Politics of East Africa
- LAST REVIEWED: 04 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0038
- LAST REVIEWED: 04 May 2015
- LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2011
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0038
The focus of this article is Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, although countries including Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and to some extent Southern Sudan can be considered to be part of the larger East Africa. The former three countries have followed different but somewhat similar political trajectories, experimenting at some point with one-party, centralized political systems. Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania also share a common colonial background, their people straddle common borders, and they shared common services from the colonial period until 1977, when the East African Economic Community collapsed. The countries in 1999 revived the East African Community and expanded it to include Burundi and Rwanda. A political federation is expected to be established in 2017. Although Uganda has had a troubled political trajectory, with coups and a military dictatorship (especially under Idi Amin Dada between 1971 and 1979), Kenya and Tanzania have been relatively stable, albeit of course with political problems of their own. Poor and despotic leadership, corruption, and electoral malpractice, among other political problems, have been common maladies in the three countries. Accordingly, issues of constitutionalism, political developments and democracy, and conflict seem to dominate the literature on East African politics. The intrigues, fluidity, and unpredictability of politics in the three countries attracts not only East Africanist scholars but also general readers interested in African or indeed other politics.
Certain issues always come to mind when one thinks of East African politics, and the issues that inform the study of African politics are numerous. Thomson 2000 has written a text with wide-ranging coverage, including state, civil society, external interests, ideology, ethnicity, religion, neocolonialism, democracy, and legitimacy, among others. Thomson uses different case studies to illustrate the arguments advanced in the book. In addition, ethnicity, identity, conflict, power, democracy, corruption, and governance are often mentioned as issues of interest when examining not only African but also East African politics. Sometimes these issues make it difficult for people within the countries of East Africa to develop appropriate characteristics with which to identify themselves. This is perhaps the issue that Mwakikagile 2007 tries to examine as many nation-states grapple with their multiple identities. However, in most instances many people identify with their ethnic groups (see Ethnicity), whose consequences for politics in Africa are sometimes deleterious. In Kenya, ethnicity has been the cause of numerous conflicts, most recently the post-election violence of late 2007 and early 2008 (see Conflict). Salih and Markakis 1998 examines the power and potency of ethnicity in nation-states like those of East Africa. Azam, et al. 1999 specifically focuses on the causes, consequences, and costs of some of these conflicts. This is further examined by Berman, et al. 2004, which includes specific cases of the effects of ethnicity on African politics. This work contains three articles looking specifically at Kenya. Chapter 5, by John Lonsdale, examines the moral and political dynamics of ethnic development in the African continent; chapter 10, by Elisha Stephen Atieno Odhiambo, focuses on ethnicity and democracy in Kenya, seeing these as hegemonic enterprises and instruments of survival in the country’s political process. Githu Muigai’s chapter 12 is about Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s founding president, and what he calls the rise of the ethno-nationalist state in Kenya. Ethnic conflicts and other struggles impede good governance and democracy, as Bekoe 2006 rightly acknowledges. Kaiser and Okumu 2004 then deals with the challenges of such issues for democracy. What this usually leads to is a situation in which poor and unaccountable leadership is the norm. The ensuing struggles that occupy various actors, such as human rights nongovernmental organizations, are the subject of Mutua 2009.
Azam, Jean-Paul, Christian Morrisson, and Sophie Chauvin. Conflict and Growth in Africa: Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Vol. 2. Paris: OECD, 1999.
Explores the causes and consequences of conflict in the East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The work explores the different levels of conflict in the three countries, and estimates the costs of such conflict.
Bekoe, Dorina, ed. East Africa and the Horn: Confronting Challenges to Good Governance. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2006.
Explores the obstacles to governance and the opportunities for democratization in East Africa. The work looks at the conflict situation in East Africa and particularly in Somalia, the trade in small arms and light weapons, the refugee situation, tensions around national identity, the legacy of US policy in the region, and how these issues impact governance.
Berman, Bruce, Dickson Eyoh, and Will Kymlicka, eds. Ethnicity and Democracy in Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2004.
This collection of articles looks at the role ethnicity plays in the democratic process across Africa. Three chapters focus specifically on Kenya, where ethnicity or “tribalism” is a common feature in public and political life, determining the outcome of electoral and democratic activities.
Kaiser, Paul, and F. Wafula Okumu, eds. Democratic Transitions in East Africa. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.
This work examines the challenges facing democracies in East Africa. It includes the consequences of issues like the Rwandan genocide, violent civil wars, and other factors in the quest for democracy. The book focuses on the challenges to the emergence of the democratic political systems in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Mutua, Makau, ed. Human Rights NGOs in East Africa: Political and Normative Tensions. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009.
Considers the role of civil society particularly in the protection of human rights, including the rights of marginalized communities. It examines the not so rosy relationship between the state and civil society organizations, and how this informs the success or indeed failure of such groups in their battle against human rights abuses.
Mwakikagile, Godfrey. Kenya: Identity of a Nation. Pretoria, South Africa: New Africa, 2007.
Examines Kenya as nation-state struggling to create a national character and identity. It looks at the role of ethnicity and diversity in the political process, arguing that this can be source of both unity and conflict. It looks at the Mau Mau, independence, political developments, and the country’s cultures.
Salih, Mohamed, and John Markakis, eds. Ethnicity and the State in Eastern Africa. Uppsala, Sweden: Nordic Africa Institute, 1998.
Examines the potency of ethnicity as a tool for political mobilization, focusing on the relationship between state and ethnicity. It looks at how economic, social, cultural, and religious factors contribute to the politicization of ethnicity and the volatility of its relationship with the state.
Thomson, Alex. An Introduction to African Politics. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2000.
Although this work deals with the politics of Africa more widely, including its struggle and decolonization, it has a case study of Kenya. This focuses on Kenya’s historical inheritance, examining the colonial period and what the country inherited, including the political system and constitution, from the departing British colonial government.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Brazilian Political Development
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Development of Survey Research
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- East Africa, Politics of
- Economic Voting
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hume’s Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and International Relations
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Plato's Political Thought
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Public Opinion in Advanced Industrial Democracies
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau's Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- Transitional Justice
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Presidency, The
- Voter Turnout
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- Worker Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics