The Political Economy of Reforms in Kenya: The Post-2007 Election Violence and a New Constitution

Article excerpt

Abstract: This article explores the package of "Agenda item 4" reforms undertaken by the Kenyan government in the mediation process following the 2007-8 postelection violence, including those relating to long-standing issues over constitutional revision. It situates the previous lack of reforms within Kenya's political economy and demonstrates how political and economic interests thwarted progress and produced the postelection crisis. It also examines the more recent attempts to address reforms following the signing of the National Accord and the creation of a power-sharing government, and finds strong public support for constitutional revision. It concludes that these pressures from below, along with a realignment of political interests and institutional change from power-sharing, helped support reform.

Résumé: Cet article explore le groupement de réformes surnommé "Agenda 4" mis en place par le gouvernement du Kenya lors du processus de médiation ayant eu lieu à la suite des manifestations de violence suivant les élections en 2007-2008, y compris celles qui sont liées à de vieux contentieux sur les changements constitutionnels. Cet article replace le manque de réformes préalable dans le contexte économique spécifique du Kenya, et démontre comment certains intérêts politiques et économiques avaient bloqué l'avancée des réformes et conduit le pays à une crise après les élections. Cet article examine également les tentatives les plus récentes de gestion des problèmes liés à la signature de l'Accord National et à la création d'un gouvernement à pouvoir partagé, et signale qu'il existe un soutien fort du public pour les révisions constitutionnelles mises en oeuvre. Il s'en conclut que les pressions populaires, ajoutées au raccord entre les intérêts politiques et les changements institutionnels, ont contribué à soutenir les réformes effectuées.

Introduction

In December 2007, violent conflict engulfed Kenya following a dispute over a flawed presidential vote count. Fighting between the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) led to mass protest, the deaths of more than eleven hundred civilians, the large-scale displacement of people, and threats to the efficacy of the Kenyan state.1 Postelection violence also halted major economic activities including transportation of goods, not only within Kenya, but also in several countries in the region. The crisis had effects beyond Kenya, whose transport hub serves the eastern Africa region as well as Southern Sudan.2 Kenya's economic growth, which stood at about 7 percent at the end of 2007, rapidly slumped to under 2 percent in the first quarter of 2008.

Given the domestic and transnational impact of the Kenya crisis, the international community's response proved swift. The African Union (AU) , with international support, constituted a Panel of Eminent African Personalities headed by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to lead the mediation between PNU and ODM.3 Their first task included the establishment of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) mediation team, comprising members from the government/PNU and ODM. The KNDR team identified four agenda items that the two parties would tackle to solve the postelection crisis. Agenda item 1 consisted of taking immediate action to stop violence and restore fundamental rights. Agenda item 2 included stopping the humanitarian crisis and promoting healing and reconciliation. Agenda item 3 concerned the resolution of the political crisis, specifically through power-sharing arrangements in a coalition government. Agenda item 4 required undertaking reforms on long-standing political, economic, and social challenges which, in the KNDR's judgment, could lead to a recurrence of violence if left unaddressed.5

Mediation tiirough the national dialogue resulted in a cessation of violence. On February 28, 2008, the two parties signed "An Agreement on Principles of Partnership of the Coalition Government," otherwise known as the National Accord, and agreed to adjust the constitution to provide for power-sharing. …