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date: 05 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Since the colonial and early Independence eras, violence has been used in Kenya as a strategy to manipulate the electoral process and to ensure victory in the polls. It has been employed, in both highly instrumental and more ad hoc ways, by actors at all levels of political agency. This chapter explores Kenya’s legacy of violent electoral politics, reflecting on the causes and motivations that underscore its use, and tracing its manifestations at key historical junctures from the colonial period to the present day. It suggests that Kenya’s susceptibility to violence during election periods is rooted in four interrelated factors: the neo-patrimonial ethnic logic of politics, which creates incentives to utilize violent tactics; the persistent narratives of ethnic territoriality, which serve to legitimize certain forms of violence; weak institutions which both enable and provoke various actors to utilize violence; and the diffusion of armed actors and an embedded culture of violence, which facilitates mobilization during electoral periods.

Keywords: democracy, violence, elections, manipulation, electoral violence, democratization, politics

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