The 2007-2008 Kenyan Crisis: Identity Politics and Disorder in Africa
Thousands of Kenyan people were brutally, relentlessly, and mercilessly murdered because of the presidential candidate that they supported. How can such an electoral system exist and even further, how is it possible that such a system can be looked upon as a democracy? A country cannot be deemed legitimate, or function properly and in the best interest of the people, if the people’s voice cannot be heard and enacted through elections. The 2007 Kenyan presidential election was a glaring example of the corruption and illegitimacy that has defined Africa, starting from the end of the Cold War and continuing into the modern era. By investigating the Kenyan Crisis of 2007-2008, during which thousands of people were killed based upon ethnic identification following the presidential election, one is able to objectively examine the effects that violence, corruption, and conflict can have upon a prosperous and stable country. The process of state decomposition and reconstruction of power relates to case studies across the globe, not just Kenya. When analyzing the Kenyan conflict, it is beneficial to consider theories like that of Crawford Young, which attempts to explain the epidemic of disorder in Africa. He mainly relates and attributes said disorder to the concept of identification and the fact that violence may erupt when two groups, motivated by factors like ethnicity, race, or religions, clash in contestation for power. Throughout this analysis, the causes, characteristics, and consequences of the Kenyan Crisis of 2007-2008 will be explained and probed in relation to Crawford Young’s theory for disorder in order to fully comprehend not only the major determinants within Kenya at the time, but to understand how Young’s theory applies to a wide range of warring African countries.
In order to best understand the political, economic, and social climate in Kenya during the crisis period, a brief history must be introduced. In 1920, Kenya was under British colonial rule until the wheels of the Mau Mau rebellion began spinning in the 1940s. In 1952, the rebellion reached its pinnacle, which led to Jomo Kenyatta being elected as the first president of the newly independent nation in 1963. As the nation mourned the death of Kenyatta in 1978, Daniel Arap Moi took control of the newly vacant position and steered the ship of a single party state characterized by corruption and electoral manipulation. Even after international pressure and domestic protests succeeded in attempting to urge in multiparty elections, Moi still possessed enough clout and control over the government and military to remain in power. The reign of Moi was a repressive regime in disguise branded by economic downturn and the disappearance of international donors and supporters like the IMF and World Bank. In the elections of 2002, however, Moi was constitutionally not allowed to run again which provided Mwai Kibaki with the opportunity to take over power.
Kibaki successfully initiated a remarkable recovery both economically and democratically within Kenya. He initiated many anti-corruption laws and reforms while spurring economic growth and stressing the importance of education. Although the country seemed to be improving in the eyes of the spectators, there were several issues that were causing unrest within the country. The social inequality gap was widening, as the bulk of the working population were not benefitting from the increased GDP. In addition, although Kibaki preached against corruption, it still remained an influential reality. Kibaki hired a man named of John Githongo with the purpose of investigating scandals and claims of corruption. This same man then resigned in 2005 and fled to Britain as a result of Kibaki preventing him from doing said job. Crime began to seriously burden the working class population in Kenya and ultimately led to ethnic clashes between competing tribes...
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