Addressing ethnic based politics in Kenya: a socio-legal perspective

Njoroge, Eunice Wanjiku
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Strathmore University
The political pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030 seeks to achieve the development a political system that is issue-based, people-centered, result-oriented and accountable to the public. Despite these aspirations, politics in Kenya falls short of the ideals and best practices of a democratic political system. The political arena in Kenya is characterised by ethnic based politics, that is, the formation and sustenance of ethnically motivated and ethnically based political parties and coalitions. This research assesses whether the current constitutional efforts and those of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission of Kenya (NCIC) are effective tools to mitigate ethnic-based politics in Kenya. More specifically, the study assesses the role of ethnicity in politics and the degree to which the Constitution of Kenya (2010) and the NCIC have been effective in mitigating this. Finally, the study identifies ways in which these two might be strengthened and recommends what other additional legal solutions might be adopted in order to deal with ethnic-based politics.The study was conducted through literature review on polarization of ethnicity and the formation of ethnic based political parties and coalitions, and adopted a qualitative analysis. It established that though the law may help to mitigate the ethnicity component of politics in Kenya, the long term goal of the NCIC of promoting and strengthening national social cohesion is the only truly effective remedy for the eradication of ethnic based politics in Kenya. Through a comparative analysis with other jurisdictions the study was able to identify practical measures which can be put in place to promote a national identity and decrease the saliency of ethnic identities in Kenyan politics.In order to mitigate ethnic based politics in Kenya, the study recommends the strengthening of the NCIC. It also recommends the facilitation of conditions for full social, economic and political participation of all people irrespective of their ethnic identity. Furthermore, it proposes the strengthening of checks on political parties and the promotion of policy-oriented coalitions. In the end, the study makes the conclusion that the current legal framework is still wanting and that the sustained saliency of ethnicity in politics requires further reform of existing frameworks.
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Bachelor of Laws Degree at Strathmore University Law School
Perenialism, Primordialism, Instrumentalism, Kenya’s Vision 2030