Kenya: From Democratic and Economic Engine to Security and Economic Crisis

Published on 15th August 2011

Despite having massive economic strength in the East African region, Kenya’s 2007 electoral controversy harmed its image as an icon of democracy and stability in East Africa. For decades, the country proved to be much more stable in contrast to its volatile neighboring states-Somalia and South Sudan for instance have been conflict ridden for years while there was stability in Kenya.

Kenya’s multi-ethnic heritage is often celebrated as a cultural blessing, however in the aftermath of the 2007 polls-it exploded into a humiliating image where several minority ethnic groups especially the Luo vehemently accused the majority Kikuyu led-administration of having stolen votes. This resulted in bloody battles among supporters of the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Given its status as a regional power, the violence temporarily reduced Kenya’s economic well-being-with spilling effects on neighboring states. As the fighting was dragging on, several key economic sectors suffered profit losses, while some of them were forced to temporarily halt their operations. For instance, the tourism sector witnessed a temporary decline as some beach and game reserve operators experienced a decrease in number of tourists, while agricultural exports especially horticulture lost much needed revenue. In deed most of Kenya’s land locked neighbors also bore the brunt of the situation-import/ export routes transporting goods from/ to the Mombasa harbour were interrupted and or temporarily closed for security reasons.

In summary, the paper covers the historical background of ethnic politics in Kenya-both during colonial and post-colonial periods. Further, it will also cover elements dealing with Kenya’s democracy and governance issues since the dawning of independence. In addition, the abstract will also make an analysis/ overview of four of the country’s key economic sectors-agriculture, tourism, trade and industrial respectively-while attempting to highlight the damages caused by the violence to those sectors.

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By Justice Mkhabela

The author is a Research Intern at Africa Institute of South Africa in the Sustainable Development Unit.

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