Weapons of mass destruction: Land, ethnicity and the 2007 elections in Kenya.
A number of political commentators, the media and observers have portrayed the 2007 election violence in Kenya as an ethnic conflict between two of the largest tribal opposing factions: the Kikuyu and the Luo. However, the situation in a multi-ethnic country like Kenya could prove to be much more complicated than one may think. According to Mueller (2008, 186) the violence was a result of weak institutions, mostly overridden by a highly personalised and centralised presidency that does not exercise the autonomy or checks and balances normally associated with democracies and political parties that are not programmatic, driven by ethnic clientism, and have a winner-take-all view of political and its associated economic by-products. Africa Policy Institute (2008) described it as a crisis of democratic transformation typically experienced by countries facing a closely contested election or election dispute. During an interview at the Wilson Centre on 10 January 2008, Maina Kiai said that ‘this is not an ethnic conflict; this is a political conflict with ethnic overtones’ caused by the lack of transparency in the elections. Githinji and Holmquist (2008, 344) argue that the crisis is best understood not simply as ethnic rivalry for power but rather as a product of rising expectations due to the increase in democratic space in the last five years combined with the frustration of exclusion on the economic and political front. Finally, others are of the opinion that the violence was a spontaneous reaction targeted against Kenya's stolen election. If the historical perspective outlined below is anything to go by, there is more to the violence than solely the perceived ethnic conflict. Kenya's crisis, including the 2007 election violence, has deep historical roots.
CitationJournal of Contemporary African Studies 27 (3): 305-324.
University of NairobiDepartment of Geography and Environmental Studies