Kenya Public Policy

Current policy

Kenya is a country located in the region of Eastern Africa. See abbreviation for Kenya. Although Kenyatta was elected president in 2013, he was charged with crimes against humanity by an international court. The indictment, which was later dropped, was a result of the outbreak of violence in connection with the 2007 election. The August 2017 presidential election was rejected by the Supreme Court, which demanded that it be redone. Kenyatta won clearly in the re-election held in October that year and boycotted by the opposition. Political tensions in the country continue to be strong, but in the spring of 2018, the president reconciled with his main political rival, Raila Odinga.

The situation before the 2013 presidential and parliamentary elections was, to say the least, original: in addition to Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta, another leading candidate, Ex-Minister William Ruto, was also charged with crimes against humanity. The two were on opposite sides of the outbreak of violence and were initially rivaling presidential candidates. But a few months before the election, they formed an alliance and together they won the election, despite the serious accusations.

  • Countryaah: Country facts and history of Kenya, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.

When the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced by Kenyatta and Ruto and two more people were to be prosecuted (see Modern History and (ICC Trials after the 2007 elections), many believed that they were calculated before the election, but that was not the case).

Prior to the election, Kenya’s political map had been redrafted in the usual order, as old partnerships exploded while new alliances were formed. The political cooperation between the former political rivals Kenyatta and Ruto began in late 2012, when they formed the Jubilee Alliance (JAP). Kenyatta became presidential candidate and Ruto vice presidential candidate. Many assumed that the collaboration was essentially an attempt to avoid a trial in The Hague.

About the same time, another alliance was formed that became the main opponent in the elections: the Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord). Prime Minister Raila Odinga (see Modern History) and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka became Cord’s candidates for the post of President and Vice President respectively.

During the electoral movement, Kenyatta played on anti-Western sentiments, especially against the former colonial power of Britain. He described the ICC’s legal processes against him and Ruto as a manifestation of neo-colonialism.


Kenyatta wins the election

In connection with the elections held in March 2013, some unrest and about 20 people were killed. But predictions of an outbreak of violence similar to the one after the 2007 election came to shame. Kenyatta received just over 50 percent of the vote compared to 44 percent for Odinga. Musaila Mudavadi got 4 percent while five other candidates got less than 1 percent each. The turnout was 86 percent the highest measured in a Kenyan election, but some judges questioned whether such a high percentage had actually voted.

Odinga first refused to approve the message that Kenyatta won already in the first round, with only 8,000 votes. However, when the Supreme Court, after a few weeks, determined the result, Odinga accepted it, saying that he wanted to avoid new blood spill.

The Jubilee Alliance also triumphed in the simultaneous election to the National Assembly and the newly formed Senate, although Odinga’s party of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) became the largest single party. The voters also for the first time appointed their regional representatives (see further Political system, and fact box for distribution of seats).

Ethnic colored politics

The election results confirmed that voters largely vote for ethnic affiliation. Kikuyu and kalenjin (the people groups to which Kenyatta and Ruto belong, respectively) mainly supported the Jubilee Alliance, while luo and kamba (Odinga and Musyoka) voted for Cord. Kenyatta could hardly have won without his cooperation with Ruto.

Political power is largely exercised through networks within the ethnic groups in Kenya; voters hope for political and economic benefits by supporting “their own”. No political issue is as charged with that of ethnic belonging in Kenya. In the background there is widespread poverty and competition for agricultural land. Land reform has long been debated, but without providing results. Regular drought makes the situation more difficult.

The large influx of refugees from Somalia has also created social unrest and increased crime, and made the situation for Kenya’s own Somalis more difficult. The violence is exacerbated by the widespread presence of firearms. Crime leagues, not least the so-called Mungiki League, which is mainly made up of Kikuyu youth, are accused of lying behind much of the violence after the 2007 election. The infamous brutality of the police exacerbated the situation; several hundred people were killed by police. The contradictions between different groups of people have been cynically exploited and exacerbated by politicians who have played on them to strengthen their own position.

