Conflict Analysis of the 2007
Post-election Violence in Kenya
Mara J. Roberts *
Kenya has been riddled with conflict and violence throughout its brief history as a nation.
The 2007 post-election violence in Kenya, however, was of a different magnitude. In this
paper, I perform an analysis of the conflict to examine why widespread violence erupted in
the wake of Kibaki’s presidential reelection. I look at the history of the conflict, examine
stakeholders, and employ a variety of conflict analysis tools in an attempt to get to the root
of the cause of the conflict.
Key Words: Kenya post-election violence, land dispute, tribal conflict,
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Over the span of three decades, amendments to the
constitution were made to systematically erode these balances in favor of strengthening
presidential powers. The result of these broad powers effectively made the presidential
office equivalent to a dictatorship, which gave the president the ability to use and abuse this
power without restraint.
The quote at the top of the page is pregnant with irony and is an example of what
can occur as a result of a strong yet corrupt executive branch. Mr. Kivuitu was the chairman
of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK), the governmental organization that certifies
the election results. The irony is that in 2007 he certified that Kibaki won the election
apparently without actually knowing whether or not he had won. Why would he do this? As
a testimony to the imbalance of power in the executive branch, the leading ECK staff,
including the chairmen, are appointed by the president. Therefore, one possible explanation
is that he feared losing his job. But how did the presidential office in Kenya become so
History of the Conflict
The country of Kenya was ruled by the iron hands of two men in succession from
1963 to 2002: Jomo Kenyatta (1963-1978) and Daniel Moi (1978-2002). In 2002, there was a
change: the ruling political party, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), that had ruled
the country since independence, collapsed. It collapsed beneath a new political party
comprised of an alliance that had formed between all of the major Kenyan tribes. This
political stakeholder was named the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). The election
victory was a landslide. Mwai Kibaki of the NARC won 62% of the vote on a platform of
fighting corruption, forming a coalition government that shared power amongst the various
tribes, and changing the constitution within 100 days of being elected to limit the executive
power that had ballooned over the previous four decades(Mutua, 2008; Calas, 2008). People
across Kenya from all tribes felt hope that the country’s government was finally on the verge
of a system of governance that would have accountability through shared power.
Yet, within weeks of the election, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that
forged the tribal factions into the NARC alliance and that got Kibaki elected had effectively
collapsed (Mutua, 2008: 285). The agreement in the MOU to share power within the cabinet
did not occur, as four key positions that were to be created, including that of a Prime
Minister position, did not materialize forward (Mutua, 2008: 284). Kibaki, from the Kikuyu
tribe, broke his election promise and filled many appointed positions with fellow tribesmen,
thus following in the footsteps of his presidential predecessors by selecting people for
appointed positions primarily through tribal bias (Mutua, 2008: 285). This in turn led to
discrimination of many people of other tribes who were more qualified.
Whether the decision to...