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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

For over a century, Kenya’s chiefs have served as central figures in the formation and implementation of state bureaucracy. Inextricably linked with the colonial and post-colonial state, Kenya’s chiefs are not representative of traditional forms of authority in the way that elders may be said to be, but are rather an embodiment of the state’s bureaucratic apparatus. As a key component of Kenyan bureaucracy through their position in provincial administration, chiefs have played a central role in the implementation of policies, the provision of order, and mobilization of political support. They act as an integral link between the state and ordinary citizens. While chiefs have obtained their right to govern through the state, their power has nevertheless waxed and waned over the years, as they have had to continuously negotiate legitimacy within a pluralistic landscape of locally recognized authorities. This chapter discusses chiefs’ authority in Kenya and the change and continuity of historical processes, which have created, reinforced, and challenged their position and role.

Keywords: chiefs, elders, traditional authority, colonial state, provincial administration

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