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The State of Political Ethnic Mobilisation among Kenyan Communities in Postcolonial Era, 1963 to 2007: A Case Study of Bukusu People

The State of Political Ethnic Mobilisation among Kenyan Communities in Postcolonial Era, 1963 to 2007

A Case Study of Bukusu People

Wapukha Kituyi Daniel


Received: 06 April 2024; Revised: 27 April 2024; Accepted: 01 May 2024; Published: 04 June 2024


There is a growing body of scholarly work on political behaviour in Africa that accords much credence to the salience of ethnicity as a rallying point during electoral processes. Yet at the country level, we still understand very little about the interactions between ethnicity and voting behaviour and what demographic groups are more likely or less likely to be susceptible to the effects of ethnic cues, if at all, when voting or expressing support in other ways for political parties. Such features are dominant in Kenyan politics and are characterized majorly through ethnic-based politics where the formation of political parties and coalitions are motivated ethnically. Taking Bukusu as a case example, it is clearly seen how political game and electoral mobilisation is largely contested ethnic terrain. This explains why the majority of the leaders in Bungoma are Bukusu who have had a defining moment and significant effect on political leadership and electoral politics since independence. This paper focused on the state of political ethnic mobilisation among Kenyan communities in postcolonial era, 1963 to 2007with reference to Bukusu people of Bungoma District. The study examines ethnic politics as an instrument for political mileage among the Bukusu people. It is noted herein that since the migration and eventual inception of imperialism, the Bukusu people just like other communities in the country resisted  colonisation which eventually cemented them together up to date. Karly Popper’s instrumentalism theory and AchilleMbembe’s postcolonial theory were the two theories used in the study. This study relied heavily on archival materials, oral interviews, and a review of linked secondary literature.  Convergence and divergence were produced after thoroughly reviewing, analysing, and compiling all the data. Ex-post facto as a research design was used with purposive and snowball as sampling techniques. Elderly men and women were target population and the sampling size was guided by historical principle of not less than twenty eight participants.  It is argued that this data will be useful to policymakers in formulating and comprehending the factors that affect political patterns and behaviour both at the national and local levels. The study should be of importance to historian scholars and more specifically on those who have an interest in state of political ethnic mobilisation among Kenyan Communities.


This paper focused on the state of political ethnic mobilisation among Kenyan communities in postcolonial era, 1963 to 2007with Bukusu as the main community under study. However, to understand this, the paper looked into five key areas, among them: The state of political ethnic mobilisationin party and coalition formation in post-colonial Kenya, thestate of political ethnic mobilisationin one party era, 1963-1992, the state of political ethnic mobilisation during multiparty era, the state of political ethnic mobilisation and exclusivity in key political positions in government since independence and finally, politicization of ethnic identity in 2002 and 2007 general elections. The 2002 general elections attempted to bring together most of political parties, regardless of their ethnic background to form National Rainbow Coalition (NARC), with their main aim to win against Moi’s anointed successor Uhuru Kenyatta. This coalition did not last long before ethnicity manifested itself that caused a split in Kibaki’s government. The 2007 general election was a phenomenon many political analysts had predicted, given the consistently perilous political trajectory of the country since Kenyatta’s rule.

In conclusion, the paper reveals that, thestate of political ethnic mobilisationthat is being witnessed since independence among the Bukusu and Kenyan communities has roots in colonial government; hence post-colonial theory guided this study. Many attempts have been made to remove ethnic politics in the country but it has never been successful.


This is a historical study whose research design is ex-post facto, which according to M.B. Ogunniyi[1], is a systematic examination of the past in order to understand the present and to look at the future wisely.This design enables the researcher to investigate and explain a phenomenon that has already occurred. Consequently, manipulative control of the factors under scrutiny and randomization are not possible as in the case with the experimental inquiry.[2]This paper covered the Bukusu people of Bungoma District because they are very unique people compare with other Luhya and non-Luhya communities when it comes to National and local politics. They are determinant force when it comes to decision and voting patterns in western Kenya.

Purposive and snowball sampling were employed.[3] Purposive sampling is the type of sampling in which the researcher selects samples based on a certain purpose specifically where the researcher has some belief that the sample being picked has the desired responses which are also representative. On the other hand, snowball sampling is when one informant directs the researcher to the next informant who is believed to have the relevant information.[4] To ensure a systematic approach to the collection of the sample questions were formulated covering the major parts of the study.

Both primary and secondary data were collected in this paper. Primary sources involved obtaining data from oral sources, from the Kenya National Archives (KNA), the archives of political organisation such as FORD – Kenya, KANU and Archival records from provincial and district annual reports.  Primary data were corroborated with relevant data from secondary sources like books, journal, articles, magazines, theses/dissertations, and seminar papers.

