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The Politics of Control in Kenya: Understanding the Bureaucratic-Executive State, 1952–78

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Colonial rule in Kenya witnessed the emergence of a profoundly unbalanced institutional landscape. With all capacity resided in a strong prefectural provincial administration, political parties remained underdeveloped. The co-option of sympathetic African elites during the colonial twilight into the bureaucracy, the legislature and the private property-based economy meant that the allies of colonialism and representatives of transnational capital were able to reap the benefits of independence. In the late colonial period these elites not only attained the means of production, they also assumed the political and institutional capacity to reproduce their dominance. The post-colonial state must therefore be seen as a representation of the interests protected and promoted during the latter years of colonial rule. Under Jomo Kenyatta, the post-colonial state represented a ‘pact-of-domination’ between transnational capital, the elite and the executive. The ability of this coalition to reproduce itself over time lay in its capacity to demobilise popular forces, especially those elements of the nationalist movement that questioned both the social and economic cleavages of the post-colonial state. Whilst Kenya may have experienced changes to both the executive and legislature, the structure of the state itself has demonstrated remarkable continuity.
ROAPE Publications Ltd.
The Politics of Control in Kenya: Understanding the Bureaucratic-Executive State, 1952-78
Author(s): Daniel Branch and Nicholas Cheeseman
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Review of African Political Economy,
Vol. 33, No. 107, State, Class & Civil Society in
Africa (Mar., 2006), pp. 11-31
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Review of African Political Economy
No.107:11-31
? ROAPE Publications Ltd., 2006
The Politics of Control in Kenya:
Understanding the Bureaucratic-
executive State, 1952-78
Daniel
Branch
& Nicholas
Cheeseman
Colonial rule in Kenya witnessed the emergence of a profoundly unbalanced
institutional landscape. With all capacity resided in a strong prefectural
provincial administration, political parties remained underdeveloped. The co-
option of sympathetic African elites during the colonial twilight into the
bureaucracy, the legislature and the private property-based economy meant
that the allies of colonialism and representatives of transnational capital were
able to reap the benefits of independence. In the late colonial period these
elites not only attained the means of production, they also assumed the
political and institutional capacity to reproduce their dominance. The post-
colonial state must therefore be seen as a representation of the interests
protected and promoted during the latter years of colonial rule. Under Jomo
Kenyatta, the post-colonial state represented a 'pact-of-domination' between
transnational capital, the elite and the executive. The ability of this coalition
to reproduce itself over time lay in its capacity to demobilise popular forces,
especially those elements of the nationalist movement that questioned both
the social and economic cleavages of the post-colonial state. Whilst Kenya
may have experienced changes to both the executive and legislature, the
structure of the state itself has demonstrated remarkable continuity.
In December 2002, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) swept to power
promising 'comprehensive political and economic changes in Kenya.' These
reforms included the rapid 'completion of the current constitutional review process'
(NARC, 2002:vii), which was finally completed in March 2004 after much infighting
amongst the coalition. It was not until July 2005 that the draft of the new constitution
was finally presented to parliament for debate and amendment. The draft that
parliament ultimately put forward for public approval by referendum was very
different to that agreed at the National Constitutional Conference. Most conten-
tiously, the redrafted constitution retained the powers of the president and central
government (Kenya, 2005). As Raila Odinga, an opponent of the redrafted
constitution, argued, 'The power of the President has not been devolved. Instead,
power has been concentrated on the President' ('Too Much Control Vested in the
President', Daily Nation, 12 October 2005). Controversially, the draft approved by
parliament substantially reduced the responsibilities of the proposed office of prime
minister, intended to act as a check on presidential power. Less attention was paid to
the proposed fate of the bureaucracy, despite the importance of the prefectural
provincial administration to Kenyan politics. While MPs acceded to the demise of
ISSN 0305-6244 Print/i1740-1720
Online/06/0100n1-21
DOI: 10.1080/030562406006711 83
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12 Review of African Political Economy
the provincial administration, they agreed that the body would be replaced by an
elected district administration that would remain answerable to central government
('Narc Wins Crucial Vote to Change Bomas Draft', Daily Nation, 22 July 2005).
Disagreement over the draft constitution split the already fractious NARC coalition.
Ahead of the referendum held in November 2005, cabinet members openly
campaigned against one another. Ultimately, the 'no' campaign emerged victorious,
with 58 per cent of those voting rejecting the new constitution.
With the defeat of the proposed constitution, Kenya's existing 'top-heavy'
constitution remains in place. The alliance between the bureaucracy and the
executive, which has dominated governance for the past century, has survived the
most recent assault upon its privileged position. The longevity of this alliance
cannot be explained solely by a sequence of historical events. Instead, a deeper
structural and theoretical approach is necessary. This paper represents an attempt
to carry out this project by locating the Kenyan post-colonial state in the universe of
authoritarian regimes and by delineating its distinctive qualities. In so doing, we
borrow heavily from the literature on bureaucratic-authoritarianism
to develop an
understanding of how the post-colonial state was shaped by processes of class
formation and institutional development during the colonial era. We argue that the
Kenyan post-colonial state represents a particularly strong combination of adminis-
trative and executive power underpinned by an alliance of elites. In the immediate
post-colonial period the legitimacy of the executive and the coercive capacity of the
administration resulted in the consolidation of a highly resilient 'bureaucratic-
executive' state. This bureaucratic-executive state, we suggest, should be seen as an
outlier among sub-Saharan African states because of its strength in both urban and
rural areas. In making this argument we are challenging the claim, explicitly stated
by Zolberg and often implicitly assumed elsewhere, that African states can control
the 'centre' but not the 'periphery' (Zolberg, 1966 & 1968; Chabal & Daloz, 1999;
Jackson & Rosberg, 1982).
In developing an understanding of the bureaucratic-executive state it is imperative
to escape the intellectual confines inherent in the adoption of the temporal categories
of 'colonial' and 'post-colonial' (for an example of this approach see Cooper, 2002).
Avoiding this constraint provides a necessary corrective to the tendency of some
studies of post-colonial states to 'oddly privilege colonialism' by describing the
irrationality and disorder of post-colonial states without a comparable examination
of the colonial period. Such an approach, Ranger argues, tarnishes the post-colonial
state through 'an unintended implied contrast with a period of relative stability and
competence' (Ranger, 1996:273). Of course, we must also beware of any re-
evaluation of the state in Africa that simply projects notions of post-colonial
instability back into the colonial era. Chaos is fast becoming the normative state of
African politics. We do not believe asking 'Why has Kenya not experienced a full-
blown civil war?' (Kimenyi & Ndung'u, 2005) is a particularly useful analytical
approach. In contrast to the prevailing and generalised focus upon disorder and
criminality (Bayart, 1993; Bayart, Ellis & Hibou, 1999; Chabal & Daloz, 1993), this
paper is a study of order within a particular African state, or at least the political
aspiration for order.
We understand order to be 'the recognition of patterned regularity in social and
political life' (Lieberman, 2002:698), and to be an aspiration of governments during
the period in question rather than a description of the lived experience of the various
regimes. In 1966 Daniel arap Moi attempted to excuse the political biases of
Kenyatta's regime by claiming that 'even if it's a political Government, it is an
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The Politics of Control in Kenya, 1952-78 13
orderly Government, it is not a Government of disorder' (quoted in Gertzel,
Goldschmidt & Rothchild, 1969:126). This desire for order encapsulated an
intolerance of dissent, the maintenance of profound social inequality and a
determination to maintain control for its own sake (Throup & Hornsby, 1998:42-47).
