The Effects of Ethnicity in Kenya

Ethnicity can be defined as the aspect of favouring a certain group of people simply because they have a close relation to the leaders in power who belong to their social grouping. It can be said to be the excess reliance on one’s cultural origin which makes the person disregard the social aspect supposed to be enjoyed by the other subjects living in the other regions of the state. Ethnicity can be defined as a different group, communities or tribes with similar practices, beliefs and linguistic features which differ from one group to the other, from the community to the other and also from tribe to the next. It can also be explained regarding the fundamental factors amongst people whether social, political or economic. It is not related to cultural settings; it is a multidimensional concept that cuts across other aspects which lead to such sovereign groupings such as language, race, social class and ownership power.

        Political conflict is the state of having unstable political relations between the parties living under a common political umbrella. It is caused by the sprouting of the seed of separation, dissertations and unharmonious relations between the parties who may have different political ideas (Chaunduri, 2014, p. 17). The ideas held by the conflicting parties may be the opposite of the other, which leads to conflicts since the parties belonging to a certain political group will work towards upholding their ideology while the other party pursue the same- this will bring about unstable co-existence between the natives who support the various ideas thus leading to political instability. It is not by itself a natural occurrence; it is an induced condition which is determined by the political waves in a certain region. The better the parties from the different political grounds have a close and a peaceful relation, the much the political instability will be avoided thus, it is by itself a determined case of study and not a natural occurrence which happens from a vacuum. It always has a medium through which it is generated and takes the course (Coleman, 2012, pp. 4-7).

          First and foremost, ethnicity leads to ethnocentrism; this is a condition where a certain group or tribe feels as if it is the centre pole, kingpin or pivot of the nation around where everything and everybody of such nation pivots or turns (Collier, 2010, p. 18). This ethnocentrism creates ethical lines, disagreements, and conflicts in between the nation which eventually might result in war.

         Ethnicity has led to inequality in the distribution of resources in a region. The manner in which the leaders in power distribute the resources they are supposed to deliver to the public is quite demanding (Fefchamps, 2010, p. 14). Those are power tend to pull the resources to the people who are in close relation to them thus making those who do not have any representative in power to have limited access to the resources available to the public. For instance, medical resources are distributed to designated areas only. This makes the other members from the other regions of the same state face excess ailments due to unavailability of the required medical resources. As well resources related to humanitarian goods such as relief foods are as well unequally distributed. Instead of maintaining equity, greed leads the state men responsible for the distribution process. They end up favoring a certain region which makes them offer them resources they do not need. For instance, an area may be fully endowed with regular patterns of rainfall while another one has no access to significant rainfall. The relief food may be directed to the regions with the regular rainfalls since the leaders in power hail from those regions (Githongo, 2014, p. 15).

               Ethnicity has highly contributed to Poverty in many countries in African and other parts of the world. This is brought by the effects of the ethical actions which lead to lowering of the nation’s economy (Harris, 2015, p. 11). Once conflicts occur and it extends to war, it leads to social vices like looting, destruction of infrastructures and also interfering with agricultural activities, bearing in mind that agriculture is the backbone of many nations’ economic. A good example of this is 2007 conflicts in Kenya which negatively affected the economy of the country, that is from about 7% to 3.5%. The agriculture sector was highly affected hence the great decline in the economy of the country, which is a great effect to such a developing country.

            Medical facilities are built only in the areas of origin of the political leaders. As well well-equipped schools are constructed in specific areas while other regions languish in illiteracy due to lack of enough and effective learning materials as well as education facilities to help them attain the required enlightenment (LaFerrara, 2014, p. 9). Resources are only channeled to specific regions which later serves as an awakening call to the other regions of the state who do not receive the fair treatment in the distribution process. They form an uprising in demand for equal, just and fair use of distribution lines, while the favoured ones will tend to secure their luck by compelling the resisting groups not to question the distribution process. At the end of it all, there will be two sides supporting different ideas which may lead to the eruption of conflicts between the two groupings.

         Many African leaders and even leaders from other parts of the world use ethnicity to promote themselves and merge the winners of certain seats in the government through the ethical group-this is where tribalism has been a major issue to solve (Coleman, 2012, p. 16).  They term themselves lucky when one member of the ethical group is in a good position in the government because they can be hired through corruption. Those without anybody from their ethical groups, though qualified for jobs, tend not to get the certain posts in government. Corruption greatly contributes to conflicts and political instability in a country, and this has mostly affected the developing countries of Africa for example; Kenya Rwanda Zimbabwe and many others.

