornsby, 2012). This colonial era lasted for decades.

It was not until the 1950s that a serious revolutionary movement began, and for several years the British attempted to keep control of their colony (Hornsby, 2012). Finally, in 1963, Kenya formally declared independence and established as a constitutional republic, though this constitution would only be the first of several the nation would develop in the coming decades. Within a year from the formal declaration of independence from Britain the Republic of Kenya was established, and their first president, Jomo Kenyatta, was elected. The British were disappointed by his election, as they had hoped to see a government established that was friendly towards British interests (Hornsby, 2012). Instead, Kenyatta was a staunch nationalist who wanted to see Kenya become independent of British political and economic influence and interests and quickly and completely as possible (Hornsby, 2012).

Kenyatta served as president under a single-party Kenyan system from his election in 1964 until his death in 1978. He was succeeded by Daniel Moi, who served for several terms and ran unopposed until an attempted coup was made against him in 1982.  Some members of the Kenyan military who opposed Moi’s rule staged an effort to overthrow him, but the coup was quickly put down. In response to this attempt, however, Moi simply held an early election where he again ran unopposed. By the late 1980s the political system in Kenya had become so undemocratic that secret ballots were no longer permitted, and voters had to publicly demonstrate their choices (Hornsby, 2012). Such corruption led to calls for political reform, and for the drafting of a new constitution. Even with the reforms, however, Moi had such a tight grip on power that he continued to run and to win elections. Finally, in 2002, the constitution was amended so that Moi could no longer run for office.

Moi was succeeded as Kenyan president by Mwai Kibaki, and the elections of 2002 were seen by many as the beginning of a new era in Kenyan politics. Kibaki served his first term of five years, and then ran for reelection in 2007. The elections of 2007 were marred by violence, however, as reports of rampant problems led to fighting in parts of Kenya. Following the elections many Kenyans engaged in protests, and more violent clashes between people on different sides took place. Although Kibaki’s rival Raila Odinga appeared to have a slight lead in the votes, the official count gave the presidency to Kibaki. After weeks of violent protests, Kibaki and Odinga agreed to develop a coalition government with Kibaki retaining the presidency and Odinga serving as Prime Minister of the Kenyan Parliament ((Maasho, 2013).

Between 2008 and 2010, this collation government, with the new position of Prime Minister, made many changes to the Kenyan political system. Such changes were not always popular, and calls for a new constitution were finally successful in 2010 (Akwiri, 2013). With the drafting of the new constitution the position of Prime Minister was eliminated and the powers of the presidency were considerably weakened (MAasho, 2013). The constitution allowed Kibaki to remain as president, but it also prohibited him from running for a third term, and established a two-term limit for the presidency in the future. In 2013, Uhuru Kenyatta was elected president; he is the son of Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta.

The violent protests of the 2007 elections led to the deaths of hundreds, or possibly thousands, of Kenyans (Akwiri, 2013). Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were forced to flee from their homes because of the violence, and many are still refugees now living in other parts of Kenya and in other nearby regions. The International Criminal Court began investigating the incidents of violence and political corruption in the aftermath of the 2007 elections, and several prominent Kenyan politicians have been formally charged with crimes against humanity. Among those charged include William Ruto, the former Deputy Prime Minister under President Kibaki, and even the current president, Uhuru Kenyatta.

Kenya is just one of several African nations that have declared their intent to pull out of membership in the ICC, though such a process would take at least a year, and would have no bearing on the current trials of Ruto, Kenyatta, and others. Despite the problems of 2007 and the ongoing issues with the ICC, many observers believe that the changes to the Kenyan Constitution will allow its political system to function in a more open, transparent manner (Maasho, 2013). Until the situation with the ICC is resolved, however, it may be difficult for Kenyan political figures to function effectively. The next Presidential election is scheduled for 2018; if Kenyatta is convicted by the ICC it is likely he will be replaced by his current Vice President.

Works Cited

Akwiri, Joseph. “allAfrica.com: Kenya: Key ICC Members Quiet On Kenya Withdrawal (Page 4 of 4).” allAfrica.com: Home. N.p., 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Sept. 2013.

Hornsby, Charles. Kenya: A History Since Independence. New York, NY: I. B. Tauris, 2012. Print.

Maasho, Aaron. “African leaders to hold summit on Kenya’s ICC cases.” Reuters. N.p., 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2013.

Njogu, Kimani. Healing the Wound: Personal Narratives About the 2007 Post-Election Violence in Kenya. Nairobi, Kenya: Twaweza Communications, 2009. Print.