Ethnicity and Democracy in East Africa: Following Kenya footsteps?

Posted: August 13, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Junior William Deng, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


The tragicomedy of the South Sudanese politics: SPLM-IG vs SPLM-IO

August 13, 2017 (SSB) — Electoral democracy in Africa has caused various political damages; it is specifically designed to benefit incumbency and discriminate against oppositions and minorities. In Kenya, electoral frailties are not generated by political opposition as alluded by international and regional observers, it is about the political history of Kenya ethnically conceived by Jomo Kenyatta and implemented by President Moi political patronage system for thirty (30) years.

This, in 1966 when Jaramogi resigned from the government, he formed his party with which he decamped KANU with a great number of Kikuyu politicians. Unfortunately, during snap elections in 1980, the majority of Kikuyu politicians who had followed Jaramogi to formed KPP were beaten and ethnically forced to abandon Jaramogi.

In another snap elections, all these politicians sought political representation from their areas where they were unanimously elected. This, however, made Jaramogi consolidate his political organization from Nyanza, Western and a few from Ukambani. This political trend continued to mesmerize equal and democratic representation in the country.

Today, ethnocracy in Kenya is entrenched and always perpetuated with pride. The political history of Kenya tells that the only politician, who has worked for equal democratic representation in disregard to where he comes from, and whose party has cut across country’s political divides since 1992, is Raila Amollo Odinga. He has also groomed a number of politicians including DP William Ruto.

Today, given 2017 elections, we are aware that everything in the last electioneering process was highly tainted with irregularities. No one could give absolute claim that Uhuru won elections fairly; history reminds us of where the elite segment Uhuru represents come from, thus, last election process was a matter of death and life in irrespective of democratic requirements thereof.

Democracies in the world have different electoral systems for example; there are many but two are very common: majoritarian, proportional electoral Systems. Most East African countries, UK, America, India, Japan, and France to just mention few have the majoritarian electoral system.

This system, however, depends on the type of political system a particular country wield. These systems have advantages and disadvantages, much of it is determined by Political culture, agency, and structure of political operation and ideology.

In Africa, Tanzania’s CCM has stood out and outperformed ANC, KANU and many revolutionary parties in Africa. Elections in Tanzania are not based on ethnic majorities but on political parties and ideology and that is why in Tanzania, politics of fear and security dilemmas is completely a trace particularly at political parties’ level.

Not on ethnicity as in Kenya. Uganda and Rwanda also beat Kenya in terms of political organization and party democracy: RPF, NRM, and FDC are widely politically representative.

In South Sudan, we don’t have political democracy and party system, let alone electoral system. As things stand, Salva Kiir is likely to follow Jomo Kenyatta and Moi footsteps; he has already fastened ethnic belt by consolidating tribal support. Dr. Riek, Bakasoro, Olony and among others have already gone the same way.

To undo this political discrepancy, we need leaders with ideological underpinning to unite the country, otherwise, all the prototypes of political parties we have are disruptive, abrasive and consequently apolitical!

Solution to our political problems is not specific but we must design it. We need to choose to change from presidential system to parliamentary or we decentralize presidential system; that’s creating the office of the President, Prime Minister’s office with deputies and devolve economic function to the states.

This could give a temporal solution as parties build democratic resistance against political ethnicization and political patronage system.

The author, Junior William Deng, studied Master of Arts in Security & Strategic Studies at Nkumba University, Entebbe, Uganda and is currently a Ph.D. student of Political Science at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Tanzania. You can reach him via his email:

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from.

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