Political History of Kenya
Kenya Politics : In 1921, Harry Thuku formed a political movement called the Young Kikuyu Association. In the following year (1922) he formed the first multi-ethnic nationalist movement called the East African Association.
History of Kenya Politics
Traditional Kenyan societies had well organised systems that helped them live peacefully long before the coming of the Europeans. Most traditional societies were governed by a council of elders, chiefs or kings. Some of these leaders were; Mumia of the Luhya, Waiyaki wa Hinga-Kikuyu, Samoei-Nandi, Masaku-Kamba, Sakawa of the Gusii community among others.
Kenya Politics – Political Movements
In 1921, Harry Thuku formed a political movement called the Young Kikuyu Association. In the following year (1922) he formed the first multi-ethnic nationalist movement called the East African Association. This movement sought to address the following grievances:
- The colonial government’s plan to reduce the Africans wage by a third
- The Kipande system of movement control
- Forced labour of women and girls
In the same year Harry Thuku was arrested and detained in connection with his political activities. Two days of demonstrations followed to protest his arrest. On the second day of demonstration (March 16, 1922) a crowd of about 8,000 of his supporters gathered around Central police Station to demand his release from detention. The police and White civilians at the Norfolk hotel shot at the crowd killing 25. Harry Thuku was exiled without trail at Kismayu island. He returned to Kiambu in January 1931 after his release.
In 1907, the first Legislative Council (LEGCO), a kind of parliament was formed in Kenya by the colonial government. Africans were prohibited from direct political participation until 1944 when a few appointed (but not elected) African representatives were permitted to sit in the legislature. In a bid to meet some of the demands of the Kenyan political movements the colonial government nominated Eliud Mathu as the first African representative in the LEGCO.
In 1925, the East African Association was repressed by the colonial government. Members of the association regrouped and formed the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA). Educated and politically enlightened Jomo Kenyatta became the first General Secretary and editor of the organisation’s newspaper, Muiguithania (“The Unifier”).
Other political movements formed to fight colonial rule include: Young Kavirondo Association, Kavirondo Tax payers Association, Taita Welfare Association, Akamba African Association, North Kavirondo Association and the Kikuyu Provincial Association. In 1946 the number of African representatives in the LEGCO rose to two, four in 1948 and six in 1952.
The Kenya African Study Union (KASU) was formed in 1944 with Harry Thuku as the President. In 1946, KASU was renamed Kenya African Union (KAU) with James Gichuru as President. In late 1946 when Jomo Kenyatta returned to Kenya from England he became leader of the nationalist movement, and during mid-1947 he was elected as president of KAU.
However, KAU’s efforts to win self-government under African leadership were unsuccessful, the natives resistance to colonial policies in Kenya became militant with the formation of the Mau Mau movement among the Kikuyu in 1952.
From 1952 to 1959, Kenya was under a state of emergency arising from the “Mau Mau” insurgency against British colonial rule in general and its land policies in particular. This rebellion took place almost exclusively in the highlands of central Kenya among the Kikuyu people. Tens of thousands of Kikuyu died in the fighting or in the detention camps and restricted villages. British losses were about 650. During this period, African participation in the political process increased rapidly.
Kenya Politics – First Direct Elections to the LEGCO
The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Those elect were:
Daniel Arap Moi – Rift Valley
Ronald Ngala – Coast
Oginga Ondinga – Central Nyanza
Tom Mboya – Nairobi
Masinde Muliro – North Nyanza
Lawrence Ogunda – South Nyanza
James Muimi – Ukambani
Bernand Mate – Central
Kenya Politics – Post-Independence
Kenya became independent on December 12, 1963, and the next year joined the Commonwealth. Jomo Kenyatta, an ethnic Kikuyu and head of the Kenya African National Union (KANU), became Kenya’s first President. The minority party, Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU), representing a coalition of small ethnic groups that had feared dominance by larger ones, dissolved itself in 1964 and joined KANU.
A small but significant leftist opposition party, the Kenya People’s Union (KPU), was formed in 1966, led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, a former Vice President and Luo elder. The KPU was banned shortly thereafter, however, and its leader detained. KANU became Kenya’s sole political party. At Kenyatta’s death in August 1978, Vice President Daniel arap Moi, a Kalenjin from Rift Valley province, became interim President. By October of that year, Moi became President formally after he was elected head of KANU and designated its sole nominee for the presidential election.
In June 1982, the National Assembly amended the constitution, making Kenya officially a one-party state. Two months later, young military officers in league with some opposition elements attempted to overthrow the government in a violent but ultimately unsuccessful coup. In response to street protests and donor pressure, parliament repealed the one-party section of the constitution in December 1991. In 1992, independent Kenya’s first multiparty elections were held. Divisions in the opposition contributed to Moi’s retention of the presidency in 1992 and again in the 1997 election. Following the 1997 election Kenya experienced its first coalition government as KANU was forced to cobble together a majority by bringing into government a few minor parties.
In October 2002, a coalition of opposition parties formed the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). In December 2002, the NARC candidate, Mwai Kibaki, was elected the country’s third President. President Kibaki received 62% of the vote, and NARC also won 59% of the parliamentary seats. Kibaki, a Kikuyu from Central province, had served as a member of parliament since Kenya’s independence in 1963. He served in senior posts in both the Kenyatta and Moi governments, including Vice President and Finance Minister. In 2003, internal conflicts disrupted the NARC government. In 2005 these conflicts came into the open when the government put its draft constitution to a public referendum–key government ministers organized the opposition to the draft constitution, which was defeated soundly. In 2007, two principal leaders of the movement to defeat the draft constitution, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka–both former Kibaki allies–were presidential candidates for the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party and the Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K) party, respectively. In September 2007, President Kibaki and his allies formed the coalition Party of National Unity (PNU). KANU joined the PNU coalition, although it was serving in parliament as the official opposition party.
On December 27, 2007, Kenya held presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections. While the parliamentary and local government elections were largely credible, the presidential election was seriously flawed, with irregularities in the vote tabulation process as well as turnout in excess of 100% in some constituencies. On December 30, the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya declared incumbent Mwai Kibaki the winner of the presidential election. Violence erupted in different parts of Kenya as supporters of opposition candidate Raila Odinga and supporters of Kibaki clashed with police and each other. The post-election crisis left about 1,300 Kenyans dead and about 500,000 people displaced. In order to resolve the crisis, negotiation teams representing PNU and ODM began talks under the auspices of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the Panel of Eminent African Persons (Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania and Graca Machel of Mozambique).
Kenya Politics – Power-Sharing Agreement
On February 28, 2008, President Kibaki and Raila Odinga signed a power-sharing agreement, which provided for the establishment of a prime minister position (to be filled by Odinga) and two deputy prime minister positions, as well as the division of an expanded list of cabinet posts according to the parties’ proportional representation in parliament. On March 18, 2008, the Kenyan parliament amended the constitution and adopted legislation to give legal force to the agreement. On April 17, 2008 the new coalition cabinet and Prime Minister Odinga were sworn in. The Kofi Annan-led political settlement also set out a reform agenda to address underlying causes of the post-election violence. The focus is on constitutional, electoral, land, and institutional reform as well as increased accountability for corruption and political violence. The new constitution was approved in a referendum on August 4, 2010.
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