Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kenya elections and violence, III

An article from the IRIN news service (linked here) suggests that the following factors were central in motivating people to participate in the violence:

(1) Frustration associated with high socio-economic inequality throughout the country, as documented in a report by Kenya's Society for International Development (link here), using UNDP socio-economic data.

(2) Perceptions of unfair distribution of opportunities. The article claims,
Ethnicity came into play during the election violence because of the widespread perception that those who fared best under Kibaki were his own Kikuyu group, the country’s largest, which dominated politics and the economy both under his administration and that of founding president Jomo Kenyatta.

(3) Frustrated ambition of the current young adult generation, which has received more education than previous generations:
Kenya’s youth in particular, who make up a majority of the population - and of those who rioted - feel the most let down. Improved education gave them hope of a better life than their parents’, hope that was dashed, according to Kwamchetsi Makokha of Nairobi-based communications consultancy Form and Content.

“Under colonialism, it was almost a slave labour system which grew up in the early days of the coffee estates. After independence [in 1963], the white master was simply replaced by the black master. A lot of young people who got a bit of education could not see themselves working for pittances as farm labourers. They started drifting to the cities where the opportunities are not enough to accommodate all of them. You have this massive influx of people who just can’t find work,” he told IRIN.

Nor can they find a political voice, he added. “The common Kenyan citizen who does not have money or property does not have a say in how Kenya is organised. They never have. It’s always been about what car you drive, where you live, and then you have more rights than other people.”

"Huntington 1968" should be ringing in peoples minds as they read that.

(4) Frustration with the corrupt practices of the Kibaki regime: "Another ingredient in this combustible mix is corruption, which Kibaki pledged to eradicate but which under his rule, according to analyst and author Gerard Prunier, 'reached new heights, matching some of the excesses of the Moi years'. "

One thing that strikes me in reading this is the extent to which grievances are perceptions. That's where the challenge comes in conducting rigorous analysis of the link between inequality, favoritism/discrimination, and political upheaval. Perceptions may cause participation in an uprising, but the perceptions themselves are caused by strategies of "political entrepreneurs" and objective conditions. I sense that a lot of debate among analysts and researchers over "true" motivations centers on disentangling the relative contribution of these factors in causing perceptions injustice. Of course, there is another view prevalent these days that much of the participation in upheaval is somehow "opportunistic", but to me, those interpretations have to first explain where from the "opportunity" for an uprising comes. I think any serious thought on that question would lead the analyst back to considering perceptions of injustice.

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