This paper employed interview as the main instrument of data collection. Interviews are important because they unearth the information needed by the researcher and they pursue in-depth information around the topic under study. Both open ended and closed-ended questions were used. The interview questions were pretested, revised and drawn early enough to ensure reliability[5].

Documentary sources were very useful to this study. Documentary analysis provided in-depth and useful insight on the state of political ethnic mobilisation among Kenyan communities in postcolonial era, with specific reference to Bukusu people. Three analytical frames were used to analyse data. These included; theoretical reflections, documentary review and content analysis.

Ethnic politics and voter mobilisation are very sensitive matters in Kenyan politics especially among the Bukusu people. In this study, anonymity was key to reduce chances of possible victimisation of the respondents especially those giving information that may undermine the views of others. The respondents were voluntary in participating and giving information needed. Those who participated in this research were informed of the objective of this study. All the respondents in this study gave their consent for involvement and due courtesy and respect was accorded to all respondents.

The State of Political Ethnic Mobilization in Party and Coalition Formation in Post-Colonial Kenya

Political parties and coalition formation has roots in the desire of citizens to participate in political process and have leaders whose power derives from the will of the people. Before discussing party and coalition formation in postcolonial among the Bukusu, a brief overview of party formation at pre-independence Kenya is necessary in this section. In African countries, political parties begun as associations in colonial era to fight for the welfare of the Africans and among the Bukusu, North Kavirondo Central Association was formed to fight for the welfare of the Bukusu people. Racism and exclusion of Africans in various government departments made African elites to establish political parties which started as associations then later as trade unions and among the Bukusu, Bukusu Union was formed by young Bukusu elites who had gone to mission schools like John Victor Khatete and MasindeMuliro. The colonial government used pseudo-scientific theories of racial superiority to argue that Africans were incapable of self-governance; therefore they ruled Africa on their behalf and they didn’t allow Africans to form parties with national outlook[6].

Wekesa[7]ascerts that parties began as social movements eventually leaders broadened its support among the locals and gradually the social movements grew into fully-fledged political parties. During the colonial period young educated Kenyans like MasindeMuliro, and leaders of religious sects like ElijaMasinde of DYM formed ethically based political associations which addressed several grievances that were similar to one another.

Aseka[8] noted that towards the end of Second World War, more sophisticated parties were formed. For instance, in 1944 more sophisticated political parties were formed and among the Bukusu people, MasindeMuliro formed Kenya African People’s Party (KAPP) and together with other smaller parties in the country joined together to form Kenya African Union (KAU). KAU was formed as a result of more African migrating into towns and cities and mixing with other Kenyans from different ethnic background, this party was born with several ethnic groups across the country although majority of them were from the Agikuyu community with few Bukusu leaders like MasindeMuliro. Thereafter Kenya African National Union (KANU) was formed in 1960 in a leader’s conference in Kiambu. This party was built on ethnic background where majority of Kenyans saw it as a party of Akiguyu and Luo people. Therefore in the same year June, communities like Bukusu who were perceived to be small, came together after being dissatisfy with KANU ideology and formed Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) with different ideology to counter that of KANU of unitary government.[9]

An informant pointed out that: these two political parties played a major role in attaining political independence in Kenya. During the independence election in May 1963, KANU won elections and in 1964, November 10th, Bukusu people under KADU dissolved and merged with KANU. KADU was dissolved because at this point of independence, opposition party didn’t play a key role instead the main dynamics of having these two parties was ethnic rivalries and cronyism.[10]

It is noted that at the independence, Kenya was a one party state but the second president received pressure in 1991 to accept the multi-party system in the country. The former president Moi refused the idea of multiparty system because he knew multiparty will usher in ethnic politics hence undermines peace in the country which is true, it is being witnessed in Kenya and more so among the Bukusu people. However, he gave in after pressure from all corners of the world including the donors like World Bank and IMF. [11] After accepting multiparty system, Moi with his KANU party survived two general elections, that is, 29th December 1992 and 29th December 1998 thereafter several parties like FORD-Kenya led by WamalwaKijana came together to form a coalition in December 27th, 2002 to fight Moi and  his successor Uhuru Kenyatta.[12]

Before the 2002 and 2007 general elections, KANU experienced several challenges from internal that led OgingaOdinga decamp the party with other followers in 1966 to form Kenya People’s Union (KPU) which was believed to be a Luo party. It is noted that when KPU left the government, the government of the day harassed leaders of KPU to the extent that a constitutional amendment was passed in the parliament for KPU leaders to seek re-election after defecting from KANU. Since then, many leaders like MaindeMuliro started forming ethnic based political parties in the country at every general election and decamping from one party to the other. [13]

