Kenya's constitution guarantees fundamental human rights and freedoms, an independent judiciary, and a free press, all essential elements of a democratic society. Yet the current administration has compromised all these institutions to such an extent that the Kenyan people have no redress except through picketing as enshrined in the Constitution in Chapter 27.
Democracy in a frontier country like Kenya is meant to play a vital role in promoting political stability, upholding the rule of law, and enhancing citizens' participation in decision-making yet this is not the case in Kenya. While the country has made significant progress in democratization, there are still challenges to be addressed, such as ethnic polarization and corruption.
Democracy is a form of government where power is vested in the people, and the rule of law is upheld. In a frontier country like Kenya, democracy is meant to play a crucial role in shaping the political landscape and promoting the values of liberty, justice, and equality. However, this is not the case as democracy has been substituted with a transactional kind of political capitalism.
Since gaining independence in 1963, Kenya has undergone significant political and social changes, and alleged democracy has been a central element of this transformation, but closer scrutiny shows that Kenya is just a transactional society, where the interests of the political class are pitted against those of the citizens.
One of the critical aspects of democracy in Kenya is the electoral process. Elections in Kenya are held after every five years, and citizens are free to vote for their preferred candidates. The constitution guarantees every citizen the right to participate in the electoral process, and this has contributed significantly to the country’s political stability.
However, the Kenyan electoral process has been marred by irregularities and violence in the past, especially during the 2007-2008 election period. The events of that period led to the establishment of a new constitution in 2010 that seeks to safeguard the electoral process and guarantee free, fair, and credible elections.
Another alleged critical aspect of democracy in Kenya is the separation of powers between the executive, legislature, and judiciary. I say allegedly because, in practice, we do not have the so-called separation of powers. The current administration has purchased all relevant leaders turning them into rubber stamps. The constitution of Kenya is meant to provide for an independent judiciary, which plays a critical role in safeguarding citizens’ rights and freedoms. The tribunal has been instrumental in interpreting the constitution and ensuring that government institutions adhere to the rule of law. For example, in 2017, the Kenyan Supreme Court nullified the presidential election results, citing irregularities and illegalities. This decision demonstrated the judiciary’s independence and its role in ensuring that democracy and the rule of law are upheld.
While Kenya, like any other country, faces various challenges related to democracy, it is essential to acknowledge the progress it has made toward building democratic institutions and processes over the years. In essence, this has been because of people like Raila Odinga, the Late Kenneth Matiba, the late Martin Shikuku, the Late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Paul Mwite, Koigi Wa Wamwere, the Late Kijana Wamalwa amongst others. Most of the top political heads were in the government of Moi and they opposed the introduction of democracy yet today they talk about democracy when in essence they are always been against it.
Kenya’s constitution guarantees fundamental human rights and freedoms, an independent judiciary, and a free press, all essential elements of a democratic society. Yet the current administration has compromised all these institutions to such an extent that the Kenyan people have no redress except through picketing as enshrined in the Constitution in Chapter 27.
That said, there are issues in Kenya that challenge the country’s democratic credentials. One such challenge is the persistence of corruption, which erodes public trust in democratic institutions and undermines the rule of law. Corruption in Kenya has been widespread, with cases of grand corruption involving high-level officials and public servants. This situation has created a perception among many citizens that politicians and government officials do not serve their interests, but rather serve their own selfish interests.
Another challenge that Kenya faces is ethnic polarization, which often leads to violence and exclusion. Kenya is a diverse country with over 40 ethnic groups, and while diversity can be a strength, it can also be a source of tension if not managed correctly. Ethnic divisions have been exploited by politicians to mobilize their base, leading to a winner-takes-all mentality that often results in the exclusion of minority groups. This situation can weaken the democratic process and undermine the legitimacy of elected representatives.
Democracy in Kenya is meant to promote citizen participation and engagement in the decision-making process, which unfortunately is NOT the case. This is supposed to be facilitated through the devolved system of governance that allows for the decentralization of power and resources to the counties. The devolved systems are meant to give citizens a voice in the management of their affairs, which is meant to increase our participation in the democratic process.
For instance, the public participation process in the formulation of county budgets is meant to empower the citizens to prioritize development projects in their communities, resulting in more inclusive and equitable development BUT this is not the case and it’s made worse because none of the corrupt leaders are sitting in jail. This is why democracy in Kenya is a farce, where the majority at used as bargain chips for the political class to advance their interests, and the minority are insulted every day.
In conclusion, democracy in a frontier country like Kenya is meant to play a vital role in promoting political stability, upholding the rule of law, and enhancing citizens’ participation in decision-making yet this is not the case in Kenya. While the country has made significant progress in democratization, there are still challenges to be addressed, such as ethnic polarization and corruption. Nonetheless, Kenya’s democratic gains are significant, and the country remains a beacon of hope for other African countries that are striving to entrench democratic values and practices.