Impaired safety mode

Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia in the fall of 2011 (see Foreign Policy and Defense) was followed by a sharp increase in the number of attacks on Kenyan land. The Somali Islamist guerrilla al-Shabaab has been behind a long line of attacks, often with deadly results, in protest of Kenya’s military presence in Somalia. Most are carried out near the border between the countries but several have also been targeted at Nairobi and Mombasa. Concerns also exist over young Kenyans joining militant groups.

In September 2013, a major terrorist attack occurred when armed men attacked the Westgate shopping mall in a prosperous part of Nairobi, killing up to 70 people.

Three attacks on the coast in June 2014 claimed over 60 lives. al-Shabaab took on the blame for the death, but President Kenyatta claimed that they had been carried out by a domestic group and not by Islamists. Towards the end of the year, two acts of terror occurred, which also claimed more than 60 people’s lives. In total, al-Shabaab conducted only about 20 attacks in 2014

In April 2015, Kenya was shaken by the bloodiest attack in the country since the 1998 embassy blast (see Modern History). A group of al-Shabaab members took over 700 students hostage to the University of Garissa and then separated and shot Christians to death. A total of 152 people were killed, including the four assailants

The deteriorating security situation caused the United States, the United Kingdom and several Western countries – including Sweden – to issue travel warnings for parts of Kenya. This has created problems for the important tourism industry. After that, however, the security situation has improved, although attacks still occur, among other things, in January 2019, a terrorist act was carried out in Nairobi that claimed about 20 lives.

Legal processes are closed down

The ICC legal processes have long complicated the political situation. The court found it difficult to prosecute, especially as witnesses repeatedly changed or withdrew their testimonies. In the fall of 2013, the trial against Ruto began, while the lawsuit against Kenyatta was postponed several times and at the end of 2014, prosecutors withdrew the case. In 2016, the case against Ruto was also closed down (see also the ICC trials after the 2007 election).

The government has continued to struggle with problems such as corruption, high inflation and widespread crime. The economic problems have increased, not least because of reduced tourism. Assessors have pointed out several warning signs that the government has become more authoritarian, not least against the press and the judiciary.

The opposition protests

In the spring of 2016, the political temperature rose again as the opposition under Raila Odinga’s leadership launched a series of protest marches to criticize that so little had been done to reform the at least formally independent IEBC election commission. Clashes between police and protesters in May and June demanded at least four casualties. Concerns grew that political violence would increase further ahead of the August 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections.

In June 2016, a dialogue was initiated between the government and the opposition, and two months later the parties were able to agree, among other things, that the country’s nine electoral commissioners should be replaced.

In the fall of that year, several opposition leaders, including Odinga and Musalia Musavadi, began exploring the terrain to form a new multi-ethnic alliance under the name National Super Alliance (NASA), which could play on the continuing major problems of corruption. In October 2016, the so-called “Healthgate” was revealed, that large sums had disappeared from the Ministry of Health and several large contracts had gone to the president’s sister and cousin. The ministry denied that any irregularities had occurred. According to a survey in August 2016, about half of those who responded said both the president and the vice president were corrupt. At the same time, President Kenyatta tried to defend himself, saying that few leaders had taken as much force against the corruption as he had done.

The August 2017 elections

Dissatisfaction with rising food prices and higher living costs generally seemed to be important choices. President Kenyatta pushed in May for Parliament to approve new subsidies to remedy the problems. He also raised the minimum wage by almost a fifth. Odinga, for its part, made promises of lower rents in the cities and price reductions on such things as corn, milk, paraffin and bus journeys. Kenyatta also did much to highlight the government’s infrastructure investments. He inaugurated new bridges and announced the construction of roads and power stations.

