Kenya is a country made up of 42 different ethnic groups, as well as various migrant races, Asians, Arabs, and white people who have all coexisted peacefully since their arrival. Being a colony of Great Britain, the nation has benefited from and borrowed many of the British Commonwealth traditions' modes of government. The legislative branch, executive branch, and judicial branch are the three independent yet interrelated parts of the government.
The first people to settle in Kenya were indigenous African groups, who came from various regions of the continent.  During the 1st century AD, the Oman Arabs arrived in the coastal area of the country and started trade that later culminated in the political rule of the Arabs along the coast. The Arab rule gave rise to Mombasa town. In 1498, the Portuguese arrived under the leadership of Vasco da Gama. The Portuguese took over the coastline for 200 years and imposed Christianity on the locals as a way of gaining political dominance and administrative control. They built a magnificent structure known as Fort Jesus near the Old Port of Mombasa and the Vasco da Gama pillar in another coastal town of Malindi.

Colonial rule

The resolutions of the Berlin Conference in 1884, gave rise to the acquisition of the region by the British. In 1895, Britain declared Kenya as its colony and Protectorate under the leadership of Sir Arthur Hardinge, who established a formal administration. That led to 70 years of colonial rule by the British marked by punitive social, political and economic and economic policies coupled with racial discrimination. The white settlers took away all the fertile land and displaced the indigenous communities from their ancestral land. Shortly after, harsh labor laws were enacted that mandated Africans to work on the farms of the settlers at a low cost. African political participation was only restricted to local government. It was against that backdrop that resistance movements begun in 1920 (McGregor 30).

Pathway to Independence

Myriad regional political associations were formed to articulate the grievances of the Africans against heavy taxation, forced labor, low wages racial discrimination and the brazen land alienation. They included; East African Association, (EAA), Young Kikuyu Association, (YKA), Tata Hills Association, (THA) and North Kavirondo Central Association, (NKCA). Kenya African Union, (KAU), the first national party to be formed in 1944 that put political pressure against the colonial government. The beginning of 1950 saw intensified political activities that led to the declaration of the state of emergency by Sir Everlyn Baring. With the continuing resolve by the Africans to resist the British colonial rule, the British government was forced to make concessions and drafted a constitutional proposal for the local communities in Kenya.

The coming into effect of the Lyttleton constitution in 1954, permitted Kenyan-Africans to participate in the election of their representatives to sit in the Legislative Council. After the elections of 1957, eight leaders from various communities were elected-Tom Mboya, Ronald Ngala, Oginga Odinga, Daniel Arap Moi, Muliro, Oguda, Mate and Muimi (McGregor 42). The elected leaders intensified their agitation for increased representation and finally for independence. Continued protests and dissatisfaction with the colonial rule resolved on mass mobilization of the people launch a final assault on the imperial political power. The formation of Kenya African National Union, (KANU) in May 1960 and later democracy Kenya African National Union, (KADU) started the practice multiparty democracy. The newly created political parties participated in the elections of 1991 and KANU emerged victorious. KANU still asserted its dominance in the subsequent elections of 1963 and won 83 out of the 124 seats that constituted the House of Representatives. The poll gave rise to the formation of Madaraka Administration and later the independence Government under the leadership of the first president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

Independent Kenya

The first government that came to power soon after independence had to deal with urgent political and economic problems. Thus, there was an overriding need of seeking political stability first and redistribution of wealth and land that had been taken away by the settlers back to the people. However, the newly elected government comprising of the Kenyan people started experiencing internal wrangles over the governance of the country due to divergent competing political interests. After the fall out between president Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga- the vice president, a leftist opposition political party known as Kenya People's Union (KPU) was formed. There was immediate political unrest, and KPU was banned, and the leader of the party was confined to house arrest in 1969. From there on, Kenya became a party state. Daniel Moi took over power after the demise of Kenyatta in 1978 (McGregor 53).

The Moi era (1978-2002)

President Moi took over the interim transitional government for the constitutional laid out 90 days until the new elections were held in which he won amid opposition from the allies of the departed first president. After a temporary tranquility, the country encountered an attempted coup in 1982. The now furious and lionized president rallied the legislature into anchoring the single party resolution into law. More repercussions followed that led to the decline of the economy. Political repression was intensified by the government with a series of detention without trial to suppress the opposition (Holmquist et al. 69).

