Since independence from Great Britain in 1963, Kenya has survived five decades as a functioning nation-state, holding regular elections; its borders and political system intact and avoiding open war with its neighbours and military rule internally. It has been a favoured site for Western aid, trade, investment and tourism and has remained a close security partner for Western governments. However, Kenya’s successive governments have failed to achieve adequate living conditions for most of its citizens; violence, corruption and tribalism have been ever-present, and its politics have failed to transcend its history. The decisions of the early years of independence and the acts of its leaders in the decades since have changed the country’s path in unpredictable ways, but key themes of conflicts remain: over land, money, power, economic policy, national autonomy and the distribution of resources between classes and communities.While the country’s political institutions have remained stable, the nation has changed, its population increasing nearly five-fold in five decades.
But the economic and political elite’s struggle for state resources and the exploitation of ethnicity for political purposes still threaten the country’s existence. Today, Kenyans are arguing over many of the issues that divided them 50 years ago. The new constitution promulgated in 2010 provides an opportunity for national renewal, but it must confront a heavy legacy of history. This book reveals that history.