Simiyu[14] explores that the politics in Kenya is featured by uncertainty and instability. For instance, Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) coalition which was led by OgingaOdinga and Kenneth Matiba experienced a split into FORD-Asili under leadership of Matiba who moved with Akiguyu community and FORD-Kenya which was led by OgingaOdinga with majority members from Bukusu nation; and Luo communities.  At the initial formation of FORD, it was a party with many ethnic orientations, but with this split, parties went back to ethnic composition. For instance, RailaOdinga, the son of party leader of FORD-Kenya, left his father’s party and formed National Development Party (NDP) which was balkanized on ethnic dimension and Matiba left FORD Asili and formed Saba saba-Asili which was narrowed down to specific ethnic group in the country.

Ndung’u[15] avers that Kibaki too came up with his own party in central Kenya called Democratic Party (DP) in 1991 however Kibabi with his party failed to fully win the support of Agikuyu people. Many other political parties and coalition were formed which were motivated by the interest of a particular ethnic. They include Kenya National Democratic Alliance (KENDA), Labour Party Democracy (LDP), Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya (PICK), and Social Democratic Party of Kenya among others.

It was noted by Wanyande[16] that in preparation for 2002 general elections many formally ethically based parties like FORD-Kenya which was rooted among the Bukusu people came together to form a strong alliance called National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (NARC) that removed KANU in power after ruling since independence. However this coalition didn’t last for long, disagreement erupted after the government presented a draft constitution that was not received well by some coalition members like RailaOdinga, KalonzoMusyoka and Uhuru Kenyatta. This resulted to a splinter in the coalition and RailaOdinga and other members founded Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).[17]

Oloo[18] asserts that in 2005, Kenya had a referendum where the government lost and in the respond president Kibaki dismissed his entire cabinet. Kimenyi[19] also notes that this dismissal motivated ODM to transform itself into a political party and it broaden its structure to accommodate other leaders like MusaliaMudavadi from Luyha community who tried to solidify Luhya community together but Bukusu played their politics of elusiveness, William Ruto from Kalenjin, NajibBalala from Coast, Norman Nyagah from Meru and finally Charity Ngilu of NARC also joined them before the 2007 general elections. This marriage didn’t last long before another splinter. Oloo points out that Uhuru Kenyatta and Muysoka did not agree with ODM leadership on nomination for 2007 elections, therefore they moved out of so called Pentagon and Uhuru Kenyatta joined Kibaki’s movement though he maintained his party KANU while Muysoka formed ODM-Kenya. This literature in this section is very key to this study because it has demonstrated how ethnic formations has been manifested itself among the Bukusu with comparison of other communities in the country. In all this, ethnic politics has been seen as a vehicle for political mobilisation.[20]

The State of Political Ethnic Mobilization in One Party State, 1963-1992

Mutoro[21] observes that, at independence, there was clear division among the majority and minority ethnic groups. The informants noted that: the government under Kenyatta tried to bring them together using various ways, for instance, President Kenyatta brought the idea of one party state, arguing that a multi-party system was a threat to national unity and development as it would mushroom ethnic based political parties and ideologies. In his wisdom, Mzee Kenyatta decided to dissolve other smaller parties like KPP of Bukusu community and KANU remained the party for all people in the country. However, this never lasted longer, as Kenyatta himself created a division in his government when him and other influential politicians who came majorly from his community and in his government tried to obstruct the notion of separation of powers by weakening the legislature and judiciary and crafting an imperial presidency. This was not received well by few elite politicians and Kenyans in general. [22]

After the Kenyatta’s era, Moi took over in 1978 and he soon introduced the Nyayo philosophy with aim of uniting Kenyans by correcting the mistakes that his predecessor had done. However, he personalized power and engaged in a populist brand of politics to strengthen his Kalenjin community which he felt was threaten by the Gikuyu, Embu and Meru (GEMA) political elites. This made Nyayo philosophy a threat to ethnic groups like Bukusu and individuals with dissenting opinions.  This characterized Moi’s era to one with personalization of power, dictatorship, political assassination and muzzling of the dissenter. [23]Gachanga observes that this served to enhance ethnic consciousness leading to ethnicization of politics and politicization of ethnicity as it became a significant card for mobilisation and political bargaining. Ethnicity is a game played in Kenya’s politics because most Kenyans felt alienated from the state, a lacuna whose provenance lay in the colonial era.[24]

