Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Kenya elections and violence

On their blogs, Chris Blattman and Ryan Sheeley have been offering updates and links to other blogs on the Kenyan electoral crisis. I posted the following comment on Chris's blog:

I wonder about the deeper background to the current crisis.

One gets the sense that an all too common story might be at work here:

Undiversified, aid-dependent economy means that control of the state equals control over significant assets and opportunities. Access is conditional on relationship to incumbent, who is thus custodian of exclusionary political economy. For some reason, incumbent loses control over electoral dynamics, which presents a secular opportunity for the excluded to seize control of assets and opportunities. Recognizing what is at stake, incumbent tries to prevent control from being pried from his grasp. Fighting ensues.

Something like this story is what we heard about Burundi in 1993 during the course of our research there over the past 2 years. It's also like the story one reads about Rwanda in 1959 or even Congo-Brazzaville since 1997. It echoes recent stories told about Bolivia, heck even Venezuela for some... It bears resemblance to the "revolutionary politics" story that has been formalized by Carles Boix, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, and Thad Dunning, among others.

I wonder whether this "exclusion" or "mass discrimination" lens is relevant here. If one were to peer into the records in the education system, for example, would one find overrepresentation of one group or another? If so, there are implications for how external aid should be used as leverage for dealing with the type of exclusion that may be at the heart of the crisis.

I'd be interested in hearing responses to the applicability of this lens.

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