Elections, Ethnic Polarization and Managing Post-Electoral Conflict in Kenya

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Research Question: What are the factors that influenced the voting intentions of Kenyans in the General Elections of 2007? What are the causes and consequences of the post-electoral conflict? How can Kenya best achieve reconciliation and reconstruction of the country?

While Kenya has remained fairly stable and peaceful during most of the post-independence period, violence between ethnic groups has tended to erupt around elections since the introduction of competitive multiparty politics. More recently violence and general lawlessness escalated to unprecedented levels following the General Elections in December 2007. The conflict resulted in loss of hundreds of lives, exodous of a quarter of a million people and widespread destruction of property. The unprecedented level of violence that Kenya experienced is just one of the many African examples that raise questions about what factors determine voting behaviour in African countries and whether democracy can have stabilizing effects in countries so tribal dominated.

This research project aims to understand what issues divided Kenyans ahead the General Elections, what are the likely causes and consequences of the post-electoral conflict and how best to achieve the national reconstruction and reconciliation. To this end the study will conduct two nationally representative survey of Kenyans aged 18 and over. The survey conducted before the General election of December 2007 will study the factors that shaped the voting intentions of Kenyans, their views on how the economy is managed, democracy, corruption among other issues. The survey to be conducted in July 2008 will revisit previous respondents to learn about their experiences in the aftermath of the election, their expectations about the new coalition government and whether their views have changed regarding trust among Kenyans, democracy, land conflict, majimbo (decentralization policies).

The overall findings of this project were presented in two workshops held in Nairobi in September 2008. One of the workshops addressed exclusively the Members of Parliament to discuss the issues that divided Kenyans and how to manage post-conflict recovery in Kenya. The second workshop addressed general audiences with the purpose to stimulate the debate on the factors that influenced voting behaviour and how best to achieve the reconciliation of Kenyans. Both workshops included presentations from academics, representatives of civil society and influential Kenyan figures. The Kenyan press reported on the workshop: for example in The Standard and in The Daily Nation



Mwangi S. Kimenyi (University of Connecticut), Roxana Gutiérrez Romero (DID, Oxford) Stefan Dercon (DID, Oxford) in collaboration with Michael Bratton (Afrobarometer network and Michigan State University), Pedro Vicente (CSAE, Oxford) and Tessa Bold (CSAE, Oxford).