Mutua[25] notes that lopsided legal framework resulted in discontent and disillusionment, if not outright revulsion, making it difficult to build a nation democratic culture. This created the disjuncture between the state and the members of ethnic groups, who felt excluded from the benefit derived from control of the state. Mutua[26] notes that, Moi era promoted ethnic politics whereby ethno-regional delegation and among the Bukusu Mwangale and other leaders visited him what were euphemistically called courtesy call mostly at his home in Kabaraka. Kwatemba[27] in his paper, Ethnicity and political pluralism in Kenya observes that, ethnic kingpins within Moi’s leadership invariably mobilised and controlled a mélange of grassroot leaders into sycophantically affirming their unstinting loyalty to him and to KANU. Kwatemba[28] continue noting that a politician within the ruling party who deemed to be less enthusiastic about Moi leadership style risked placing his/her political career in jeopardy and being accused of insubordination.

According to Posner[29], ethnicity is a strong criterion for the choice of candidates in both one party system and in multiparty system. The dimension of cleavage candidates in election exploited determines the distinction in the way ethnicity manifests itself in the two. The above data is very vital for this study because it demonstrates how ethnic politics penetrated into single party era where top leadership of that time mobilised communities among them the Bukusu as instrument for them to achieve political mileage.

The State of Political Ethnic Mobilization during Multiparty Era

Ogot[30] pointed out thatafter the repeal of Section 2A in 1992, a multi-party system of government was established, however it had political structures of a one-party system. Therefore, the multi-party system further classified the ethnic consciousness as the manipulation and exploitation of ethnicity continued in terms of voting patterns. Moi was not willing to allow multiparty system because of his prophecy of damnation ethnic clashes that engulfed parts of the country especially in the rift valley where the locals considered other communities as foreigners.  He eludes that Moi received pressure from all corners of the world to allow multiparty system in the country, donors and other pressure groups considered Moi as a dictator who used ethnic identity to exploit other communities in the country.[31]

Troup and Hornsby[32] in their work notes that Moi was a good man at independence and he facilitated the resettlement of some Gikuyu in the rift valley but at one point his community turned against them and other tribes like luo, Luhya who largely composed of Bukusu from Trans Nzoia and kisii. After acquiescing to multiparty politics Moi’s government became typically of a weak state and from 1991 to around 1998 ethnic politics was at its peak where politics was commercialized as patronage overtly held sway.  Kwatemba[33] in his work notes that during this time, the Moi’s government was unable to perform its function and the rule of law was beholden to Moi and his courtiers’ caprices, which led to a state of lawlessness in which the veneer of social cohesion flaked off.

According to Mutua[34] elites from Luo, Gikuyu and Bukusu communities put more pressure to Moi’s authoritarianism because Luo and Bukusu felt that Moi had excluded them from the government while the Gikuyu elites were bitter because they were not enjoying what they used to enjoy in Kenyatta’s government. During the multiparty system, most of the political parties were in the grip of tribal barons who were also party financiers. Most of the people who associated with such political parties were purely because of ethnic reasons and they were described by Mutua as reservoirs of ethnic nativism. Mutua points out that demagoguery perennially held sway during electioneering period as party leader moved around the country disseminating ethnic-based political myths. Mutua notes that, during the multiparty system, ethnic politics was displayed at its highest level when the presidential candidates picked their running mates from other communities to get support. For instance, he points at 1992 general elections where Kenneth Matiba a Gikuyu under his political part FORD Asili was able to garner much votes among the Luhya community where Bukusu belongs while OgingaOdinga with his party FORD Kenya performed poorly with his running mate Paul Muite.[35]

Badejo[36] claims that in 1992 election Gikuyus played their ethnic game well, after realizing that it was OgingaOdinga running as a  presidential candidate, they went for Matiba who was in  hospital in London to come and compete with Oginga because Gikuyus felt that they cannot be ruled by an uncircumcised man. This ethnic politics in opposition party made Moi with his KANU party to win the 1992 election easily. The opposition parties made another mistake in 1997 general elections by allowing ethnic politics to rule them. The ‘big five’ ethnic groups fielded a presidential candidate, and this made Moi to sail easily as the constellation of smaller ethnic groups remained loyal to him and with many votes from Luhya especially the Bukusu who were the largest among the Luhya people. The multiparty era analysis in this section has added value to this study because it clearly demonstrates that despite having many parties in the country, voter mobilisation on ethnic dimension determined the outcome of elections in this period in question.

