Introduction: Kenya–A democracy in retreat?
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The post-election crisis of January 2008 brought Kenya close to collapse and the status of a failed state. Following the abrupt proclamation of Mwai Kibaki, the incumbent president, as victor in a highly contentious presidential election, peace was disrupted by severe ethnic violence between supporters of the opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and the Party of National Unity (PNU). This saw up to 2,000 people killed and as many as 300,000 displaced from their homes. This analysis locates the origin of the crisis in, variously, a background of population growth and extensive poverty; and ethnic disputes relating to land going back to colonial times (notably between Kalenjin and Kikuyu in the Rift Valley). More immediately, what stoked the conflict is the construction of political coalitions around Kenya's 42 ethnic groups, although the 2007 election campaign was critically shaped by ODM's rhetoric of ‘41 against one’ (the Kikuyu); and not least, this survey records the diffusion of violence as a result of elite manipulation of armed militias which, since 1992, have steadily eroded the state's monopoly of violence. While summarising how external mediation and the elite interest in political stability prevented the country falling apart, and led to the formation of a power-sharing government, the analysis proposes that a reluctance by the Grand Coalition partners to undertake fundamental reform of the constitution means that Kenya remains a ‘democracy at risk’, and faces a real possibility of slipping into state failure.