          Corruption is a great threat to most of the African countries and even in the whole world. It results from the ethical groups where most people need to be given attention just because they are from certain known groups in the country (LaFerrara, 2014, pp. 13-16). They do not mind about the other groups or other people from other tribes. It even goes to the extent of bribing those in power hence the members who are not able to pay for the bribes are left without power or jobs in cases of job recruitments. The back door deals lead to a completely corrupt country where only those in power accumulate wealth for themselves leaving a great gap of poverty between them and their subjects anguishing in poverty and lack of basic needs and necessities

              Ethnicity has been of much help in bringing about different political ideologies which end up causing political conflicts (Collier, 2010, p. 22). In any social setting, there must be an ideology that the natives uphold and respect and highly adore it as the ultimate figure that should guide every subject living in that society. Different regions may hold different political ideologies as directed by their leaders. The leader will incite his or her people to run behind his or her back by supporting the political ideology the leader is supporting, and this makes each region to stand by their leader hence promoting the presence of many conflicting political ideologies which may lead to the eruption of fights between the different political affiliations each supporting a different political ideology. For instance, there has been extensive political instability in Kenya due to the presence of diverse political ideas which was brought by the existing political leaders. The two presidential aspirants in Kenya have catalysed the instability since each leader was aimed at looking at the success of his ideology. The differences they had, made them find unharmonious existence which led to extensive fights between supporters from the two side of the political views.

            Ethnicity has led to over dominance in the power of some related members of a certain social grouping (Githongo, 2014, p. 26). The case of Ugandan president and the Zimbabwean president is a good point of reference since they have been ruling since time immemorial. They have seen political leadership as a shortcut to wealthy and empowering their relatives since the topmost political positions are held by members who have close family ties to these leaders. Though they have been threatened several times to step down from the power, they still cling on the seats by use of dictatorial means to maintain the power or use of crude means of maintaining power such as execution to those who try to question their leadership. Any subject who is viewed as an opposing object to the operations of such leaders is guaranteed a quick execution. The manner in which power is distributed is more of a hereditary case than a legal secret ballot initiative. Ethnicity has also lead to poor governance in many countries due to favours were given to some of the ethical groups in times of elections hence leading to giving power to those not qualified for such post in the government (Githongo, 2014, p. 28). Such leaders will not be able to rule and lead effectively other than rule according to their interests and in a corrupt manner.

              The natives may be involved in an election exercise to choose the leaders of their choice but, as it is said, those who vote determine nothing, the determiners are those responsible for the counting process-this is because ethnicity has dominated the power distribution process as well (Fefchamps, 2010, p. 28). The case of Kenya, people have been complaining about the over dominance of the Kikuyu tribe since the independence of that country. After independence, the first president was from that ethnic community. His successors where from different tribes but of late, each demanding political post has been secured by members of that tribe which has led to other communities to have a negative view of that malicious act. Such reliance on ethnic lines in power allocation has led to over dominance in power by some tribes which later leads to resistance from other tribes thus leading to the occurrence of the unstable political sphere where such cases are witnessed (Harris, 2015, p. 32).

            In any nation where ethnicity is used in power and due to the ethnocentrism created the majorities are perceived to be the only ones with speech hence the other groups which are marginalized have no voice in matters of politics, this greatly contributes to dictatorship in a such a country, hence leading to the factor of in poor governance which is a vice in political instability (Levine, 2007, p. 19). These marginalised ethical groups have a sense of discrimination by the government this may lead to forcefully demand of hearing by such marginalised groups where they demand the democratic rights through demonstrations. The discrimination highly contributes to conflicts in the society and a country as a large. For example, Kenya is a country with more than 40 tribes, but only the Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luo and Kamba has the political voice of the country other tribes are not much involved in political matters of the country Kenya.

              The result of un-uniform development brought about by ethnicity contributes to political conflict. Just as it is with inequality, development agendas are pursued only to specific areas disregarding the other regions which belong to the same state. Infrastructural developments are the most evident and noticeable developments which are highly characterized by the uncertified uniformity (Schmidt, 2011, p. 24).   Ethnicity also leads to poor development of infrastructures in a certain country or place where it is used. This occurs where the ethnocentrically group makes improvements in their parts only and leaving other parts undeveloped. The people in the undeveloped parts feel rejected and discriminated hence conflicts start in between both sides, and this causes instability and hatred among the people of one nation hence no unity in a certain nation.

            The case of Kenya, there has been a noticeable diversity on the level of development acquired and pursued in the different regions within the Kenyan state (Terbi, 2012, p. 16). Not that there is over accusation on the Kikuyu tribe, evidence has betrayed them. For long they have been receiving good developments because they have many political leaders in power who belong to their Kikuyu society. The case of the superhighways build on the central region compared to the pathetic roads in the outer sides of the state such as in Moyale, and the Ukambani region is a case that calls for intense discussion. Developments have only been coined to certain regions which makes other people from the other sides of the state to have a suspicious feeling towards the other tribe receiving the developments (Chaunduri, 2014, p. 18). Many tertiary institutions such as colleges and universities are located in central; best national hospitals are still found in the same region as well as industries-this is a case bringing about clear evidence on how ethnicity leads to un-uniform development.