The June of 1982 saw Kenya becoming a single party state following the amendment of the constitution by the National Assembly. Both presidential and parliamentary elections were conducted in 1983 and 1988 under the one-party system that led to the nationwide uproar over the manner in which it undermined democracy. The clamor for the multiparty political system in the country led to the repeal of the constitutional clause that had brought into the operation the single-party system of governance and paved the way for multiparty democracy. In the 1992 elections, several political parties fielded candidates in all political posts but the ruling party KANU managed to win the elections again amid the divisions in the opposition. Thus, president Moi was re-elected for another term of 5 years. Furthermore, the electoral reforms that were introduced in 1992 set presidential term limits of two upon re-election, with each term running for five years. President Moi went ahead and won the subsequent election of 1997 (Holmquist et al. 76).

The Kibaki era (2003-2013)

The third president of Kenya was overwhelmingly voted by Liberal Democratic Party, (LDP) and National Alliance Party, (NAK) due to the political expediency of defeating the ruling KANU party. During the formation of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) that brought LDP and NAK together, there was a memorandum of understanding that ought to have brought about equal sharing of power in the formation of government between the two main political parties once they won the election. Following the failure to honor the agreement by president Kibaki, that had mandated him to create a constitutional office of the Prime minister and appoint Raila Odinga who was the leader of the LDP side of the government, the country witnessed a sharp political fallout in 2004.

The following year, there was a referendum on the constitutional amendment, and the LPD defeated the proposed constitution that was supported by the government. After the referendum, the president sucked several leading politicians from the cabinet starting from Raila Odinga. The sucked cabinet secretaries regrouped and formed the opposition party which fronted Raila Odinga as its presidential candidate against the incumbent president Mwai Kibaki in 2007 general election that was immediately disputed due to irregularities and claims of rigging by the opposition. The country experienced a spate of violence in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Rift valley and Central part of the republic due to the disputed electoral results of the just concluded presidential election. After protracted negotiations between the two main rivals mediated by the United Nations under the leadership of Koffi Anan, they formed a national accord that gave way to the Grand National Government that saw Mwai Kibaki becoming the head of state and Raila Odinga the Premier. The grand coalition government supervised the process of constitutional amendments and saw the country enact a new constitution through a popular initiative that created the Supreme Court to handle presidential elections disputes and independent commissions under the principle of separation of powers.

Uhuru Kenyatta (2013 to present)

In 2013, the general election was held, and Uhuru Kenyatta of the Jubilee party was elected in an election that he won against Raila Odinga of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD). Raila Odinga later challenged the election in the Supreme Court, but Uhuru Kenyatta’s election but the court upheld the election outcome (Cheeseman et al. 3).

Current Political Regime

The Kenyan system of governance is a presidential system with the executive, judiciary, and the legislature. The current president of the Republic of Kenya is Uhuru Kenyatta- son of the founding president of the republic Jomo Kenyatta. William Samoei Ruto deputizes him. The current political regime came into power in 2013 after a competitive general election and a legal battle at the Supreme Court that had sought to challenge the legitimacy of the vote.

The country has two levels of government that are distinct but interdependent- The national and the 47 County governments. Nonetheless, the country remains to be a unitary and indivisible state. The president heads National government, and Governors leads the County governments with functional county assemblies for legislative purposes and oversight of the county executive. The legislature oversights the executive headed by the president other than carrying out the work of legislation and representation of the people. The Chief Justice leads the judiciary and is also the president of the Supreme Court (Kramon et al. 90).

The current political regime has faced numerous criticism from the opposition and the members of the public due to frequent allegations of wanton corruption among the executive wing of the government. There have been allegations of misuse of state resources by the office of the president for political patronage and in the pursuit of re-election in the just concluded two presidential elections that have been carried within three months.

