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The question at hand is whether contemporary Kenya is a genuine democracy.  It would, on the surface, seem like an easy question to answer either yes or no.  Either Kenya is a democracy or it is not.  However, the geopolitical reality of modern Kenyan politics makes the question slightly more difficult to answer than in clear-cut yes or no answers.


Norman Miller describes Kenya as a “highly fragmented and differentiated society.  It is a land of social contrast and contradiction that has been shaped in part by the competitive free-enterprise ethic and in part by the forces of its history and environment.”  During the late 19th century, the area that is known as Kenya became part of the British Empire, and Kenya remained a British colony until 1963.  The colonial legacy is strong in East Africa, and remnants remain unto the present day, especially in Kenya where parasitical elite of senior politicians and civil servants continue to squeeze the rural areas of untold wealth.

Kenya’s native population began chafing at British rule during the 1930s.  In 1944, a nationalist organization, the Kenya African Union (KAU), was formed by Kenyan elites in order to fight for independence.  The group was led by Jomo Kenyatta.  However, forces within Kenya during the late 1940s saw KAU as too moderate, and by the early 1950s there was a full-fledged militant resistance movement in Kenya, the Mau Mau.  Mau Mau leaders wanted an immediate end to colonization and the return of stolen lands.  The Mau Mau were prepared to, and eventually did, embrace violence as the means to achieve their goals.

But both the might of the British Empire and the forces of moderation proved to great for the Mau Mau, and on December 12, 1963, Kenya became Africa’s 34th independent state.  Jomo Kenyatta was sworn in as the new nation’s first Prime Minister.  A year later, Kenya became a republic, with Kenyatta as the first President.  The Westminster model of government, adopted as part of the Commonwealth, was abandoned.  Provincial administration became the direct responsibility of the president, and the Senate was dissolved, leaving a unicameral Assembly.

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