Politicization of Ethnic Identity in 2002 and 2007 General Elections

Biegon[37] opines that, the practice of ethnic politics in Kenya has deeply embedded in her general elections. Politicians have continuously used ethnic identity to achieve political gains and it is almost impossible to discuss Kenyan politics without pointing at ethnic identity. As earlier discussed in this study, ethnic identity was seeded by the colonial government through their divide and rule policy and this has grown just from the 1961 general elections where KANU and KADU that were major political parties in that election persuaded the interest of a particular ethnic group to today’s general elections in the country.[38]

As the country was preparing for 2002 general elections, political parties begun to form ethno-regional coalitions in 2000. For instance, Biegon avers that in March 2002, KANU which was perceived to be for the Kalenjin community merged with NDP which was seen as a party of the Luo people. However it never lasted long, it collapsed after Moi named Uhuru Kenyatta as his preferred successor.[39]

According to Kwatemba[40], the 2002 general elections were seen as a defining turn in Kenya’s political history in the sense that they would mark a break from autocracy, impunity, ethnic and rent-seeking politics to a new dispensation characterized by national cohesion, respect for the rule of law, accountability and general re-orientation of Kenyan politics. Oral sources noted that the phrase second liberation was used in this election which meant removing the old leaders. Therefore the Bukusu people under leadership of then WamalwaKijana joined other ethnic groups to form National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) aim of winning Moi’s choice Uhuru Kenyatta, whom Moi bypassed other leaders and picked him. Therefore NARC won the 2002 elections which was their main mission, however forming the better government proved hopelessly elusive and the coalition struggled with ethnic supremacy until it collapsed. It is noted by oral sources that after winning the 2002 elections, Kibaki started to disregard power sharing agreement with other Coalitions and Kibaki’s government acquired an ethno-regional bias with leadership positions drawn from the Bukusu and Kikuyu’s community.[41]

The 2007 general elections were a phenomenon many political analysts had predicted, given the consistently perilous political trajectory of the country since Kenyatta’s rule. This election was characterized by ethnic violence which led to major unrest in the country. According to an informant in oral interview said that: the ethnic violence that was experienced after the 2007 general elections led to about 1,300 people dead and more than 400000 displaced. Tribalism in Africa and more so in Kenya has made democracy a zero-sum in which only the communities with high population win most of elective positions. The 2007 general election was very unique, because 118 political parties fielded candidates where majority of these parties formed Party National Unity (PNU) coalition group under leadership of Kibaki, while RailaOdinga formed Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and KalonzoMusyoka came up with Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K). Uhuru Kenyatta with his KANU party displayed ethnic politics by supporting Mwai Kibaki who happened to come from the same region and with the support of Bukusu community who were well mobilised to put their support behind Kibaki, made Kibaki to win that election.[42]

The 2007 general elections brought to the fore the ethnic incubus in the country’s voting styles, where the three candidates from three major communities drawing support from their cummunities. For instance, RailaOdinga got support from Luo, Luhya and Kalenjin and other smaller communities like from the coast region that Raila cobbled them together under one union called Pentagon, on the other hand Kibaki enjoyed support from the Kikuyu, Embu, Bukusu and Meru and Kalonzo from the Kamba and Luhya with aspect of him having a Luhya running mate.[43]

According to Biegon, the 2002 general elections, the new identity of age played the center role in voter mobilisation. The presidential candidates were elderly MwaiKibabi and youthful Uhuru Kenyatta. Uhuru candidature was seen as a project of an inter-generation change, it was perceived that voters will prefer a youthful Uhuru than an elderly Kibaki. In 2007 presidential election, age took a backseat as a relevant determinant of voting behaviour because the two main challengers, Kibaki and Odinga were both of advanced age.[44]

Following the announcement of Kibaki’s victory in 2007 general elections, civil unrest erupted which was mainly directed against Kibaki’s kinsmen who were leaving outside central Kenya. Several international observers noted that the election was flawed and the Electoral Commission failed to establish the credibility of the tallying process to the satisfaction of all parties and candidates. The chairman of Electoral commission Samuel Kivuitu said that he was pressured to announce Mwai Kibaki as the winner by PNU and ODM-K party leaders, claiming that even himself he doesn’t know who won elections. Within a short time after the announcement of Kibaki’s victory, ethnic based rioting and violence broke out across Kenya that resulted in the death of 1,333 people and displaced over 650,000. Bukusu as a community were affected by this post-election violence either directly or indirectly thus this analysis is very key to the current study. The literature herein has made a realisation that politics is majorly dependent on ethnic identity and political class for their own benefits.

