Jacob Akech Akoko

Education CV

Why do Kenya’s moments of protests or political reforms keep producing ethnic identities while eliding other forms of political identities? How did Kenya’s pro-democracy social movements produce atypical two-tier system of ‘devolved’ government as encapsulated in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010? Why do the recent Kenyan political processes aimed at redressing social inequalities, on the one hand, and adverse effects of ethnicity in the public sector management, on the other, reify ethnic identities and identification, in spite of the current constitution’s liberal democratic aspirations? To what extent does the postcolonial intelligentsia agitation for, and engagement with the struggle for political change account for this paradox? This thesis examines the paradoxes of Kenya’s political reforms as encapsulated in the Constitution of Kenya, 2010. Kenya has been ruled by successive conservative regimes, through an ethnicized presidential and unitary systems of government, however, it undertook a significant political reforms in 2010, which created a two-tier system of government based on shared state power and fiscal resources between the national government and 47 county governments, among other provisions. This system of government is atypical not only in Kenya’s political history, but also in Africa’s history of constitution reforms during the era of democratization. Unlike the Kenya’s independence era system of regional, it is built on stronger constitutional mandates, several self-executing mechanisms, and political safeguards, including mandatory referendum on any amendment that can fundamentally alter its institutional design. Unlike political reforms in some African states, it falls short of a federal state, but has a stronger foundation than the donor-driven, or the regime driven, but bureaucratic-efficiency inspired systems of decentralized or devolved governments of other African countries. Using various archival documents, monuments, (auto) biographies, and key informant interviews, this thesis historicizes and theorizes the nature of Kenya’s colonial and postcolonial state power and the resistance to it, mainly through an examination of either the jetsam or the flotsam of Kenya’s historiography, namely, the ‘dead-end’ nationalists struggles of the postwar period, the radical intellectuals production of alternative political consciousness and political visions, the 1964 mutiny and 1982 attempted coup d’états, and the radical intellectuals-led social movements’ struggles for constitutional reforms of the 1990s. I argue that tensions and contradictions of the constitution of Kenya 2010 as well as its atypical structure is largely a product of the discrete historical events, and moments of protests, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the continual radical intellectuals’ critique of the postcolonial Kenyan state and engagement with the reforms process, which brought critical cumulative knowledge of Kenya’s politics to bear on the politics of re-constituting the Kenyan state in order to contains its centrifugal forces animated by British colonialism. 

Thesis working title
Social Movements, Popular Political Actions and Political Change in Kenya: 1945-2015
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