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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Ethnic politics in Kenya matured under colonial restrictions, intensifying after Independence during both the one- and the multi-party period. The result was weak non-programmatic political parties and institutions and an expansion of patronage politics. Once the presidency became competitive, polarization increased, with winning and losing viewed in ethnic terms. This culminated in elite-led ethnically targeted violence to win elections and to citizens voting against non-co-ethnics out of fear. This chapter examines theories of ethnicity and evidence that co-ethnics of presidential winners receive more high-level government appointments and public goods than non-co-ethnics, subsequently losing them when their president loses. The fear of loss and the willingness of ethnic elites to engage in conflict to avert loss reinforces clientelism, weakens political parties, and highlights the inability of politicians to make credible non-ethnic commitments to voters. These factors also heighten the possibility of violence and threaten democracy.

Keywords: ethnicity, elections, conflict, violence, democracy, political parties, clientelism, patronage, public goods, credible commitment

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