The State of Political Ethnic mobilization and Exclusivity in Kenyan Politics since Independence

Asingo[45] in his work, Ethnicity and politicization in Kenya, overs that the major challenges that continue to bedevil African countries is the high level on ethnic fragmentation and how to design power and resource distribution frameworks that guarantee inclusivity for all society.  Meteru[46] notes that ethnicity is an impress of the colonial legacy, having been reinforced by the British ruling system. Exclusivity was seen when the British government created Native Reserves among the Bukusu and other ethnic groups in Kenya with aim of providing the fertile land to the settlers. Kanyinga[47]eludes that this creations of reserves had the consequence of creating basis for ethnic consciousness and therefore ethnicization of the society in the country. Asingo observes that when British came, they introduced their foreign administrative structures which significantly promoted ethnic politics among the Bukusu people.[48]

When Jomo Kenyatta was handed over political power in 1963 by the British government, citizens of the young nation Kenya had a lot of expectations, for example they had fought discrimination in colonial rule for long, and they knew this is a gone practice. At the initial of Jomo Kenyatta’s leadership, the cabinet was inclusive. Asingo[49] however notes that throughout Jomo Kenyatta’s tenure, his Kikuyu ethnic group had a disproportionately higher representation in the cabinet than any other community. Some communities suffered a lot in Kenyatta’s regime because they never saw government positions in their regions. For instance, Asingo[50] notes that Somali and by extension, the whole of former North-Eastern province did not get even one cabinet slot in his entire era. This was same with communities like Luo, after the fall out between Odinga and Kenyatta, the Luo people were discriminated in important government positions. Jomo Kenyatta also reserved some key cabinet positions to his Kikuyu kinsmen[51].

Balanton-Chrimes[52] also points out that in 1960s and 1970s Kenyatta stacked military with loyal kikuyu and non-aligned British and Kamba personnel. Kenyatta could go far and even reward his relatives with government positions Khapoya[53]  notes that Kenyatta gave his brother in-law Koinange a powerful position, he served in the office of the president as minister of State for the entire tenure of Jomo Kenyatta. It is noted by Khapoya that Kenyatta was not inclusive with his appointment on Permanent Secretaries who were seen as most powerful people in the government. For instance in 1969 Khapoya eludes that president’s ethnic group had eight permanent secretaries while other communities like Mijikenda and Taita each had one PS, Luhya had only two and Luo had three while other smaller communities were not represented in this powerful position in the government[54]. The ethnicity method that Kenyatta employed in his administration created big differences in regional development and hatred was planted in other communities against the Kikuyu people. From the above literature, it is clear that the founding president used exclusivity in his leadership where he favoured people from his community.

Asingo[55] in his work, The Political Economy of Transition in Kenya‘  explores that when Kenyatta died in 1978, Daniel Arap Moi took over the presidency and he adopted Nyayoismphilosopy to guide him in his leadership. When Moi took over, he altered Kenyatta’s cabinet that he left by removing powerful people in some key positions like MbiyuKoinange who served in the Ministry of State to the Ministry of Natural Resources. Moi maintained the Kikuyu positions in the government and even increased them from five to eight. However after a short while, Moi began to bring his Kalenjin tribesmen into the government. Moi also went for the communities that Kenyatta sidelined in his government, like the Somali and he went further and gave powerful positions to non-kalenjin communities like the Luhya were given Foreign Affairs ministry; Maasai were given Finance among others. Just like Kenyatta, Moi awarded his tribesmen with PS positions in fact it is noted by Asingo[56] that Moi doubled his PS from 11% to 22% while steadly reducing the Kikuyu PSs from 30% to 22%. The Luhya suffered a blow in Moi’sleadership after their representation in PS position was reduced from 11% to 6% and other communities faced similar consequences. However, the Luo and Kamba PS positions increased as from 4% to 13% and 7% to 13% respectively as Moi seemed waned to marginalize the Kikuyu and work with Luo and Akamba[57].

When Kibaki formed the government after 2002 general elections, the community representation in the government position was almost balanced due to the nature in which Kibaki acquired presidency. In 2002 general elections, there was a multi-ethnic coalition and therefore, there was agreement on  how government positions were to be shared after winning the election. Despite of this agreement, the Kikuyu and the Luhya where president and vice president respectively belongs, had the highest numbers of ministers compared to other communities. In PS positions, the Somali were left out in Kibaki’s regime while the Bukusu where the vice president came from, they were given underrepresented. This sections gives an overview of ethnic exclusion of communities that were not in government. Bukusu did not enjoy political position as it has been discussed herein because they did not have a political bearer in the government at the top position to fight for leadership positions. However, in 2002 with WamalawaKijana at position two in leadership, several government positions were thrown to his home backyard hence ethnic politics.


