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Kenya's Long and Painful Journey to Nationhood

The Golden Jubilee for Kenya

On the 12th of December, 2013 Kenya celebrated its 50 year of internal self-rule. The golden jubilee was celebrated amidst dissenting voices of dissatisfaction with the strides that Kenya has made towards nationhood and people-hood. While there is much to celebrate in terms of economic growth, there has been little progress in terms of social justice, political inclusion and nation building since independence. The country has been slowly losing her grip on people-hood/nationhood. There is a yearning to creating a nation out of Kenya. This quest stretches to colonialism and beyond. It is as real and urgent today as it was 50 years and more than 50 years ago. Kenya has had a history of ethnic tensions, polarization largely caused by among other factors, political exclusion and elite fragmentation, land, scramble for resources, historical injustices and marginalization. Ethnic polarization has over the years manifested itself through various ways ranging from mild ethnic strife to outright armed conflict and violence leading to untold forms of violence. We have not forgotten the 2007-8 Post Election Violence that almost lurched the country into civil war.

What Kenyan Thinker should Tell Us

Kenyans seem to know where their problem as a country is and they also seem to be aware about where the answer lies. Why they never commit to address real issues, I am sure I am not sure whether I am sure I know yet. I thought contemporary Kenyan scholars should now focus more on critically evaluating the lessons, challenges and prospects for Kenya as a nation in the backdrop of perennial ethnic polarization in line with democratization process and social justice requirements. Some scholars have argued that it is possible to settle ethnic conflicts through democracy and its major tenets such as institutional reforms, security sector reforms and constitutional compromise but then but…what is happening to Kenya even after promulgation of one of the world’s most progressive constitution? I think again scholars and policy makers should turn their attention to the conditions for transition to democracy through ensuring social justice amidst intense ethnic strife. Whoever wants to contribute to salvaging nationhood in Kenya should design studies that can genuinely and pragmatically examine whatever factors that facilitate transition to democracy and social justice and how to progressively and successfully so tackle factors that are obstacles to these desired ends for the nation.

Lessons from Zimbabwe and Angola 

The assumption, in my view, should be that the attitude of social groups to democracy is determined by their leaders' rational calculations of the prospects of social, economic and political benefits. In the case of Kenya the social units are ethnic groups and elite fragmentation is the engine propelling continuous social discord. In other words, social groups have the capacity to formulate collective interests and act strategically to further them with the possibility of achieving them, and their leaders choose the alternative path of action with the highest expected benefits among those available. Thinkers have no dearth of theories to draw from, for instance they can base their arguments within recent analyses in the rational choice literature on institutions.

Kenya is not an isolated case. There are examples to juxtapose and compare even when they are different for comparative purposes. For instance, the events in Angola (1974-75) and in Zimbabwe (1979-80) although very different contexts contain lessons in which transitions to democracy were attempted. Rational choice theorists try to discover the meaning of rationality in different contexts, and the study of strategic choices and interaction of the six political elite groups in Angola and Zimbabwe, each with a core ethnic constituency, makes empirical probing and refining of the propositions of rational choice theory possible. Yes Zimbabwe may be having its own problems so does Angola but they are not tribalism and corruption. What did they do right during those mentioned epochs of democratic transitions? Is there anything for Kenya to learn?
Kenya's Long and Painful Journey to Nationhood Kenya's Long and Painful Journey to Nationhood Reviewed by Ibrahim Magara on February 08, 2016 Rating: 5

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