Whether or not order actually characterised the political system is another question,
as the periodic but carefully targeted recourse to the tool of political assassination
suggests. However, while the Kenyatta regime made increasing use of nepotism and
the extra-legal powers of the provincial administration (Gathaara, 1982), only after
1978 did the Kenyan political system begin to resemble the informalised models
outlined in recent scholarship (Chabal & Daloz, 1999:1).
In understanding post-colonial continuities in the Kenyan case it is important to
recognise that states can be Janus-faced - chaotic and ordered at the same time. As
Berman has written, 'The most striking characteristic of the colonial state was the
ambiguous, indeed, contradictory character of its structures and processes'
(Berman, 1992:141). For Cooper, in modification to Foucault's capillaries where
power is endlessly diffused, colonial power was arterial:disseminated in irregular
spurts. In most colonies, the state's influence was most keenly felt close to
ideological and spatial centres of colonial governance (Cooper, 1994:1533). The
colonial state could thus be simultaneously powerful and weak. Similarly, Chabal
and Daloz have argued that the post-colonial state is 'both strong and powerless,
overdeveloped in size and underdeveloped in functional terms' (Chabal & Daloz,
1999:9). The extent to which post-colonial states can be therefore said to be
substantially different from their colonial predecessors, either by being 'Africanised'
or in their capture by society, appears questionable.
We follow Lonsdale and Berman in understanding the state as 'the historically
conditioned set of institutions in any class society which, more or less adequately,
secures the social conditions for the reproduction of the dominant mode of
production, in this case capitalism' (Lonsdale and Berman, 1979:489). Here our
focus is two specific institutions, namely the bureaucracy and the executive. Whilst
we recognise that the formal institutions of government constitute but one actor in
the theatre of politics, institutions are particularly useful for our purposes, because
they lend themselves well to attempts to theorise the development of the state over
time. This is neither the first attempt to develop such an understanding nor the first
recognition of the importance of colonial institutions to post-colonial developments
in Kenya and beyond (Firmin-Sellers, 2000; Gertzel, 1970:1-31; Mamdani, 1996;
Mueller, 1984). However, this paper breaks new ground by developing a theoretical
understanding of the Kenyan post-colonial state that supports a more direct
comparison between the Kenyan state and other examples of authoritarian rule.
Although beyond the scope of this paper, we do not dismiss the ability of Kenyans to
manipulate, subvert or simply ignore the state and its institutions. Recent historical,
anthropological and empirical-based political analyses have extensively detailed
the practice by Africans of 'agency in tight corners' (Lonsdale, 2000). Yet there is a
need to periodically reconsider just how tight those corners were. Our intention is to
explain the enclosure and asphyxiation of formal political space so as to defeat
challenges to an elitist political and economic settlement. It is this process which
forced opponents of colonial and post-colonial Kenyan regimes to seek the
imaginative and alternative vehicles to express their discontent that have been
discussed elsewhere. The Mau Mau insurgency of the 1950s is perhaps the most
extreme demonstration of this phenomenon, but informal and less publicised
methods of political protest are equally valid examples (Haugerud, 1995).
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14 Review of African Political Economy
The Post-colonial State
Scholars' awareness of the post-colonial continuities in the structure of the political-
economies of African states first emerged with the dependency theorists of the 1960s
(see for the Kenyan example see Leys, 1975). Subsequent studies have been less
willing to adopt the vocabulary of neo-colonialism, preferring instead to identify
post-colonial discontinuities (Young, 1994:9-10).
Nevertheless the case for viewing
contemporary African politics in the longue duree remains compelling. We remain
unconvinced that 'From whatever point examined, what we are witnessing in Africa
is clearly the establishment of a different political economy and the invention of new
systems of coercion and exploitation' (Mbembe, 2001:93). Kenya presents an
example of the manner in which the capacity and knowledge structures of
government developed during colonial rule continue to shape the post-colonial
state. As Mbembe concedes, 'post-colonial African regimes have not invented what
they know of government from scratch' (Mbembe, 2001:24).
Theorising the development of the Kenyan state demands a comparative approach
to conceptualising patterns of state formation in Africa. Following Allen, we argue
that Kenya belongs to a category of 'centralised-bureaucratic'
regimes along with, at
different times, countries such as Tanzania, Zambia and Senegal. Such regimes are
marked by the retention of clientelism, the centralisation of power in an executive,
the displacement of the party by a bureaucracy answerable to the head of state, and
the downgrading of representative institutions (Allen, 1995:305-306).
Within this
overarching classification there is sufficient space, and indeed the necessity, for
nuanced exploration of the specificities of the Kenyan case and consideration of
variations within the 'centralised-bureaucratic'
model. This we do here by drawing
upon and modifying the Latin American model of 'bureaucratic-authoritarianism'
which we discuss below.
Berman has already described the colonial state in Africa as 'one of the most striking
examples of bureaucratic authoritarianism' (Berman, 1992:144). It is true that the
post-colonial Kenyan state shares many features with the 'bureaucratic-authoritar-
ian' states of Latin America. However, the Kenyan case, in common with many
African states, differs from the Latin American model in several distinctive ways:the
emergence of the state out of a nationalist movement that became institutionalised in
a dominant political party; the position of the executive as a key source of legitimacy
for the regime; and the extent to which issues of ethnicity and nationalism
complicated issues of class. While not unique, these features have had two profound
consequences for Kenya. First, the ruling elite was forced to confront the widespread
popular understanding of nationalism as a movement for self-determination.
Second, to borrow from Weber, the strength and legitimacy of the executive and the
capacity of the provincial administration meant that the Kenyan post-colonial state
was bolstered by semblances of both 'rational-legal' and 'charismatic' authority
(Weber, 1965). This proved to be a powerful combination and has underpinned the
stability and longevity of the Kenyan state. The profound tension between the
rhetoric of nationalism and the reality of social and economic domination were
common to many post-colonial societies. The distinctive features of the Kenyan state
lie in its ability to demobilise these forces through the primacy and strength of the
executive and the provincial administration. For this reason we argue that the
Kenyan state is best thought of as a type of 'bureaucratic-executive' state that
represents an important sub-set in the spectrum of 'centralised-bureaucratic'
states.
What renders the 'bureaucratic-executive' state distinctive is the highly developed
capacity of the provincial administration which works to 'facilitate political control
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The
Politics of Control in Kenya, 1952-78 15
in the countryside as well as in the cities' (Mueller, 1984:400).
As a result, and in
contrast to much of the African experience, the picture of limited African
governments that have no authority in the 'periphery' is misleading in the Kenyan
context (Mueller, 1984:427).
