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The History of Ethnicised Politics in Kenya and its Impact on the Management of the Country’s Public Affairs

Reginald M.J. Oduor


This paper deploys historical analysis, conceptual analysis and critical reflection to examine the history of ethnicised politics in Kenya and its negative impact on the management of the country’s public affairs. It sets out with a conceptualisation of ‘ethnicised politics’. It then traces the growth of ethnicised politics in Kenya from the dawn of British colonialism to the present. Thereafter, it reflects on the five-pronged negative impact of ethnicised politics on the country, namely, the gross disparities in economic development along ethno-regional lines, the disproportionately limited economic opportunities for ethnic minorities, the stunting of the growth of issue-based politics, the stoking of violent inter-ethnic conflicts, and the vulnerability of highly urbanised persons and/or those born out of mixed marriages with no strong ethnic loyalties. It concludes that contrary to the widely-held view that Kenyans ought to abandon their ethnic identities in pursuit of ‘nation-building’, respect for the right to cultural identity and the promotion of inter-ethnic equity would make political mobilisation along ethnic lines less attractive.

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eISSN: 2076-7714
print ISSN: 0251-043X