Kenya Modern History

By | January 31, 2023

Kenya is a country located in Eastern Africa. With the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya has a population of 53,771,307 based on a recent census from COUNTRYAAH. Kenya became independent in 1963. The liberation hero Jomo Kenyatta ruled the country until his death in 1978, when Daniel arap Moi took over as president. In the 2002 election, the Kanu government party lost power for the first time and a coalition government was formed with Mwai Kibaki as president. Tensions were great in the multi-pronged government alliance and ethnic contradictions increasingly came to the surface. When Kibaki was declared victorious in the 2007 election, extensive violence erupted. As a result, a unifying government was formed in which Kibaki continued as president and his rival Raila Odinga became prime minister.

On December 12, 1964, on the day one year after independence, Kenya became a republic with Kenyatta as president. His message was national reconciliation. Soil in the fertile highlands previously reserved for whites was divided and handed over to black Kenyans.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Kenya. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Until the late 1970s, Kenya experienced strong growth. But within Kenya’s African National Union (Kanu), tensions between the party’s two wings increased, one conservative under Tom Mboya and one radical led by Oginga Odinga (see Older History). The latter was deposed as Vice President in 1966 and formed the Party of Kenya’s People’s Union (KPU) which was critical of developments under Kenyatta. The KPU claimed that a few became richer at the expense of the majority. The party was banned in 1969, Odinga was imprisoned and “independent” candidates were banned from participating in parliamentary elections. Check best-medical-schools for more information about Kenya.

Politically divergent views became an increasingly sensitive issue. From 1975 to 1978, a number of prominent regime critics were imprisoned. When Kenyatta died in 1978, Vice President Daniel arap Moi took power. At first, Moi’s rule meant increased transparency, but from the beginning of the 1980s he showed less tolerance for his critics. The one-party system that prevailed in practice was written into the constitution. At the same time, the country was in a recession.

The Air Force made a failed coup attempt in 1982. The couplers were executed and many were imprisoned. Moi, himself Kalenjin, accused the Luo people of lying behind the coup attempt, but kikuyer was also pointed out.

Multiparty systems are reintroduced

Gradually, the regime’s violation of human rights brought increasing international criticism. In an attempt to appease public opinion, the regime released all political prisoners in July 1989.

When several opposition leaders were arrested in July 1990, this led to riots in Nairobi. About 20 people were killed as security forces opened fire on the crowd. Criticism against President Moi increased and unrest spread to other cities. Now the country’s aid donors also started pushing for a democratic development and decided to freeze much of their support for Kenya. At the same time, demands were made for continued liberalization of the economy. In 1991, President Moi agreed to reintroduce multi-party systems.

Large parts of the opposition were then gathered in the Democracy Restoration Forum (Ford). Internal contradictions caused the party to split in two parts as early as the following year (see Political system).

In 1992, Kenya was also shaken by violent clashes between various ethnic groups, which demanded around 2,000 lives. The regime was accused of instigating ethnic contradictions. Nevertheless, Moi won when elections were held in December that year, thanks in large part to the opposition’s split, and Kanu gained his own majority in the National Assembly. After the election, Moi continued to strengthen its hold on power and human rights violations. At the same time, the standard of living of many Kenyans fell, as growth did not keep pace with population growth. Extensive corruption contributed to the economic problems.

Daniel arap Moi reunited

Prior to the 1997 elections, again, politically colored violence was occurring between different groups of people. Protest actions against the government were often brutally defeated. Just before the election, the government made a series of concessions, which contributed to Moi winning the presidential election by a good margin. Kanu took over half of the seats in Parliament. The result confirmed Kenya’s ethnic divide as no opposition candidate in the presidential election had any stronger support outside his home province.

New unrest in early 1998 demanded hundreds of casualties and displaced 300,000 people. This time it was calendars who attacked kikuyos and luos in the Rift Valley in western Kenya. The government was again accused of failing to intervene in the violence and it was widely believed that the attacks were organized by Kanu, probably as revenge for the Kikuyu and Luos to a large extent voting on the opposition in the 1997 elections. The government, for its part, accused the opposition of having undermined troubles.

The violence, together with the government’s lack of action against the corruption, led the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to once again freeze parts of its support for Kenya.

Terror affects Kenya

A terror attack shook Kenya in August 1998, when the US embassy was destroyed in a violent explosion. Over 250 people, most Kenyans, were killed and 5,000 injured. At the same time, a similar explosion was carried out against the US embassy in Tanzania. Muslims with ties to the al-Qaeda terror network were identified as guilty and four men were later sentenced in New York to life imprisonment for involvement in the attacks.

In November 2002, Kenya was hit by new terrorist attacks, when three suicide bombers killed 13 people at an Israeli-owned hotel near Mombasa. On the same day, an Israeli charter plane was attacked by two robots, who, however, missed their target by barely a margin. Somalis with ties to al-Qaeda were suspected of the attacks.

The widespread corruption continued to create tensions in contacts with Kenya’s aid donors. To resume its support, the IMF and the World Bank required far-reaching measures. Several commissions were set up to investigate corruption and political violence, but it did not yield much results. No new aid money came, and the economy continued to lag.