By reshaping the 'bureaucratic-authoritarian'
model, we argue that understanding
the nature of the Kenyan 'bureaucratic-executive' state requires a careful analysis of
the process of institution building and class formation under colonial rule. During
this period, Kenya witnessed the emergence of a profoundly unbalanced institu-
tional landscape in which coercive capacity resided with a strong provincial
administration and political parties remained underdeveloped. In the process of
decolonisation, members of African elites were recruited to man the provincial
administration, won seats in the legislature and emerged as large farmers and
traders. Together with representatives of transnational capital, it was this group that
maintained political and economic control and who were amongst the chief
beneficiaries of independence. These elites not only attained control of the
commanding heights of the Kenyan economy, they also assumed, through their
dominance in the legislature and the bureaucracy, the capacity to reproduce that
position. The post-colonial state must therefore be conceptualised as a representa-
tion of the interests promoted during the latter years of colonial rule. In the Kenyan
case, the post-colonial state represented a 'pact-of-domination' (Cardoso, 1979:55)
between transnational capital, the Kenyan elite, the provincial administration and
the executive (here understood to be the colonial governor, the post-colonial
president and their closest advisors, formal or otherwise). The ability of this
coalition to reproduce itself over time lay in its capacity to demobilise popular forces,
especially those 'radical' elements of the nationalist movement that questioned both
the social and economic divisions of the post-colonial state. Whilst Kenya may have
experienced changes in the executive and the political landscape, the basic structure
of the state itself has demonstrated remarkable continuity.
Conceptualising the Bureaucratic-executive State
The significance of the provincial administration in Kenyan political life and the
closing off of political space suggests parallels to the bureaucratic-authoritarian
systems in a range of Latin American countries, including Brazil in the late 1960s,
Argentina post-1976, and Chile and Uruguay after 1973 (Collier, 1979; O'Donnell,
1973). Bureaucratic-authoritarianism is characterised by rule by a technocratic elite,
the demobilisation and exclusion of the 'popular sector' (any mass association of
lower income groups) and the undermining of democracy. The bureaucratic-
authoritarian model reflects many of the characteristics of one-party states in Africa.
For example, Cardoso writes that 'bureaucratic-authoritarian
regimes organise the
relations of power in favour of the executive.' He continues, 'the strengthening of the
executive involves increased centralisation that undermines the federal tradition,
where it existed before. It also involves the elimination or sharp reduction in the role
of the legislature. Moreover, the judiciary is controlled in practice, if not in theory, by
the Executive' (Cardoso, 1979:41). As in the bureaucratic-authoritarian
model, in
order to protect their own position the Kenyan ruling elite was forced to demobilise
popular forces through absorption. As Cardoso has argued, the 'links between civil
society and the bureaucratic-authoritarian regime are achieved through the
cooptation of individuals and private interests into the system' (Cardoso, 1979:37).
In Kenya, the need to co-opt popular forces was particularly acute, as the nationalist
movement had effected mass popular mobilisation. Consequently, the post-colonial
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16 Review of African
Political Economy
executive was forced to demobilise its own support base in order to be able to
reproduce the power relations inherited from the colonial period.
Despite many shared characteristics, the Kenyan state differs from the Latin
American model in three ways. First, Kenyan authoritarian
rule was not the product
of an alliance between the military and the bureaucratic elite, despite the
appointment of Kenyatta's allies as commanders of the various branches of the
police and general service unit (Tamarkin, 1978:301).
Instead, the roots of Kenyan
authoritarianism were to be found indirectly in the democratic election of a highly
popular executive in 1963. Second, and consequently, whilst bureaucratic-
authoritarianism is seen as rule by an institution (the military), the personal position
of Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's first president, was crucial to the development of the
Kenyan political system. Finally, in the Kenyan case the very foundation of the
state's existence was fundamentally different. Latin American bureaucratic-
authoritarianism came into being because of the perceived need, on behalf of the
military, to 'reorganize the nation in accordance with the 'national security'
ideology of modern military doctrine' (Cardoso, 1979:36) and to 'ensure the
restoration of 'order' in society by means of the political deactivation of the popular
sector' (O'Donnell, 1979:292). In other words, the bureaucratic-authoritarian
state
results from the takeover of power by highly selective and coercive interests at the
expense of popular forces. This ensures that 'by the nature of its founding, this state
entails an anticipated rejection of the basis for its own legitimation' with the
consequence that it is almost 'impossible for bureaucratic-authoritarianism to
legitimate itself' (O'Donnell, 1979:286).
In contrast, Kenyan authoritarianism never abandoned popular forces entirely. As
elsewhere in Africa and Asia, the Kenyan post-colonial state grew out of a
nationalist coalition that embodied majority claims to self-determination:it
grew out
of the victory, not the defeat, of popular forces. The state therefore emerged into the
dawn of the post-colonial period with greater legitimacy and popular support than
a typical bureaucratic-authoritarian regime. All states experience a 'tension between
the underlying reality of the state as guarantor and organiser of social domination,
on the one hand, and as agent of a general interest which, though particularised and
limited, is not fictitious, on the other' (Cardoso, 1979:28).
However, this tension was
particularly acute in post-colonial Kenya, and in comparable African states, because
independence was supposedly the raison d'etre of the regime. At the same time, due to
the popular legitimacy many prominent members of the new political elite derived
from their role in achieving independence, the Kenyan state, and particularly the
executive, had far greater non-coercive resources with which to overcome the
dialectics of its role. Leaders including Kenyatta, Paul Ngei, Bildad Kaggia and Peter
Kigondu had experienced detention under colonial rule. Those that did not, such as
Tom Mboya and Oginga Odinga, played critical roles in the constitutional
negotiations leading to independence. The mantle of national heroes impelled
members of the post-colonial regime to maintain avenues of political participation in
order to retain legitimacy, but also made it easier for them to do so in a manner suited
to their own particular interests. The danger of permitting a degree of political
activity further decreased once the dominant elite had been solidified into the defacto
one-party state at the end of 1964 by the Kenya African Democratic Union's (KADU)
absorption into the ruling Kenya African National Union (KANU). Elections for
constituency members of parliament (MP) from a selection of candidates standing
on the KANU platform could then be maintained in the knowledge that such
competition did not threaten the dominance of Kenyatta and KANU, or the direction
of public policy.
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The Politics of Control
in Kenya, 1952-78 17
These greater avenues of political participation set Kenya aside from many
bureaucratic-authoritarian
states, with the possible exceptions of the Mexican 'civil-
authoritarian' state under the Partido Revolucionario
Institucional (Institutional
Revolutionary Party; see Stevens, 1977; Cotler, 1979:270-272) and the Peruvian
'experiment' of 1968-80 (Lowenthal & McClintock, 1983). Whilst much has been
written about bureaucratic-authoritarian states, significantly less attention has
focussed on variants such as civil-authoritarianism. All too often such cases are
assimilated under the broad 'bureaucratic-authoritarian' label, which strips the
variants of their distinctive feature and the term of much of its accuracy (Cardoso,
1979:39-40). As a result, 'although the bureaucratic-authoritarian
model explains
why leaders may seek not to mobilise a populace but to engender apathy', we must
look to the specific characteristics of the Kenyan case for an 'understanding of the
institutions and practices favoured' (Widner, 1992:21). Carrying out such a task
requires an analysis of the forces that underpinned the creation of the post-
transition state. This has already been done in the case of bureaucratic-authoritarian
regimes, where O'Donnell has argued that the nature of the resulting state is related
to the fact that it is a phenomenon triggered by processes of industrialisation. The
structure of bureaucratic-authoritarianism
is therefore seen as being closely related
to a specific process of economic development. While economic change and class
formation was equally important to the emergence of the bureaucratic-executive
state, these developments need to be understood in the distinctive cultural,
ideological and institutional context of the colonial period.