This paper reveals that after independence, several leaders have tried to come up with strategies to eliminate ethnic politics in the country it has proven to be difficulty. Starting with first president Jomo Kenyatta during one party state he wanted to unite all Kenyans under one political party but things didn’t go his way. After Kenyatta’s demise, Moi took over with Nyayo philosophy to unite all Kenyans for a common goal. He fought multiparty policy because he felt that multiparty will fuel ethnic conflict in the country, however pressure was too much for him and he accepted multiparty system. This multiparty policy created ground for forming many political parties in the country. Most of these political parties aligned themselves on ethnic ground. It is important to note that, ethnic politics has played a center stage in most of general elections since independence. The 2002 and 2007 general elections are good illustration of how ethnic politics has grown in the country. Ethnic politics is much visible in government offices and appointments since independence.


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  14. Mutoro, H.W., “The Abaluyia Reactions to Colonial Rule, 1880-1930“, Student/Staff Seminar, Department of History, University of Nairobi, 1975.
  15. Muriuki, G., “Background to Politics and Nationalism in Central Kenya: The Traditional Social and Political Systems of Kenya People,” in Ogot B.A. (ed.). Hadith 4:Politics and Nationalism in Colonial Kenya, Nairobi, E.A.P.H., 1972.
  16. Ndagi, J.O., The essential of Research Methodology for Nigerian educators (Ibadan,1984), p.88
  17. Ndegwa S. Citizenship and ethnicity: An Examination of two Transitional Moments in Kenyan politics, 1997.
  18. Odinga, O.,  Not Yet Uhuru, Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers, 1967.
  19. Ogot B.  Ethnicity, Nationhood and Pluralism: Kenyan Perspectives, Nairobi Kenya: Global Centre for pluralism, Ottawa, 2013.
  20. Oloo A., ‘Party Mobilisation and Membership: Old and New Identities in Kenyan Politics’ in Kanyinga& D Okello (eds) Tensions and Reversals in Democratic Transitions: The Kenya 2007 General Elections, Naiobi, 2010.
  21. Ogot, B., Transition from single party to multiparty political system 1989-1993 (Nairobi, 2002), p.16
  22. Ongunyi, M.B., .Understanding research in social sciences( Ibadan,1992),p.57
  23. Posner, D., ‘Regime Change and Ethnic Cleavages in Africa’. Comparative Political Studies 40(1302). Available online: abstract/40/11/1302:2007
  24. Simiyu, V.G., “The Emergence of a Sub-Nation: A History of Babukusu to 1990″ in Transafrican Journal of History Vol. 20 1991.
  25. Shama, B.A., Research Methods in Social Sciences.(Sterling, 1983)
  26. Throup, D & C Hornsby, Multiparty Politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta and Moi States and the Triumph of the System in the 1992 Election. Oxford, 1998.
  27. Wekesa peter, politics and nationalism in colonial Kenya: the case of the Babukusu of Bungoma District, C. 1894-1963


[1] M.B .Ongunyi.Understanding research in social sciences( Ibadan,1992),p.57

[2] N.J. Kathuri and P.A Douglas, Introduction to Education Research, (Njoro,1993), p.47

[3]J. O. Ndagi .The essential of Research Methodology for Nigerian educators (Ibadan,1984), p.88

[4]D.Kasomo.Research methods in Humanities and education( Nakuru,2006),pp.26-29

[5]B. A. Shama., Research Methods in Social Sciences.(Sterling, 1983)

[6] E.M. Aseka, A political Economy of Buluyia 1900-1964 (Nairobi 1989), p.171

[7] P. Wekesa. Political and Nationalism in Colonial Kenya (Nairobi 2000),p.87

[8] E.M. Aseka, Apolitical Economy of Buluyia 1900-1964 (Nairobi 1989), p.393

[9] P. Wekesa. Political and Nationalism in Colonial Kenya (Nairobi, 2000)p.87

[10]Marango, O.I  28/12/2021

[11] E. M Aseka,  A political Economy of Buluyia 1900-1964, (Nairobi,1989), p.52

[12]Ibid, P.52

[13] O. O. Water, The Political of Transition in Kenya (Nairobi, 2003), p.27

[14]Simuyi, ElijaMasinde, (Nirobi,1997), p.32

[15] P. Ndung’u,  Report Of The Commission Of Inquiry Into The Illegal/Irregular AllocationOf Public Land. (Nairobi, 2004), p.41

[16] P. Wanyande, The Politics of Allience Building in Kenya, (Nairobi,2003), p.23

[17]Marango, O.I  28/12/2021

[18] A. Oloo, TheRaila Factor In Luoland’ In H. Maupeu, M. Katumanga, W. Mitullah (Eds.), The Moi Succession. Elections 2002 (Nairobi, 2005), P.45

[19]M. Kimenyi, and W. Shugart, The Political Economy of Constitutional Choice: a Study of the 2005 Kenyan Constitutional Referendum(Nairobi, 2008), P.72.