Canoe loses power

Before the December 2002 elections, there were contradictions within Kanu. According to the constitution, Moi was prevented from running for re-election. As “Crown Prince”, he appointed Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s first president but a fairly untested card in politics. The decision prompted a large number of ministers and MPs to leave the party. Among them was Luo leader Raila Odinga, the son of former Vice President Oginga Odinga. The outbreakers founded the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which then formed an alliance with about ten other parties. The new opposition alliance, the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc), agreed on Mwai Kibaki as presidential candidate.

Political violence occurred during the electoral movement, but it was not as extensive as in the 1992 and 1997 elections. Since the main candidates – Kenyatta and Kibaki – were both kikuys, ethnic belonging played less role than before. The result was that Kanu lost power for the first time since independence. Kibaki won the presidential election with 62 percent of the vote and Narc also won clearly in the parliamentary elections. Many saw the election results primarily as a manifestation of the great dissatisfaction with Mois and Kanu’s rule, and not as a strong expression of confidence for Narc.

The change of power went smoother than expected and Mwai Kibaki was able to take over quickly. In his first government, he tried to balance between different ethnic groups and the government’s two major blocs: his own Kenya National Alliance Party (NAC) and Odinga’s LDP. But the contradictions were great, not least about how a new constitution would be drafted. Kibaki and his supporters wanted to maintain a strong presidential power, while the LDP wanted to restrict it and introduce a more federal state.

Disputes regarding constitutional proposals

The constitutional issue was the main reason why the government coalition gradually collapsed. In June 2004, Kibaki re-furnished and included members from the former Kanu government party, as well as from the opposition party Ford-People. LDP became increasingly marginalized.

In July 2005, Parliament adopted a proposal for a new constitution, according to which the President would retain much of his power. Violent protests erupted on the streets of Nairobi and in the government organized the opponents ahead of the referendum on the proposal that must be held by the constitution. The opposition was led by LDP leader Odinga, who together with Kanu formed the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). The Yes side was led by Kibaki, and the divide within the government was obvious.

The result of the referendum was a staggering defeat for the president when 57 percent of voters said no to the proposal. A few days later, Kibaki resigned his government. When a new government was introduced, Odinga and other LDP members who opposed the new constitution were no longer included.

In early 2006, Kibaki faced new problems due to reports from investigations into two corruption scandals. The two deals had long troubled the government that came to power with promises to fight widespread corruption. New revelations now forced three ministers to resign (see Calendar).

Political divide

In preparation for a parliamentary election in the summer of 2006, the Kibaki circle formed a new party, Narc-Kenya, which took place in parliament. The original alliance Narc had in practice collapsed.

The ODM, which was registered as a political party, was also unstable. Kanu was very fragmented internally and withdrew from ODM, and in August 2007, ODM was split in two. Shortly thereafter, Kanulearen Kenyatta withdrew his own candidacy for the upcoming presidential election and gave his support to Kibaki, who now formed a new party alliance: the National Unity Party (PNU).

A few months before the election, ODM leader Odinga led the opinion polls. He had many followers among young Kenyans, especially within his own people group luo.

The presidential and parliamentary elections were held in December 2007. ODM won the parliamentary elections with just over twice as many seats as PNU.

Election polls pointed to an equally convincing victory for Odinga in the presidential election and he proclaimed himself victorious. But three days after the election, the Election Commission announced that Kibaki had won, and immediately swore in for a new term. The opposition accused the government of electoral fraud. EU observers also reported on irregularities, saying that the vote count had not kept international standards.

Outbreak of violence after the election

The unexpected news of Kibaki’s election victory led to an explosion of violence in several parts of the country. The violence appeared to be coordinated: existing gangs and rapidly assembled militia struck, mainly in Nairobi’s slums and in the cities of Eldoret and Kisumu. The violence was largely ethnic, and took place mainly – but not exclusively – between kikuyu on the one hand and luo, and to some extent calendars on the other.

Many feared that Kenya was on the brink of civil war. The unrest caused major disruptions to the economy and a humanitarian crisis threatened as many had difficulty with food supply. Several international players intervened to mediate. The major donors US, UK and EU threatened to withdraw their support if the government did not seek to reach a “meaningful settlement” with the opposition.

Among the mediators was former UN chief Kofi Annan, who is considered to have played a crucial role in keeping the port in agreement: two months after the election, Kibaki and Odinga agreed to form a unifying government. Then the violence ended as suddenly as they had flared up. About 1,300 people had been killed and perhaps half a million were fleeing. Both sides were accused of staging the violence.

A commission was appointed to investigate the events. An expert committee was commissioned to produce a proposal for a new constitution.

New constitution is adopted

The Committee’s constitutional proposal, which not least limited the presidential power (see Political system), was approved by Parliament in April 2010. In August, two-thirds of voters voted yes to the new constitution in a referendum. It was seen as a great success; Disagreement over the constitutional change had long been a source of bitter political conflicts. At the same time, the fragile unity government managed to hold together, despite strong internal contradictions. No new major outbreaks of violence came and economically the situation was more stable than many dared to hope.

On the other hand, the Commission investigating the wave of violence did not come to terms with any attempt to answer anyone in Kenya. In the end, the whole was instead turned over to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which in January 2012 decided to prosecute four people for crimes against humanity ((see further ICC trials after the 2007 election).

The ICC’s message meant that war criminal charges were brought against two people – Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Ex-Minister William Ruto – who were expected to stand against each other in the presidential election a year later.

Kenya Modern History