The Kenyan 'pact-of-domination' was the result of processes intrinsic to the demise
of colonial rule. Of particular importance was the creation of a cleavage between
Mau Mau supporters and their former opponents, the loyalists. Membership or
support of the latter group bound the interests of the executive, the bureaucratic elite
(top civil servants, government advisors and the heads of parastatals) and the
provincial administration (provincial and district commissioners and their junior
officers). Importantly, this elite did not just share the common interests implied by
their dominant socio-economic position. Through their control of the provincial
administration and the government the elite had the capacity to reproduce their
dominance. The supremacy of the provincial administration and the weakness of
KANU supported the expansion of the former and the atrophy of the latter. In the
absence of dissenting political organisations, the distinctive feature of the
bureaucratic-executive state is the effective control of political space by an alliance of
the executive and provincial administration. The executive enhanced its position by
establishing patron-client relationships with strong local politicians who delivered
the support of their ethnically mobilised constituents and clients. This system,
which maintained regular elections to create local avenues of accountability,
enabled the executive to demobilise opposition forces whilst maintaining a veneer of
legitimacy.
Founding the Kenyan Bureaucratic-executive State
The political struggles that developed in Kenya were not simply the product of a
well-disguised class struggle. As elsewhere, issues of class formation were
intertwined with expressions of ethnicity and disputes over who could claim to be
heir to the nationalist struggle (Bayart, 1993:58-9;
Atieno Odhiambo, 2003). At the
centre of the complex relationship between class, ethnicity and nationalism lay the
legacy of the Mau Mau rebellion and, consequently, the lasting influence of the
colonial government's attempts to create a loyal middle-class as part of the counter-
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18 Review of African Political Economy
insurgency effort. In its attempts to resolve the conflict and in its later preparations
for departure, the colonial government passed control of the state to a multi-racial
alliance of elites. The manner by which the state reproduced itself during this
process subsequently proved to be the keystone of the bureaucratic-executive state.
This capacity for reproduction was related to the strength of the prefectural
provincial administration, first established in 1900. By independence in 1963, the
provincial administration had grown significantly. The demands of two world
wars, post-war development policies efforts that ironically initially threatened the
influence of administrative officials, the suppression of African political activity
and the counter-insurgency campaign of the 1950s all aided its growth in size and
influence. The most significant period of expansion occurred in the final decade of
colonial rule, in large part because of the role played by the provincial administra-
tion in the war against Mau Mau. Between 1951 and 1962 the number of
administrative officer posts increased from 184 to 370, greatly enhancing the scope
and societal penetration of the provincial administration (Berman, 1990:73-114,
199-218, 347-71).
Under colonial rule, ultimate authority resided with the secretary of state for the
colonies in Westminster, but effective power resided with the governor. The
governor, as executive, initially ruled in the absence of a strong legislature. As the
colonial period progressed, the executive retained much of its power in spite of the
emergence of an independent legislative council. The executive was empowered by
its control, via the chief native commissioner, of the provincial administration. This
enabled the executive to bypass the legislature when necessary. As a result of their
role as the instrument of executive agency, the provincial administration quickly
developed an extensive portfolio of responsibilities. As Gertzel has summarised
'before independence it could be said that the Provincial Administration had power,
authority and influence. They also had three major functions:control, co-ordination
and mobilisation of the public for development' (Gertzel, 1970:26). From the late
1950s onwards, the provincial administration was entrusted with responsibility for
the running of African Courts, the collection of local taxes and the regulation of
elections. As the Chief Secretary wrote in 1960, the provincial administration
oversaw 'the general working of the machinery of Government' (quoted in Gertzel,
Goldschmidt & Rothchild, 1969:368). Within this range of duties, the most
significant was the role of the provincial administration as the primary body
charged with maintaining law and order (Kenya, 1954: para. 6).
The provincial administration's theoretical role as the conduit for local grievances
was rendered all the more significant because of the paucity of other avenues for
African representation. Africans were not appointed to the legislative council until
1944 and African elected political representatives did not achieve a majority in the
legislature until 1961. Whilst some form of African representation was possible
earlier via the system of local advisory boards established from 1924, 'the Provincial
Commissioners and District Commissioners suppressed the native authorities with
self-confident paternalism' (Hughes, 1963:26). However, the political role of the
provincial administration was not a simple one, as the circle of interests of the
metropole, settlers and African subjects could never be squared (Berman &
Lonsdale, 1992:77-100; Hyden, 1984:104). As elsewhere (Berman, 1992:152), the
colonial provincial administration was critical to the restriction of African political
organisations by preventing the raising of funds, refusing permission for public
meetings and suppressing protests (Kenya National Archive (KNA) PC/CP.8/5/3,
'Kikuyu Central Association'; KNA DC/MUR/3/1/10, 'Kenya African Union';
Throup, 1988:139-70). Throughout the 1950s it was the provincial administration
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The Politics of Control in Kenya, 1952-78 19
which stood at the forefront of the counter-insurgency effort in Central Province
(Berman, 1990:347-76).
Besides implementing the villagisation policy and controlling the process of
interrogation and detention of Mau Mau suspects, during the Emergency the
provincial administration oversaw the promotion of loyalist political and economic
interests. With accelerated class formation deployed as a counter-insurgency tactic
(Heyer, 1981:102; Sorrenson, 1967:118), rewards granted to loyalists included the
introduction of private land titles that guaranteed security of tenure, access to
expanding cash crop production, and preferential access to the labour market
(Branch, 2005:162-73; Sorrenson, 1967). The government intended to break the
alliance of middle and lower peasantry of Central Province that sustained the Mau
Mau movement, whilst providing the foundation for local loyalist domination
(Berman, 1990:371; Ng'ang'a, 1977:365-84; Okoth-Ogendo, 1976:163; Sorrenson,
1967:118, 166-7). This pattern continued up to independence (Berman, 1990:371;
Ng'ang'a, 1977:365-84; Okoth-Ogendo, 1976:163; Sorrenson, 1967:118, 166-7). The
outgoing regime intended to use resettlement programmes such as the Million Acre
Scheme to 'lance the boil of land seizures and growing lawlessness' (Bienen,
1974:164). Whilst the government wanted to make political capital by resettling poor
and landless Africans on former settler property, the Scheme also aimed at
strengthening the growing strata of middle-sized farmers and allowing the
government to 'reward its own powerful supporters' (Bienen, 1974:165). Although
the motivations and outcomes of late colonial land policy have proved contentious,
it is clear that the period was critical in the development of a privileged land owning
elite sympathetic to British interests (for a range of views on land policy see Bienen,
1974; Coldham, 1978; Cowen, 1982; Harbeson, 1971; Heyer, 1981; Leys, 1975;
Sorrensen, 1967).
The gains derived by the African elite from agricultural and land reforms meant little
without the protection provided by control of the main institutions of the state.
Consequently, formal political power was progressively transferred to this same
group during the final years of colonial rule. There were three main features of the
attempt to promote 'loyal' African leaders:bias
in their favour during elections to the
legislative council in 1957 and 1958, preferential treatment in the course of the
Africanisation of the provincial administration and the unequal distribution of new
economic opportunities. The colonial government manipulated the electoral system
to enhance the likelihood of a strong loyalist and conservative presence in political
structures with the intention of accelerating class formation in a manner conducive
to British interests. To do this, in 1957 and 1958 the regime enforced a loyalty test in
areas that had been directly affected by the Emergency, which effectively excluded
the more radical elements of the political community. As a result, in 1957 only 7.4 per
cent of the adult population of Central Province were registered to vote (Engholm,
1960:421). Their votes were further diluted by the electoral boundaries that
penalised the centres of the Mau Mau rebellion. The restrictive criteria for voter
registration ensured that the qualitative franchise became, alongside land consoli-
dation, a means through which the colonial regime attempted to consolidate the
position of a conservative political elite across the colony (Anderson, 2005:550;
Branch, 2005:194-214; Engholm, 1960:391-461).
