Kenya is a multi-ethnic country, and tribalism has been a significant challenge to democracy. Political parties and leaders often mobilize their ethnic bases to gain support, leading to divisive and polarized politics. Tribalism undermines the idea of national identity and leads to the exclusion and discrimination of certain groups.
Kenya is known as one of the most democratic countries in Africa, with a multi-party system and a constitution that guarantees fundamental human rights and freedoms.
However, despite these features, democracy in Kenya seems to be facing numerous limitations and challenges. This research paper aims to explore the reasons why democracy does not seem to be working in Kenya.
Corruption: Corruption is one of the biggest challenges facing democracy in Kenya. According to Transparency International, Kenya ranks 124th out of 180 countries in its 2021 Corruption Perception Index. Corruption affects all aspects of governance in Kenya, including elections, public procurement, and service delivery. It undermines democracy by enabling a few individuals to amass wealth and power at the expense of the majority.
Electoral violence: Elections in Kenya are often marred by violence, especially during the campaign period and immediately after the announcement of results. For instance, during the 2007 elections, over 1,000 people were killed and thousands more displaced due to post-election violence. The 2017 elections were also marred by violence, with at least 92 people killed. Electoral violence undermines the credibility of elections and the legitimacy of the government.
Tribalism: Kenya is a multi-ethnic country, and tribalism has been a significant challenge to democracy. Political parties and leaders often mobilize their ethnic bases to gain support, leading to divisive and polarized politics. Tribalism undermines the idea of national identity and leads to the exclusion and discrimination of certain groups.
Disregard the rule of law: The rule of law is a fundamental tenet of democracy, yet it is often disregarded in Kenya. Politicians and public officials often flout the law with impunity, and the justice system is often compromised. The lack of accountability for those in power undermines democracy and erodes public trust in government institutions.
Limited civic education: Civic education is essential for the development of a democratic society. However, in Kenya, civic education is often limited or non-existent, leading to a lack of understanding of democratic values and processes. This lack of education undermines the ability of citizens to make informed decisions and hold elected officials accountable.
Media freedom: The media plays a critical role in promoting democracy by providing information and holding those in power accountable. However, in Kenya, media freedom is often curtailed, especially during elections. For instance, during the 2017 elections, three major television stations were shut down for airing opposition rallies. The restriction of media freedom undermines democracy by limiting the flow of information and stifling debate.
Weak institutions: Democracy requires strong institutions that are independent and accountable. However, in Kenya, institutions such as the judiciary, parliament, and electoral commission are often weak and compromised. Weak institutions undermine democracy by enabling those in power to act with impunity and eroding public trust in government institutions.
Political patronage: Political patronage is a significant challenge to democracy in Kenya. Political leaders often use public resources to reward their supporters, leading to a culture of patronage and nepotism. This practice undermines democracy by perpetuating inequality and exclusion.
Gender inequality: Gender inequality is a significant challenge to democracy in Kenya. Women are often excluded from political processes, and their representation in political positions is low. For instance, in the 2017 elections, only 23% of elected officials were women. Gender inequality undermines democracy by perpetuating discrimination and exclusion.
Economic inequality: Economic inequality is a significant challenge to democracy in Kenya. The gap between the rich and poor continues to widen, with a small elite controlling a significant proportion of the country’s wealth. Economic inequality undermines democracy by perpetuating a system that benefits the few at the expense of the many and leads to a lack of access to basic services such as healthcare and education.
Democracy in Kenya is facing numerous limitations and challenges, including corruption, electoral violence, tribalism, disregard for the rule of law, limited civic education, restricted media freedom, weak institutions, political patronage, gender inequality, and economic inequality. Addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted approach, including strengthening institutions, promoting media freedom and civic education, tackling corruption and economic inequality, and addressing issues of tribalism and gender inequality. Only by addressing these challenges can Kenya realize its full potential as a democratic country, where the voices of all citizens are heard and their rights and freedoms respected.