Kenya 2013 Election Analysis: Raging Parties and Mass Violence


Elections in the United States tend to bring with them some casual partying, maybe a keg stand or two for freedom, some shots for ‘Murica. But ultimately you know you’re going to end up with lady liberty naked in your bed at 1:00pm and a mild hangover; just casual bro shenanigans.

But Kenya doesn’t mess with that banal party swag. No man, when Kenya has an election they rage hard. Like Halloween foam party hard; like someone accidentally delivered a case of Smirnoff at our door the day after finals and bunch of bitches are coming over later to get down hard; like your country has undergone years of forced integration at the hand of colonial powers, resulting in intense animosity and resentment that fractures the country along ethnic and economic lines, rather than a shared nationality, hard.

So Kenya has a history of raging. So what? If raging was a crime we’d all be locked away by now (well, probably not because our dads are rich as fuck and we got swagged out legal representation).

But when Kenya rages, it’s a little different. The last time Kenyans went to the polls in 2007, the results were disputed and ethnically aligned gangs took the lives of more than 1,100 people during weeks of violent unrest.

Also, while raging on college campus is (for the most part) legal, two of Kenya’s presidential candidates this year, Former finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, are due to appear before the International Criminal Court at The Hague in a few weeks, charged with torturing, persecuting, killing and displacing civilians during Kenya’s last election crisis. Kind of like a more intense, internationally condemned form of pledging that ultimately destabilizes an entire region.

Mr. Ruto is generally considered the main instigator of violence, but is revered as a political hero in the Kalenijin ethnic community. Mr. Kenyatta is the son of former President Jomo Kenyatta, hailing from an entirely different ethnic background. The potential for serious violence is as clear as a fifth of Grey Goose premium vodka (which, ironically, also causes mass ethnic raging within the Greek community).

Complicating the already tenuous peace between the two ethnic rivals is the deep inequality prevalent throughout the country. While unemployment in some regions hovers around 40%, the political elite continues to award themselves inflated salaries and perks, again along ethnic lines, even in the face of mass strikes and labor unrest.

A little context: Kenya is an important country for a number of reasons. It has long stood as one of the most industrialized and democratic countries in sub-Saharan Africa and is the cornerstone of US security in the region. So unlike the majority of Africa, the United States actually cares about what happens politically.

Following the mass outbreaks in violence in 2007, the international community, and America, was like, “nah man, screw this noise,” prompting then-UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to fly into Nairobi and moderate meetings between the two main political factions.

The result was a referendum on a new constitution in 2010 that devolved power and established a “bill of rights,” as well as the Integrity and Leadership Bill (whatever the hell that means) and local tribunals to prosecute suspects of election killings.

But, like most things political in Africa, politicians implicated in the violence blocked the tribunals and other ambitious reforms crucial to avoiding renewed violence in 2013 were not pushed through. Also, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission have yet to release recommendations for remediating previous cycles of violence, stoking the flames of frustration throughout the nation.

This election-cycle Kenyans will vote for the first time for county governors and senators, as per the new constitution established in 2010, which sounds fine, but also could lead to intense competition and rivalry on a local level and raise the chances of violence.

Shit is cray, bro. What can we even do?

Well, there are a lot of things that could be done to alleviate violence in Kenya, mainly expanding access to reliable public services and providing more opportunities to young people to find work. There is also a large role for community organizations to play in working outside of Kenya’s broken political system to affect change on a local level. Kenyan civic groups have also tried desperately to shift the conversation away from ethnic identities, launching a broad public campaign to make the election issue-focused.

In regards to reconciliation, Kenya should seriously turn to their bro South Africa, who’s post-apartheid reconciliation process was arguably the most successful the world has ever seen. But that’s an entirely different story, bro.

While all attention will be turned towards national politics and regional strife, there are tangible things being done in local communities to find ways out of violence for the urban poor.

That being said, ultimately much of the change must happen from the top before Kenya sees a true path forward. Until then, Kenya’s election ragers are just an unfortunate reality.



  1. Kelvin Kamau

    Now bro, take a seat. i will try in 250 words to enlighten you on some third world problems that your first world ass knows nothing about.
    When Kenyans, and i will go out on a limb here and say most African countries, go to the polls, We go there not masked by 200 hundred years of independence and multi billion dollar budgets that ensure possible loop holes and every little discrepancy is handled in a civil manner.
    so in lack of system that guides how to rage at a system that fails, we take to the streets and we air our frustrations. Agreed, some in ways more uncivil than others but that’s a curve you know all of humanity has followed, case in point the Alabama riots of 1874, and yes 1874, because right now Kenya is as politically mature as America was in 1874. Who is to blame you ask, i don’t know maybe those that took our best and strongest as beasts of burden, or those that to this day continue to drain Africas brains with promises of a “better educaton” or more lucrative deals than their countries would offer, i digress.
    so, before you play judge, jury and executioner on a case that you have little,(thanks to google) to no facts about take a walk through downtown Detroit and explain to some gangbangers how the new gun reforms will better their standards of living. let me know how that works out.

    • valiantlupo

      Thanks for the comment. Obviously this is meant to be satirical and I don’t presume whatsoever to be an expert on Kenyan politics but I think your comment goes a bit far in sensationalizing/ignoring the points I made in the piece.

      First, I think I was pretty explicit in laying out that Kenya is still a country in transition. I used the words, “your country has undergone years of forced integration at the hand of colonial powers, resulting in intense animosity and resentment that fractures the country along ethnic and economic lines, rather than a shared nationality,” to underscore the role of colonialism in why Kenya faces such massive obstacles to peaceful elections.

      Second, I never placed the “blame” on anyone person in particular, save those of the political elite that pillage the country’s resources (which you also addressed in your comment) so either you missed that point or just chose to ignore it. I’m not playing “judge, jury and executioner” but am just an observer to a very complicated issue.

      Having worked in Chicago’s southside and having spent a lot of time in Detroit as a student I’m not coming at this topic as a “first world ass,” as you so eloquently put it (although I’ll admit that I have had privileges not afforded to many people). I would suggest that you (a) actually read the article, (b) not make assumptions about people and (c) just relax and not get offended by an article clearly meant to be non serious, bro.

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