Despite the termination of the loyalist monopoly on the franchise, elite African
politicians retained their dominant position following the polls in 1961 (for an
account of this election see Bennett & Rosberg, 1961). Electoral boundaries now
favoured the pastoral communities of the Rift Valley, and thus the candidates of the
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20 Review of African Political Economy
KADU over those of KANU (Bennett & Rosberg, 1961 :47-9). The provincial
administration further buttressed KADU by its attempts to ban KANU candidates
and leaders from addressing public meetings in Central Province, on the basis that
most KANU 'office bearers are ex-detainees and rather a dangerous lot' (KNA VP/
9/102, PC Central, 'Handing Over Notes', 8 September 1960:2). In reality, KANU in
Central Province was a broad church and contained both loyalists and Mau Mau.
First elected in 1957 and 1958 and subsequently re-elected in 1961 and 1963 as a
consequence of their conciliatory rhetoric and modernist credentials, the legitimacy
of loyalists such as Julius Kiano and Jeremiah Nyagah was further safeguarded by
their participation in the negotiations that resulted in Kenyatta's release and
independence. The loyalist background of this first generation of elected African
leaders was considered less significant than their perceived ability to deliver
economic development and political independence.
In order to understand the post-colonial alliance between the legislature, the
Executive, and the Administration, it is important to appreciate the process through
which elites with similar economic interests came to capture all three institutions.
Like the legislature, the provincial administration underwent a significant transfor-
mation during the course of the 1950s and early 1960s. The lower ranks had been
opened to Africans for the first time in 1947,
but they were unable to progress further
than the rank of assistant administrative officer. With the onset of the Emergency, the
twin necessity to reward loyalists and to cope with extra security demands
reinvigorated the growth of African representation within the institution (Branch,
2005:214-27).
The new recruits rose through the ranks at great speed and, by early
1965, the entire provincial administration had been Africanised (Gertzel, 1970:36).
The context of the Mau Mau war meant recruits from Central Province were
disproportionately represented amongst the new cohort. Loyalist appointees were
well connected to local elites, highly educated and with prior experience of public
service as chiefs or in the lower ranks of the provincial administration (Branch,
2005:222-3).
Recruits from elsewhere had a similar background. Andrew Mnyolmo,
for example, had been a clerk in native authority courts, a district assistant in the Rift
Valley, a member of the Pokot Law Panel and acted as a magistrate in Baringo prior
to his appointment (KNA VP/1/102, 'Confidential Personal Report - A.M.
Mnyolmo', 23 July 1964). With independence approaching, African elites were
finding their way into positions of authority. For those from Central Province,
recruitment offered them protection against the ultimately unrealised threat of ex-
detainees and made the loyalist recruits essential to the everyday functioning of the
state. Collectively, Africanisation of the legislature and the provincial administra-
tion established the domination of the state by specific class interests which would
come to dominate the post-colonial bureaucratic-executive state.
The new recruits carefully protected the functions of the provincial administration
as British rule entered its final months, despite concern amongst the outgoing
European administrators in Central Province with the institution's inbuilt political
biases. It was suggested by some departing officials that the entire provincial
administration should be converted into a more accountable model of local
government in order to discard the trappings of imperialism (KNA VP/i/111, DC
Kiambu to PC Central, 25 February 1963). Of particular importance was the future of
the tribal police (later known as the administration police), the provincial
administration's own police force, a central actor in the anti-Mau Mau campaign.
The most vocal advocate of retaining the tribal police was John Michuki, the newly
appointed district commissioner in Nyeri. Eulogising the Tribal Police's 'unofficial,
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The
Politics of Control in Kenya, 1952-78 21
liberal outlook', Michuki rejected 'any suggestions that would amount to total
annihilation of the Tribal Police Force' (KNA VP/1/111, DC Nyeri to PC Central, 7
March 1963). The new generation of Kenya's governors became convinced of the
virtues of a force accountable only to the provincial administration that could
straddle hazy legal and political boundaries. Indeed, throughout this period the
provincial administration and the rest of the civil service came to be highly valued by
the emergent African elite due to its capacity to deliver order and stability (Mboya,
1993:162).
On the eve of independence, Oginga Odinga, as minister for home affairs,
prevented the disbandment of the Tribal Police or its removal from the auspices of
central government (KNA WC/CM/1/13, Minister for Home Affairs, 'Future of the
Tribal Police', 21 November 1963). Odinga further retained central government
control over the appointment of chiefs (KNA WC/CM/l/13, Minister for Home
Affairs, 'Future of Chiefs and Sub-Chiefs', 21 November 1963). Both policies
contravened the independence constitution by maintaining a parallel police force
and contesting the sole responsibility of the Public Service Commission for the
appointment of public servants (Kenya, 1963:111, 135). Consequently, coercive
capacity was not decentralised and responsibility for maintaining order remained
with the Administration.
The process of decolonisation grafted an African political and administrative elite
onto existing European and Asian economic elites. As both African and European
elites stood to lose from a shift to a more radical redistributive state, both were
concerned to see that the fundamental structures of the economy remained intact
throughout the decolonisation process. Despite some tensions, the African elite
recognised the advantages of maintaining good relations with Britain and the
expansion of foreign investment. The post-colonial executive therefore resisted
confiscation of European land and Africanisation of business interests, instead
favouring economic continuity. Although there was an influx of African employees
into companies during the 1960s, expatriate managers remained in place (Bienen,
1974:142). While many did leave, European settlers were free to remain on their land.
Relations with Asian capital were more troubled. However, despite the opposition
of several MPs, the government protected the position of Asian capital through its
continued commitment to the Kenyanisation, rather than Africanisation, of the
economy. In reality, allowing preferential access to economic opportunities to all
citizens regardless of race had little immediate effect. In 1967, just 10,000 of the
37,000 Asian middle and higher managers were citizens. By 1970, less than 40 per
cent of the Asian population as a whole were thought to hold Kenyan citizenship
(Ghai, 1970:126).
The ability of the multi-racial 'pact-of-domination' to protect its interests depended
on the capacities of the political institutions under its control. The powers of those
institutions taken over by the newly promoted loyal African elite were therefore
extended at the direct expense of more independent institutions, most notably
KANU. The difficulty of transforming congress-style anti-colonial movements into
the foundations of post-colonial governance was common to many African states
(Williams, 2003). In Kenya, however, little effort was went into addressing the
fragmented nature of the ruling party. Partly a reflection of the fact that Kenyatta
'was not a party man' (Okumu, 1984:50),
this condition was also a product of long
historical trends. Even prior to Mau Mau, the varied impact of colonialism according
to geographical and economic considerations had led to an uneven mobilisation of
African political communities, a phenomenon most apparent amongst the peoples
of Central and Nyanza Provinces. There, the greater direct impact of colonialism
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22 Review of African Political Economy
enhanced access to the colonial infrastructure and thus to superior economic
development, albeit unevenly distributed (Atieno Odhiambo, 1995; Bennett, 1957;
Ogot, 1995; Throup, 1988). The intra- and inter-ethnic competition that Luo and
Kikuyu political and economic development aroused helped to establish the
position of local leaders. Given this wider context, the restrictions placed on colony-
wide African political activity by the provincial administration only served to
institutionalise a system of ethnically based 'boss politics' (Gertzel, 1970:15).
