Kenya’s protracted political crisis darkens its economic outlook

The reelected President of Kenya waves to the crowd while riding in a bulletproof vehicle
Kasarani Sport Stadium in Nairobi, Nov. 28, 2017: Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta greets supporters during the swearing-in ceremony for his second term (source: dpa)
  • Ethnicity remains the main defining factor in Kenyan politics
  • The country stands to lose economically in a prolonged conflict
  • At this point, no easy or quick political solution is in sight

At a time when many countries in sub-Saharan Africa are struggling with the challenges of democratic transition, Kenya’s ongoing crisis stands as an example of how an electoral process alone does not always guarantee political legitimacy.

On November 28, 2017, Kenya’s incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the founding father of the East African nation, Jomo Kenyatta (1891-1978), was sworn in for his second five-year term. In the August 2017 general elections, he was reelected with 54.27 percent of the vote – he received 1.4 million votes more than opposition leader Raila Odinga. Voter turnout was high, estimated at 79.5 percent. However, in an unexpected twist on a continent where the incumbent’s advantage tends to prevail, the results were nullified by the Supreme Court of Kenya, which cited “illegalities and irregularities” in the voting process. Mr. Kenyatta prevailed also in the second balloting, but his legitimacy as the president continues to be challenged hard by Mr. Ondinga.

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