Present Political Crisis

Kenya is currently in a deep political crisis. The constitution mandates the electoral body to conduct a general election of all elective political seats every cycle of 5 years. Therefore, elections took place on the 8th of August, right from the presidential, gubernatorial, parliamentary, and the county assembly. The two leading candidates in the 2017 presidential elections on August 8th, 2017, were the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. Following the announcement of the results by the electoral body that president Uhuru Kenyatta had won the second term, his chief rival disputed the results and even threatened not petition the outcome in Supreme Court citing lack of independence of the judiciary due to interference from the executive. Then followed a series of protests among a section of opposition supporters that left several people dead and some injured due to the excessive force of the police in quelling the protests. Later, the opposition candidate Raila Odinga filed a petition at the Supreme court that saw the election of president Uhuru Kenyatta nullified by a majority of a 6-bench jury due to massive irregularities and illegalities (Mebane Jr 1). The court also noted that the electoral body did not conduct the presidential elections according to the dictates of the constitution. Therefore, the Supreme Court ordered a repeat of the elections.

There was jubilation among the supporters of the opposition because the court had finally vindicated their allegations that the elections had been rigged in favor of the incumbent. The side that had been declared winners by the polls body, on the other hand, was crying wolf and termed the decision of the Supreme court an error of judgment. The incumbent president even threatened to curtail certain powers of the judiciary in the determination of presidential petitions once the repeat elections are over (Mebane Jr 7).

The electoral body scheduled the repeat elections on 26 of October 2017. Both leading presidential contenders were supposed to participate in the repeat elections. However, a week to the elections, the opposition presidential candidate Raila Odinga withdrew from the race citing inability of the electoral body to conduct free and fair elections, saying that he would not take part in the election unless the electoral body is reformed. The ruling coalition on the side pressured the polls body to go ahead and conduct the exercise even in the absence of Raila Odinga as their main rival. Consequently, the electoral body conducted the election on October 26, 2017, in which President Uhuru Kenyatta was again announced as the winner. The opposition termed the repeat elections as a charade and vowed never to recognize it as an election as there was extremely low voter turnout and some of the polling stations in the opposition bastions did not even open as their candidate was not participating in the elections. Furthermore, violent protests were witnessed in some sections, protesting the illegitimacy of the vote.

Currently, the civil society groups have petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the victory of president Uhuru the on the grounds that the exercise that was held on the 26th of October did not meet the constitutional threshold. The opposition has vowed to disrupt the swearing in of the president-elect even if the Supreme court upholds his re-election. Moreover, Raila Odinga of the National Super Alliance, (NASA), has asked his supporters to abstain certain products and services in the country, from companies perceived to have aided the Jubilee party-the ruling party in the theft of the presidential elections.

Relevance of the recent political event to the country.

The two disputed elections are relevant to Kenya as a country in the progress and entrenchment of the democratic culture. The polls are tools of electing political leaders in a democratic state. The current political standoff if not well managed could roll back the gains that have been made in the recent past towards democratization of the state, fostering of good governance and also slow down the growth and development of the economy. However, there are pertinent issues that have surfaced during this unprecedented and prolonged electioneering that require urgent solutions. Patriotic Kenyans need to rise to the occasion and conducted a comprehensive review of the two disputed electoral processes with a view of correcting the issues that were raised by the opposition and the challenges that prevailed in the transmission and counting of the presidential results.


Comparing what the electoral crisis that the country has gone through in the recent past, it is fair to say that Kenya has managed to handle the disputes in a much more constitutional and legal manner. Other neighboring countries such as Uganda have had disputed presidential elections before, but the disputes were not canvassed in the Supreme Court, the way it was handled in Kenya. Two political regimes of the two neighboring countries are quite similar with both having a popularly elected president as head of government. Despite the protests and the subsequent loss of lives that have been witnessed in Kenya, the country has relatively done better than her neighbor in handling the political dispute through the constitutional means presence of political tolerance due to vast democratic space in the country.

Works Cited

Cheeseman, N., Lynch, G., & Willis, J. (2014). Democracy and its discontents: understanding Kenya's 2013 elections. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 8(1), 2-24.

Holmquist, Frank W., Frederick S. Weaver, and Michael D. Ford. "The structural development of Kenya's political economy." African Studies Review 37.1 (1994): 69-105.

Kramon, Eric, and Daniel N. Posner. "Kenya's new constitution." Journal of democracy 22.2 (2011): 89-103.

McGregor, Ross W. Kenya from Within: A Short Political History. Routledge, (2012): 30-65

Mebane Jr, Walter R. "Anomalies and Frauds (?) in the Kenya 2017 Presidential Election." (2017). 1-9

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