The influence of these trends upon KANU was highly visible after 1963. Any
development of a national party structure was fatally undermined. Within KANU,
even such basic requirements as central party funds and a widely accepted
manifesto had not been developed (Good, 1968). Kenyatta had little incentive to
address such problems. The party, unlike the provincial administration, contained
significant radical elements that sought to call into question the policy of
continuity. It was, therefore, the provincial administration that shared specific
class interests with the executive and which represented the path of least resistance
to the extension of executive control. Significantly, the existing capacity of the
provincial administration enabled the executive to act without consulting the party
or the legislature, replicating the direct control of the colonial Governor. This
unchecked institutional capability, married to the popularity of many within the
African elite and the class alliance that bound together the 'pact-of-domination',
created a powerful system which was able to both maintain its dominance and its
legitimacy in the immediate post-colonial era.
The Post-colonial Bureaucratic-executive State in Operation
Recognising the strength of the bureaucratic-executive structure, Kenyatta chose to
retain its main components (Bienen, 1974:45; Gertzel, 1970:36;
Kyle, 1999:204). In
order to effect this smooth transition, the executive had to overcome the independ-
ence constitution that created a regional system of government with a regionally
elected upper house and regional assemblies intended to control independent
revenue streams. The immediate pre- and post-independence periods, therefore, saw
a battle over the centralisation of authority within the Kenyan state. Ironically,
considering his later role as one of the most prominent critics of the post-colonial
state, Oginga Odinga was the principal architect of this process. As minister of home
affairs, Odinga added to his protection of the Tribal Police and chiefs (see above) by
playing a critical role in the successful attempts to resist the decentralisation of the
provincial administration until KANU had an opportunity to introduce a new
constitution (Odinga, 1967:243). Within this process, the provincial administration
was entrusted by the executive with the task of scuppering any attempt at devolved
government (Anderson, 2005:557; Mboya, 1993:167).
KANU's desire for greater centralisation of the political system was institutional-
ised by the establishment of a republic in December 1964, which necessitated new
constitutional arrangements. These changes included the abolition of the short-
lived regional system of government and the creation of the post of president in place
of the prime minister (Ochieng', 1995:107).
Not only was the provincial administra-
tion once again placed under the direct control of the executive, but the positions of
provincial and district commissioners were reinstated with the Office of the
President given control of appointments. Equally significantly, the demise of
devolution saw control of land transfers, held briefly by regional authorities, revert
to the centre (Harbeson, 1971:241). The executive not only sought to replicate the
colonial system of rule, but to improve upon it. The continuity of the political system
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The Politics of Control in Kenya, 1952-78 23
ensured that the colonial and post-colonial provincial administrations shared
significant characteristics.
Both were local instruments of executive power (Gertzel,
1966:201; Gertzel, 1970:24, 36). Despite proclaiming neutrality and impartiality,
both were willing to become involved in an explicitly biased manner in local
political affairs on their own initiative or at the behest of central government, often to
the considerable frustration of the population (Gertzel, 1966:203, 205; Gertzel,
1970:23, 27, 39-30; Onalo, 2003:132-3;
Oyugi, 1994; Throup & Hornsby, 1998:3, 14).
We therefore dispute the assertion that there is insufficient evidence to support the
claim 'that the civil service in Kenya operates in a fashion similar to its colonial
predecessor - exercising, as a cohesive institution, wide powers over the rest of
society' (Hyden, 1984:104).
By the late 1960s, the provincial administration had amassed an impressive list of
responsibilities (see Office of the President, 'The Role of the Provincial Administra-
tion', May 1966, reproduced in Gertzel, Goldschmidt & Rothchild, 1969:365-7). It
assessed and collected graduated personal tax, remained the eyes and the ears of the
executive and from March 1965 assumed responsibility for the collection of local
authority taxes (Ministry of Local Government quoted in Gertzel, Goldschmidt &
Rothchild, 1969:428).
Moreover, Administrative officers chaired a great number of
local committees, including the Land Control Boards and those responsible for the
land settlement schemes. Most troubling for opponents of the regime was the
provincial administration's position as regulator of local political activity. Effective
power drained from local authorities to the provincial administration. The
surviving requirement for all political meetings, even those organised by MPs, to be
licensed by the district commissioner was particularly controversial. As J.M.
Shikuku argued in parliament in February 1966:
'the issue of licences was instituted by the imperialist
Government and that was because
they
were
afraid
of us.' Shikuku then asked
Moi, the ministerfor
Home
Affairs,
'Is this Government
now, which is an African majority Government,
also afraid of us?' (quoted in Gertzel,
Goldschmidt & Rothchild, 1969:126).
Gertzel writes that
by the middle
of 1968 the executive in independent
Kenya
enjoyed
the
position
very similar to
that of the executive
during the days of colonial rule. The President
occupied
a position very
much
akin to that of the Governor,
both in the scope of his powers
and in the manner in which
he could call upon the provincial administration to ensure Central Government control
(Gertzel,
1970:171).
KANU was unable to resist these developments, despite the efforts of many of its
members and a popular memory of the colonial origins of the provincial
administration and its role in the suppression of pre-independence nationalist
activities (Mboya, 1993:163). The relative insignificance of the legislature was
particularly difficult to accept. KANU MPs sought to exert greater influence over the
provincial administration, principally by insisting that civil servants were party
activists. Kenyatta resisted these demands and invoked the rhetoric of bureaucratic
neutrality to justify his stance (Gertzel, Goldschmidt & Rothchild, 1969:124). Yet
even those close to the centre of the political system recognised that the neutrality of
the civil service was little more than a facade (Mboya, 1993:164-5).
Despite KANU's incorporation of large numbers of dissenters, their attempts to
influence policy were frustrated
by the party's impotence and the personal loyalty of
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24 Review of African Political Economy
the bureaucracy and a majority of the legislature to Kenyatta. However, the ability of
the executive to restrict political space was constrained by popular expectations of
uhuru and the strength of local leaders. However, with the creation of a defacto one-
party state at the end of 1964 and the further atrophy of KANU, it became easier for
the executive to isolate and control more radical political factions within the ruling
party. Elections for constituency MPs were maintained, but the executive adapted
this necessary reality to its own needs by establishing a patron-client relationship
that co-opted significant political groupings. The increasing dependence of MPs on
executive patronage reduced the independent power of the legislature whilst
centralising political authority. Of crucial importance to the ability of the executive
to command loyalty and thus perform the delicate balancing act between
participation and control was the initial legitimacy afforded to Kenyatta as Baba
Taifa, father of the nation. Kenyatta's personal popularity and influence trumped
any configuration of rival leaders, however influential. As one dissident MP
recognised in 1966,
If Jomo Kenyatta was not leading KANU, and KPU started working under Kaggia and
Odinga, I dare say there would be an awful lot of people moving to it. But Kenyatta leads
KANU (quoted
in Gertzel,
Goldschmidt &
Rothchild,
1969:157).