It was now clear that the fight for the presidential post would once again stand between Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. Prior to the election, four smaller parties, including what remained of the formerly dominant Kanu, merged with the ruling alliance and formed the Jubilee Party (JP). Opinion polls in June indicated that Odinga and his party alliance had barely stepped in on Kenyatta’s lead. One reason for Nasa to come forward was that the partial alliance appeared to have been able to bridge previous internal contradictions in the leadership, and thus appeared to be able to secure its political base among luos, luhya and kamba. Nasa was also able to collect political points by blaming JP for corruption and high food prices, but also by playing on ethnic contradictions, with the cap aimed at kikuyas.

The week before the election, a member of the Election Commission, responsible for IT issues, was found murdered, and there were signs that he had been tortured. However, the election itself was conducted under calm conditions. Kenyatta already won 54 percent of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, but Raila Oding, who got 45 percent, claimed that the results had been manipulated and that the electoral commission’s IT system had been hacked. In the parliamentary elections, JP strengthened his position and gained his own majority in both the National Assembly and the Senate.

After the official results were presented on August 11, protests broke out in Nairobi, among other places. However, there were relatively few who obeyed Raila Odinga’s call for them to stay home from work on August 14 to protest what he described as electoral fraud. At the last moment, Odinga chose to appeal the result of the presidential election to the Supreme Court. Although the international observers approved the election, there were several signs of concern, including that the results of the presidential election were presented before the IEBC Election Commission had received all the documents needed. In order to avoid electoral fraud, new rules applied, where the formal result would be based on voting compositions made at the constituency level.

The Supreme Court annuls the presidential election

Four of the six Supreme Court judges (HD) annulled the election on September 1, citing that irregularities had occurred and that they had not been implemented in accordance with the Constitution. They ordered a new presidential election to be held within 60 days.

Kenyatta said that the court’s decision would be respected, even if he did not agree with it, but later made an appearance against the HD judges, calling them “villains” and saying he would “fix” the court if he is re-elected. Odinga demanded that members of the Election Commission be replaced and those who had committed irregularities be prosecuted. However, evaluators believed that it was difficult to carry out the election in any other direction, but that people in senior positions would probably have to be replaced.

On September 4, the Election Commission announced that the new presidential election would be held on October 17 and that it would stand between Kenyatta and Odinga. However, Odinga said he would only stand under certain conditions (read more about Kenyan politics before re-election in the Foreign Magazine). It became increasingly uncertain whether the election could be held as planned. Kenyatta wanted to stick to the schedule, Odinga considered boycotting the election and, according to leaks to the press, conflicts within the Election Commission worsened. At the same time, the French IT company, OT-Morpho, hired by the Election Commission said that there was no evidence of anyone hacking into their computer system. On September 21, the Election Commission announced that the election will be moved to October 26. The decision was justified by the fact that more time was needed to prepare it.

On October 10, Raila Odinga announced that he was resigning, as none of the electoral reforms he demanded had been implemented. At the same time, the government pushed through a new electoral law despite strong opposition from the opposition. A court decision to allow another presidential candidate on October 26 prompted the Election Commission to give a go-ahead for all eight who participated in August (for more details see the Calendar). However, Odinga made it clear that he did not intend to take part in the elections while traveling abroad to win support for his cause. He urged his supporters to defy the demonstration ban to demand electoral reform. Kenyatta, for its part, denied that the country was in any kind of constitutional crisis and rejected all thoughts of foreign mediation.

Tensions rose before Election Day, and several Western diplomats expressed concern that violence would erupt during Election Day. The Election Commission said that Odinga’s name would remain on the ballot paper, despite the opposition politician not participating. He urged his followers to boycott the election.

Kenyatta is re-elected

The re-election took place as planned, but turnout was reported to be significantly lower than in August. In Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa, among others, opposition supporters clashed with police. At least nine people were killed in electoral violence before Kenyatta on October 20, 2017 could be declared a winner with 98 percent of the vote.

The situation in the country continued to be tense. Not least since Odinga had held an installation ceremony in early 2018 “in Nairobi where he swore to about 15,000 followers to become” the people’s president “and promised to safeguard the nation’s interests. In March 2018, however, Kenyatta and Odinga met unexpectedly and promised Many opposition supporters expressed disappointment that the sacrifices they made to support his candidate did not seem to matter so much to him. Others expressed relief at the gesture of reconciliation. to establish the meeting between Kenyatta and Odinga, however, it was unclear exactly what the two leaders had agreed on and what role Odinga would play in the future.