       Ethnicity has well been a contributor to tension and terror which is a vital catalyst to the political instability in the areas it is witnessed. The case of Tutsi and the Hutus in Rwanda can serve as a better example of the existence of tension and terror caused by the ethnicity course. The Hutus had incorporated too many of their members to the government which made the Tutsi have a negative feeling about it (Schmidt, 2011, p. 33). They strategised a massive cohesion between the Hutus which later saw the death of many Rwandans. As per now, there is tension and terror in Rwanda as no one would wish to revisit on the effects witnessed during that time when the genocide had taken its deep roots. The ethnicity which was characterised by then left the fresh wound to the minds of the Rwandan natives which makes them not to wish for any other genocide to occur during their era of existence. The citizens have fear which coined them not to be involved in any activity which may catalyse the eruption of such issue. Thanks to ethnicity for the lesson it taught but the side effects of tension and terror it left are not worth being acknowledged since the citizens cannot carry their operations peacefully due to fear of the imaginary occurrence of similar conflict which may lead to similar deaths witnessed during the genocide.

            Due to the vices caused by ethnicity in many countries in the world, the people live in tension and terror that at any time war might occur hence no peace at all among the people of such nations-this leaves the people unimproved socially and economically (Levine, 2007, p. 27). In the factor of social improvement, one cannot feel free in the land of the other tribe in case any instability has occurred; people feel that they are enemies. A good example is Kikuyu tribe and the Luo people of Kenya, where during elections the Kikuyu members who live in Luo land live in tension and great fear of the Luo. On the other hand the Luo people keep threatening the Kikuyu members living in their land and demand them to quit their lands and go back to the central part of Kenya which is their origin. This would affect the economic standards of the people and the whole nation at large negatively especially if the mainstay of such people were business (Harris, 2015, p. 37).

         Many African countries with the majority and minority groups, where the minorities are marginalised face instabilities due to the extent that the minority political issues and status is not given priority in matters that require national decision making (Schmidt, 2011, p. 29). For example, in 1994, Rwanda faced the Rwandan genocide due to the two tribes that are the Tutsi who were the minority and the Hutu being the majority. This caused a lot of conflicts between the two groups leading to the Great War and instability in Rwanda. This war leads to the loss of thousands of people just because of conflicts between this two tribes, Tutsi and the Hutu, who were the dominant tribal groups of Rwanda in those days.

            Ethnicity causes excess opposition and resistance to those in power which is most likely to generate political conflicts. Take for example the Kenyan political sphere, the restrictions which the opposition group administered to the government was quite demanding. The opposition had set monitory processes to any move taken by the governing party to ensure that they do not carry any operation which is unfavourable to the tribes who are not represented in the government (LaFerrara, 2014, p. 39). This made it difficult for the government to deliver their sanative roles since any amount they used, was keenly followed by the opposing group. The excess follow up they were administering to the governing authority made those in power to generate negative thinking about the opposition exercise which later led to segregation of Kenyan state into two sets; one supporting the government while the other backing up the opposition, which led to unharmonious existence which led to the international system to call for an international dialogue between the Kenyan state's men leading the different political parties to carry out dialogue and level their differences to help in combating the negative feeling which was being sown in the minds of the governed subjects-the Kenyan citizens (Terbi, 2012, p. 41).


     In conclusion, it is worth stating that ethnicity is a negative force that should be highly avoided in any political setting since it brings more harm than any significant merit. From the discussion in the paper, it has been noticed that this vice of ethnicity has been a key contributor to the failed nature of many states in the manner they administer their governments. It should, therefore, serve as a learning tool to the other regions who might not have faced similar case to try to avoid it to all depths possible since its occurrence is detrimental. The evident political issues which include; poor governance, weak government institutions, poor development, unequal resource distribution, difficult in collaborations, disunity and many other social misfortunes are associated with ethnicity. It should be avoided and extensively fought if by any chance it emerges in any state.


Chaunduri, E., 2014. Gender and corruption. Johannesburg: Univesity of Johannesburg.

Coleman, J., 2012. Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge: Harvard Univesity Press.

Collier, P., 2010. Greed and Grievance of civil war. Washngton DC: World Bank.

Fefchamps, M., 2010. Ethnicity and credit in African Manufacturing. Rabat: Abdelmalek University .

Githongo, J., 2014. Inequality, ethnicity and the fight against coruption in Africa. Rabat : Mohammed University at Agdal.

Harris, E., 2015. Why do some countries produce so much more output than others..?. Marrakesh: Cadi Ayyad University.

LaFerrara, A., 2014. Ethnic Diversity and Economic Performance. Nairobi: The University of Nairobi.

Levine, E., 2007. African Growth Strategy. Lagos: Lagos University Press.

Schmidt, H., 2011. Neutral versus Loaded Instructions in a Bribery eExperiment. New York: Texila University.

Terbi, A., 2012. Endogenous Political Institutions. Harvard: Harvard University .

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