The blending of a popular executive with an authoritarian structure of government
underpinned the stability of the Kenya post-colony, setting the bureaucratic-
executive state apart from its bureaucratic-authoritarian
counterpart. In turn, this
represents another similarity between Kenya and the civil-authoritarian regimes of
Latin America, described by Cardoso as 'a non-military and 'inclusionary' type of
regime that has achieved a greater capacity for endurance by giving social roots to an
authoritarian system' (Cardoso, 1979:36). In the provincial administration and
Kenyatta, the bureaucratic-executive state had both rational-legal and charismatic
authority to draw upon, making it a strong and durable pattern of government. As
with the civil-authoritarian regimes described by Cardoso, the bureaucratic-
executive state was therefore able to demobilise popular radical forces without
relying solely on direct physical coercion. Significantly, Kenyatta's authority to rule
overrode the failure of the bureaucracy to appear as an independent arbiter, a key
factor in the ability of the state to attain legitimacy (Berman, 1992:142).
The reach of
the provincial administration to the most distant rural areas allowed the executive to
monitor political developments and control the distribution of patronage down to
the local level (Lamb, 1974:27-53; Mueller, 1984:407). Although for historical
reasons the hold of the provincial administration is much weaker in certain areas
such as northern Kenya (Aukot, 2005), to date the administration has been strong in
those areas in which the authority of the regime has been most threatened.
Consequently, the degree of penetration of the provincial administration has
empowered the executive to contain peripheral unrest, a critical distinction from
other cases Allen (1995) categorises as 'centralised-bureaucratic'
regimes. Tanzania
and Zambia, for example, never developed such extensive or powerful administra-
tive networks (Hyden, 1984; Oyugi, 1994; Tordoff, 1967; Tordoff, 1980). Conse-
quently, the bureaucratic-executive state must be seen as one of sub-Saharan
Africa's more effective state structures.
While many African states may be characterised as 'empirically weak and
underdeveloped', such a description is misleading when applied to Kenya (Jackson
and Rosberg, 1982:12).
In this sense Kenya is an important outlier. While much of the
recent literature has focussed on the 'vacuous' and 'ineffectual' nature of the African
state (Chabal and Daloz, 1999:14), the Kenyan state apparatus was relatively
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The
Politics
of Control in Kenya,
1952-78 25
extensive and efficient, and gave incumbent regimes a 'monopoly of key coercive
sanctions and economic resources' (Mueller, 1984:399). This monopoly enabled the
elite to restrain those disgruntled with its conservative economic approach and
proactively promote an explicitly elitist ideology. The Kenyan elite felt able to
present a political platform tailored to their own vested interests as a set of policies
intended to benefit all. In so doing, they achieved a relatively high degree of
consensus by appearing 'as agents of a general interest of a community - the nation
- that transcends the reproduction of daily life in civil society' (O'Donnell,
1979:288). The manner by which the state was able to see off the challenge posed
between 1966 and 1969 by the Kenya People's Union (KPU) and its demands for
land and wealth redistribution, is a prime example of this process (Gertzel, 1970;
Mueller, 1984).
During the pre-independence constitutional negotiations, African political leaders
agreed to the British demand that European land be purchased by the Kenyan
government prior to any large-scale resettlement scheme, rather than repossessed
(Wasserman, 1976). These attitudes became entrenched within the modus
operandi of
the post-colonial state. The promotion by the departed colonial regime of members of
the African elite continued to pay dividends for those whose interests the process of
Africanisation was intended to safeguard. Members of the African elite were fiercely
protective of their newfound influence and wealth and were thus resistant to any
demands for significant structural reforms. The MP for Kitale East, chairman of the
Maize and Produce Board and a major farmer in Trans-Nzoia, Masinde Muliro
rejected the demands by the KPU for land redistribution. The former schoolmaster,
first elected to the legislative council in 1957, believed 'An African socialist is by
nature a capitalist' (quoted in Gertzel, Goldschmidt & Rothchild, 1969:83).
Muliro's
opinions mirrored official policy. Authored by Mwai Kibaki and Tom Mboya,
Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965, African Socialism
and its Application
to Planning in
Kenya, committed the state to private enterprise, increasing foreign investment, and
wealth creation through economic expansion rather than the redistribution of
resources (Hyden & Leys, 1972:393;
Kenya, 1965). The post-colonial state was a
significant investor in Kenyan capitalist estate agriculture and industry and
encouraged further private Kenyan and international capital investment (Swainson,
1980:17). This configuration of interests supported a capitalist development
programme. Pre-independence nationalist aspirations for major land reforms were
sacrificed for economic and political stability. An elitist process of statecraft
restricted to those with access to capital had replaced the popular desire for nation
building that had emerged in the final years of colonial rule (Harbeson, 1971:250-1;
Swainson, 1980:18).
The 'pact-of-domination' worked effectively to resist the redistribution of land and
wealth, but not without significant dissent. The initial acquiescence to British
demands on property rights and the adoption of a development agenda based upon
private enterprise angered many radical activists inside and outside the govern-
ment. Following the departure of some European landowners, the availability of
land that could be redistributed to ease the political pressure from below was a great
resource. However, that there was not enough land for all of the landless, and that
the established elite did not wish to give up its own significant holdings, was a
source of great tension. The conflict over land redistribution came to be embodied in
a struggle between KANU and the KPU. The KPU formed following by the departure
of dissident elements from KANU in 1966. In Oginga Odinga and Bildad Kaggia, the
radicals had strong regional leaders with a demonstrable commitment to political
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26 Review of African Political Economy
nationalism and social equality, primarily in the form of free education and land
redistribution (Leys, 1975:214).
This was reflected in Kaggia's support base in his
home district of Murang'a, which could be 'fairly accurately defined as poor,
landless or owning very little land, and predominantly ex-detainee' (Lamb,
1974:135). At political rallies, Kaggia told his audience that Kenyatta 'had taught
him that the land belonged to Africans and will never be bought' (KNA VP/1/98,
Anon., 'Notes on Political KANU Meeting of 21 February [1966] for Provincial
Commissioner'). Such sentiments not only went against prevailing policy, they
questioned the very economic and ideological basis of the bureaucratic-executive
state. Furthermore, Odinga's support base in Nyanza Province and Kaggia's role as
the voice of poor Kikuyu in Central Province and along the eastern fringe of the Rift
Valley threatened the geographical and ethnic centres of the regime's power.
In the face of the KPU's challenge, the state supported a process of economic
continuity and sought to delegitimise its opponents. Kenyatta stood firmly against
the redistribution of land to the poor and landless. Free grants of land ran counter to
Kenyatta's own principles (Lonsdale, 2002). Wealth through land was to be earned
(Bienen, 1974:164). In 1965, Kenyatta dismissed Kaggia's demands for land
redistribution as the selfish begging of the lazy for 'free things' (Lamb, 1974:36).
Beneath such condemnations lay the elitist premise that while labour begot wealth,
indolence led inexorably to poverty and criminality (Lonsdale, 1992). In asserting
that land was to be earned and not given, the president was appealing to a broader
antipathy towards egalitarian policies (Gertzel, 1970:86-7).
The twin powers of the administrative/executive axis supported the defeat of the
KPU. The considerable public support for Kenyatta enabled him to outmanoeuvre
the personal threat to his position posed by a national leader of Odinga's stature and
a local figure of Kaggia's influence. Kenyatta personally legitimised a post-colonial
state that fell short of many Kenyans' expectations. For all the president's strengths,
it was his foot-soldiers amongst the provincial administration that underpinned
Kenyatta's position through their ability to regulate political activity and their
capacity for unmonitored, extra-legal behaviour (Lamb, 1974:137). During the by-
election campaigns that followed the creation of the KPU in 1966, known as the Little
General Election, a number of KPU candidates complained of interference by the
provincial administration, such as the refusal to grant permits for election rallies
(Gertzel, 1970:82, 116, Mueller, 1984:413). Accusations were made in parliament
that the provincial administration was threatening KPU voters with expulsion from
land settlement schemes, detention and the withdrawal of government loans
(Gertzel, Goldschmidt & Rothchild, 1969:158-61).