In early 2019, it became clear that there was a growing crack between Kenyatta and his vice president Ruto. David Murathe, until recently JP’s party leader, openly accused Ruto of embezzling public funds, stressing that he was thus not fit to become JP’s candidate in the next presidential election, as the constitution barred Kenyatta from running for re-election. Murathe emphasized that he only spoke for himself, but most judges said he acted on the president’s mission. A refurbishment of the government in early 2020 became another sign of the gap between Kenyatta and Ruto (see Calendar).

At the end of 2019, Kenyatta and Odinga presented a reform program under the Building Bridges Initiatives (BBI) to promote reconciliation in the country. According to this, a prime ministerial post will be set up, the regions will receive more money and the cabinet will be reduced and become more representative of the entire country (see also Calendar). But it also quickly received criticism for not taking seriously the country’s major problems, and delved deeper into the reports made of the causes of the post-2007 violence outbreak and the problems that land conflicts create, or the everyday problems that ordinary Kenyans face as low wages, long working days and long routes. It was also pointed out that opposition leader Odinga now seemed to be closer to President Kenyatta than his own party. At the same time, the economy was deteriorating, more than a third of the state’s income went to pay off the central government debt, while wage costs in the public sector rose, exports did not increase at any appreciable rate and private investment declined.

Follow the ongoing development of the Calendar.


Official name

Republic of Kenya / Jamhuri ya Kenya


republic, unitary state

Most important parties with mandates in the last election

Jubilee Party (JP) 163/24, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) 73/13, WDM-Kenya 22/2, Amani National Congress (ANC) 13/2, Ford-Kenya 11/2, Kenya’s African National Union (Kanu) 10 / 2 and more. In the National Assembly, about 10 smaller parties are represented as well and 14 independent members, in the Senate are two smaller parties as well as an independent member. (2017) 1

Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) 93/11, National Alliance (TNA) 86/11, United Republican Party (URP) 72/9, WDM-Kenya 25/4, United Democratic Forum (UDFP) 11/2, Ford-Kenya 9/4 with several (2013) 2


78% in the August 2017 election

Upcoming elections

2022 parliamentary and presidential elections

  1. National Assembly / Senate including 12 nominated members. 47 special places are dedicated for women.
    2. the National Assembly / Senate including 12 and 20 nominated members, respectively,Sources

The ICC trials after the 2007 election

In connection with the establishment of a unifying government in Kenya in 2008, a tribunal was promised to investigate the sudden outbreak of violence following the December elections last year, and to prosecute the main culprits. A commission was set up to investigate what had happened.

The so-called Waki ​​Commission – named after Judge Philip Waki ​​- found evidence that both sides encouraged ethnic violence and displacement of people. In a report, the Commission cited serious deficiencies in security agencies and the judicial system as contributing causes of the violence. There were suspicions against several high-ranking people. The Commission did not disclose their identities, pending the establishment of the General Court.

However, no tribunal was ever formed and the Commission found that the government opposed and countered the process. The Waki ​​Commission then handed over the names of the suspects to former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who mediated the crisis. He in turn handed them over to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Court in The Hague then decided on its own motion to initiate a preliminary investigation.

Six suspects

In December 2010, the ICC published the names of six people who risked prosecution for crimes against humanity in connection with the violence, which in a short time claimed around 1,300 lives and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes. The six designated persons were among the country’s top strata. Three of them were counted as President Mwai Kibaki’s camp and three were regarded as opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ally. The situation was undeniably difficult for the Nairobi government when several members suddenly risked prosecution for crimes against humanity.

The three Kibakian hangers were Uhuru Kenyatta, son of country father Jomo Kenyatta and himself Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Cabinet Secretary Francis Kirimi Muthaura and former Police Chief Mohammed Hussein Ali.