[20]A. Oloo, Partymobilisation and Membership: Old and New Identities in Kenyan Politics. PaperPresented on September 25, 2008 at Society for International Development Conference on 2007 Elections Study,(Nairobi 2008), p.96

[21] H. W. Mutoro, “The Abaluyia Reactions to Colonial Rule, 1880-1930“, (Nairobi 1975), P.76.

[22] H.W Mutoro, “The Abaluyia Reactions to Colonial Rule, 1880-1930“, (Nairobi 1975), P.76

[23]P. Wanyande, The Politics of Allience Building in Kenya, (Nairobi,2003), p.43

[24]T. Gachanga, Kenya: ethnic agendas and patronage impede the formation of a coherent Kenyan identity. (Nairobi 2012), p.14

[25] M. Mutua, Ethnicity the bane of Kenyan politics. (Daily Nation 23 September 2007), p23.

[26] Ibid, p.23

[27] S.W. Kwatemba, Ethnicity and political pluralism in Kenya (Nairobi 2008), p.93

[28] Ibid, p.93

[29] D. Posner, ‘Regime Change and Ethnic Cleavages in Africa’. Comparative Political Studies 40(1302). Available online: abstract/40/11/1302:2007

[30] B. Ogot, Transition from single party to multiparty political system 1989-1993 (Nairobi, 2002), p.16

[31] Ibid, p.26

[32] D. Throup& C Hornsby. Multiparty Politics in Kenya: The Kenyatta and Moi States and the Triumph of the System in the 1992 Election. (Oxford 1998), P.29

[33] S.W. Kwatemba, Ethnicity and political pluralism in Kenya, (Nairobi 2008), p.97

[34] M. Mutua,  Kenya’s Quest for Democracy: Taming the Leviathan. London (London 2008), p.22

[35]Ibid, p.22

[36] B. Badejo, Raila: An Enigma in Kenya’s Politics. (Nairobi 2006), p.165

[37] J. Biegon, Politicization of Ethnic Identity in Kenya: Historical Evolution, Major Manifestations and the Enduring Implications (Nairobi 2018).pp.16-17

[38]Ibid, p.17

[39]Ibid, p.29

[40] S.W. Kwatemba, Ethnicity and political pluralism in Kenya, (Nairobi 2008), p.99

[41] Violet, O.I  28/12/2021.

[42]MarangowaSinino, O.I 28/12/2021.

[43]J. Biegon, Politicization of Ethnic Identity in Kenya: Historical Evolution, Major Manifestations and the Enduring Implications (2018).P.35

[44] J. Biegon, Politicization of Ethnic Identity in Kenya: Historical Evolution, Major Manifestations and the Enduring Implications (2018), P.3

[45] P. Asingo , “Ethnicity and politicization in Kenya: Ethnicity and Political Inclusivity in Kenya: Retrospective Analysis and Prospective Solutions, (2018), .p.98

[46] S. Materu, The Post-Election Violence in Kenya: Domestic and International Legal

Responses. (Hague 2015), P.17

[47] K. Kanyinga, Governance Institutions and Inequality‘. (Nairobi 2006), P.355

[48] P.O. Asingo, “Ethnicity and politicization in Kenya: Ethnicity and Political Inclusivity in Kenya: Retrospective Analysis and Prospective Solutions, (2018), P.295

[49]Ibid, P.102

[50]Ibid, P.102

[51]Ibid. P.102

[52] C. S. Balaton, Ethnicity, Democracy and Citizenship in Africa: Political

Marginalization of Kenya’s Nubians. (New York 2016), p.40

[53] V. Khapoya, Kenya under Moi: Continuity or Change?’  (Nairobi 1980), p.21

[54]V. Khapoya, Kenya under Moi: Continuity or Change?’  (Nairobi 1980), p.21

[55] P. Asingo, The Political Economy of Transition in Kenya‘ inOyugi W, et al. eds. Politics of Transition in Kenya: From KANU to NARC. (Nairobi 2003), p.22

[56] P. Asingo, “Ethnicity and politicization in Kenya: Ethnicity and Political Inclusivity in Kenya: Retrospective Analysis and Prospective Solutions, (2018), p.105

[57]Ibid, p.105

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