ASR Focus: The Political Economy of Democratic Reform in Kenya

Article excerpt

Introduction

Kenya's long quest for democratic reform since the first multiparty elections in 1991 has been inextricably enmeshed in a parallel struggle for fundamental socioeconomic reform. The essays in this special ASR Focus originated with a roundtable at the 2009 annual meetings of the African Studies Association in New Orleans that centered on the problems of and prospects for reform in Kenya - specifically, the efforts to forestall a repetition of the violence that took place in the aftermath of the 2007 elections and posed the most serious threat to the county's stability since independence in 1963. The speakers at the roundtable, whose presentations appear here in slightly edited form, joined other students of Kenya politics to contemplate the underlying issues and challenges confronting the country in its effort to achieve that goal before the next national elections scheduled for late 2012 or early 2013.

These articles explore fundamental dimensions of the challenges facing Kenya, which range well beyond the problem of managing free and fair elections whose legitimacy and accuracy are widely accepted. The authors consider the epic struggles of civil society in Kenya to achieve the new constitution that mandates far-reaching initiatives to address long entrenched socioeconomic injustices and inequalities. Karuti Kanyinga and James Long address the importance of external participation in bringing about reform, the Paris Club's 1991 insistence on allowing multiparty electoral competition, and the "Agenda item 4" reforms that were fashioned with the assistance of former U. …