The three Odingah supporters were Education Minister William Ruto (who was, however, suspended from his post a few months earlier due to corruption suspicions), Joshua arap Sang who was the head of the Kalenjin-language radio station Kass FM and Industry Minister Henry Kosgey.

All six who risked prosecution voluntarily appealed to the Court in The Hague in April 2011.

In the fall of the same year, the ICC published the charges that included points such as murder, forced displacement, torture, persecution, sexual violence and inhuman acts.

Four defendants

In January 2012, just over a year after the names were published, the ICC decided to bring charges against four of the designated ones: Kenyatta and Muthaura and Ruto and Sang. All the defendants refused the crime. There was no prosecution against Ali and Kosgey.

The ICC’s decision put Kenya in the strange situation that two top politicians who were candidates for upcoming elections were charged with war crimes, belonging to opposite camps in the conflict. But the two came to work together before the election and in March 2013 Kenyatta was elected president and Ruto as vice president (see further Current Policy).

Shortly thereafter, the lawsuit against Francis Muthaura closed. As a reason, the ICC stated, among other things, that a principal witness changed his testimony and admitted that he had received bribes. Several witnesses were also dead or reported to be too afraid to testify.

The other legal processes continued, though with recurring delays. Officially, the defendants said they cooperated with the court, but that opinion was not shared by the ICC.

The trial of Ruto and Sang began last autumn 2013, but even then a tug-of-war continued, among other things, when, above all, Vice President Ruto has to stand in court.

Prosecution is dropped

The government invested large sums to convince governments in Africa, Asia and various Western countries that the trials would be closed down or postponed. The African Union (AU) demanded that the trial of Kenyatta be discontinued and adopted a resolution that no sitting African heads of state should be brought to justice. However, few of the AU countries were willing to act as Kenya, whose parliament voted for exit from the ICC.

The trial of Kenyatta was postponed several times. Finally, at the end of 2014, it was clear that the prosecution would be closed for lack of evidence. Chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was sharp in her criticism of the government, which she accused of refusing to provide important documents. The government must also have bribed, threatened and harassed witnesses so that they withdrew their testimonies. Since the beginning of 2015, two previous witnesses have been murdered and one has disappeared. Bensouda, which published preliminary research material in early 2015, further claimed that Kenyatta and his allies cooperated with the Mungiki League (see Political System) during the outbreak of violence, in order to secure the Kikuyuu’s grip on power.

The trial of Ruto and Sang was also closed in April 2016.

As early as that year, it was clear that six witnesses had withdrawn their statements. Their defense attorneys claimed that there was no evidence against them and requested a re-examination of the case. On this, on January 12, the prosecutor’s side claimed that it had sufficient evidence.

Two out of three ICC judges ruled that the evidence against the two men was insufficient. however, they highlighted that the charges against them had suffered from the Nairobi government interfering, witnesses had been threatened and harassed, while not doing enough to protect them. One of the judges considered that the trial, despite the shortcomings, could have continued, another wanted both Ruto and Sang to be acquitted. Since it was not a free judgment, there was a possibility that the case could be re-admitted if new evidence emerged.

The ICC has also issued arrest warrants for three Kenyans who are accused of trying to influence witnesses. There were suspicions that the purpose of this was for the top politicians to be able to see how much evidence the ICC has against them. In 2016, Ruto’s defense attorney tried to get a process started to investigate his accusations that the ICC chief prosecutor’s staff, among other things, was bribing his own witnesses.

Serious threats have also been directed at George Kegoro, head of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, and Philip Waki ​​(see above).

Earlier, in a report, Human Rights Watch described the situation of the victims of the violence. The hundreds of women who were raped in 2007-2008 still suffer both physically and mentally from the abuse, many are poor and have fallen out of society. Some of them were also infected with HIV when they were raped.

Three of those originally indicted, Mohammed Hussein Ali, Francis Muthaura and Henry Kosgey, had been hired in the semi-state sector in 2016.

Map of Kenya