Neo-patrimonialism in Kenya.

Kenya’s founding fathers laid a weak foundation for the country when they got the reins to run it. For instance, the first president of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta ensured that those loyal to him would get positions of power while those in opposition would be sidelined, simultaneously this relationship would translate into regional development. Development in the different regions in Kenya depends on what camp one’s region leaders lay in relation to those in power, hence Kisumu’s subpar development. Thus, the aforementioned factors underscore the fact that neo-patrimonialism is a prevalent style of leadership in Kenya.

Kenyatta ruled with an iron fist. When he reclaimed the land left by white settlers, he either took it for his family or redistributed it amongst his loyal friends. Today, his family is one of the richest families in the country. Before Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2012 elections, he had to prove that his family had acquired the land legally, which obviously he claimed to be. During Jomo Kenyatta’s presidency, a few assassinations happened,including that of Tom Mboya, J.M Kariuki amongst others, and they were believed to have been coordinated by people in President Kenyatta’s camp. When Daniel Moi took over as the second president of Kenya, he continued Kenyatta’s legacy of using loyalty and fear through mechanisms such as the Nyayo house, where his opponents such as Raila Ondinga were imprisoned and tortured without a fair hearing. Mwai Kibaki appeared to be just, but his true colors came out during the Anglo leasing scandal, which was coordinated by the Mount Kenya Mafia, which is made up of the same close elites mainly from the Kikuyu tribe. Uhuru Kenyatta has followed suit in his predecessor’s shoes by also hiring his loyal friends as the supposed “technocrats” or generally known as cabinet secretaries, despite not being experts in their particular ministerial fields. Leadership in Kenya has thus been influenced by the post colonial legacy of its founding fathers which created a ripple effect on to its subsequent leaderships, in which we witness an unchecked president in the presence of a checks and balance system, because it actually operates on loyalties and use of fear.

Jaramogi Oginga is from the Luo tribe and he was the first opposition leader of the country. Today, his son, Raila Odinga is also the leader of the opposition. They ail from the West of Kenya and despite the fact that Kisumu is the third city in the country, its general state cannot be compared to that of cities like Nairobi. The Luos, mainly located in the western Kenya particularly Kisumu, have always been in opposition to the government and this has translated to poor development in their region. “When President Uhuru Kenyatta vented his spleen at William ole Ntimama’s funeral [one of the longest serving MP’s] recently, he was mouthing 50 years of exasperation with a Luo political elite that has refused to join the feast.” This statement underlines what happens when one refuses to work closely with the most powerful political elites.

The international community intervened when the 2008 post election violence happened, which was caused by among other factors: challenge to a neo-patrimonial system trying to institute by force an unwanted president(Mwai Kibaki). Hence, the neo-patrimonial system doesn’t clearly affect Kenya’s relationship with its foreign partners, unless something major such as the P.E.V happens.


  2. Its Our Turn to Eat, Michela Wrong.



This entry was posted in Country Post. Bookmark the permalink.