Even after the defeat of the KPU in
1966, the provincial administration was employed two years later to ensure the
disqualification on various technicalities of all KPU candidates attempting to stand
(Bienen, 1974:259; Gertzel, 1970:165; Hyden & Leys, 1972:394). Such practices
continued even in the wake of the demise of the KPU and the return to a one-party
state in 1969. During elections that year, the provincial administration apparently
used its control of an English language proficiency test in order to prevent known
opponents of the government standing as candidates (Hyden & Leys, 1972, 393).
Outside periods of electioneering, the provincial administration exploited its
position as the principal agent of development in rural areas. The rural scarcity of
economic and political opportunities made the capture of local bodies overseeing
development imperative for control. The provincial administration's domination of
land, agricultural and educational committees allowed the state to manipulate
access to key socio-economic resources at the district level (Lamb, 1974:52; Mueller,
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The Politics of Control in Kenya, 1952-78 27
1984:407).
Supporters of the regime were thus able to consolidate local power-bases
through networks of clientage. In this way the influence of the bureaucratic-
executive state was extended to the periphery. With the conflict between the regime
and KPU occurring outside of Nairobi, the ability of the provincial administration to
penetrate the periphery was critical to its ability to control political space.
Consequently, Kenya's bureaucratic-executive state represents the opposite balance
of power between the centre and the periphery to that which is often assumed in the
literature on African states (for the origins of the centre-periphery distinction see
Zolberg, 1966 & 1968). The Kenyan state arguably exerted greater political control in
the countryside than in the urban areas (Mueller, 1984:414).
This is in contrast to the
common assumption that dominant party regimes in Africa can police the capital
city and other major urban centres, but have insufficient resources to effectively
manage the 'periphery'.
The defeat of the KPU represented a crucial stage in the development of the post-
colonial state. Subsequently, dissent was muted and state-level political competition
became the personal fiefdom of the elite. Kenyatta's defeat of Kaggia in Murang'a by
appealing to Kikuyu values such as self-improvement demonstrated the difficulties
of mobilising a popular political force along 'class' or 'egalitarian' lines. It is telling
that J.M. Karuiki, the most significant threat to Kenyatta's hegemony in the decade
following the demise of the KPU, appealed to few of that party's stated egalitarian
values. A Mau Mau detainee, successful businessman and a junior minister in the
Kenyatta government, Kariuki was able to enhance his already significant popular
appeal by making large contributions to harambee (community self-help projects).
Kariuki rapidly became a well-known and highly popular politician (Widner,
1992:86-91), but did not speak out against wealth accumulation as the KPU had
done. He rather attacked the way in which the Kenyan elite neglected their duties as
'Big Men', most notably their responsibility to support the advancement of others.
Consequently, his potent platform combined Kikuyu moral ethnicity and a broad
populist appeal. Kariuki represented a different and possibly greater threat to the
internal unity of the regime than the KPU, but had no formal institutional support
base. His threat was neutralised by his assassination in 1975, the third major
political assassination of the post-colonial era after Pio Pinto (1965) and Tom Mboya
(1969). The value of carefully targeted political assassinations was again demon-
strated in 1990 with the murder of Robert Ouko, then minister for foreign affairs in
Moi's cabinet.
Following Kariuki's murder and consolidating trends visible much earlier, intra-
elite conflict came to be focused on direct control of the state and avoided the
question of the structure of the state and its resources. The bureaucratic-executive
state had been consolidated, and there were few among the elite who did not
recognise the value of maintaining it. Intra-elite competition could be fierce and all
sections of the elite by no means benefited equally from the system of domination. On
the whole, however, all benefited sufficiently to ensure that a dominant majority
continued to support the system of domination itself, thus preserving the elite
consensus. This was particularly evident during the Kenyatta succession, when
different factions within KANU jostled for position in a bid to ensure that their
representative inherited the presidency. As Tamarkin has argued,
The struggle for succession was essentially an intra-elite one, the two factions striving to
control the regime
rather than subvert it. Once the succession was decided,
the elite, and the
bourgeoisie
as a whole, had an overriding
interest in stabilizing the regime upon which they
thrived (Tamarkin, 1979:33).
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28 Review of African Political Economy
Conclusion
The bureaucratic-executive state emerged as the result of a specific process of
institution building and class formation during the colonial era. These twin
processes placed an elite of wealthy 'conservatives' in control of an extensive system
of administration and a powerful executive. The resulting 'pact-of-domination' was
able to maintain its privileged position by protecting and extending the authority of
the president and the capacity of the administration. Unlike its bureaucratic-
authoritarian
counterpart, this bureaucratic-executive state resulted from the victory
of popular forces and so could call on both popular legitimacy and coercive
measures to contain opposition. Consequently, the 'conservatives' could demobilise
the challenges their economic and political dominance rendered highly probable.
Although clearly an example of the set of African 'bureaucratic-centralised'
states
identified by Allen (1995), the bureaucratic-executive state demands to be seen as a
distinctive state formation located within that spectrum. What renders the
bureaucratic-executive state distinctive is not so much the 'charismatic' authority of
the executive, but the capacity of the regime to monitor and influence political
developments through the provincial administration. The control of the bureau-
cratic-executive state did not begin at State House and decrease with every mile
travelled away from the 'centre'. Instead, the provincial administration acted as a
conduit for executive power, with the consequence that political space was, at times,
as tightly regulated in the 'periphery' as it was in the 'centre', if not more so. It is this
that separates Kenya from Zambia, Tanzania and many of the other 'weak' and
'soft' African states (Jackson & Rosberg, 1982:4-12; Chabal & Daloz, 1999:8-16).
The role of the provincial administration is fundamental to an understanding of the
longevity of the bureaucratic-executive state. While the dual structure of the
executive and provincial administration was underpinned by the coalition of the
'pact of domination', the axis was intimidating and powerful. It was only with the
refusal of the Moi regime to share political power and economic opportunities that
the pattern of elite consensus was eroded and the question of the appropriate
structure of the state became a source of dissent once again. Despite this, the
bureaucratic-executive axis is too important for incumbent governments to disman-
tle. Even in the context of heated political competition throughout the multi-party era
the basic structure of the state has remained intact. Under Moi, KANU continued to
make extensive use of the provincial administration to ensure victory in the multi-
party elections of 1992 and 1997 (Omukada, 2002:84-5). Despite the success of
NARC in 2002, the essential components of the 'pact-of-domination' are still in
place. As Njoya has commented, 'We now know what 'NARC' means:'Nothing-
Actually-Really-Changed!' (quoted in Wolf, 2005:16). Despite NARC's promise of a
new dawn in Kenyan politics, the legacy of the bureaucratic-executive state remains
intact. Whilst the regime may have undergone periodic changes, the state itself has
not.
Daniel Branch,
Yale University; e-mail: daniel.branch@yale.edu;
Nicholas Cheeseman,
Nuffield College, Oxford; e-mail: nicholas.cheeseman@nuffield.ox.ac.uk
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The Politics of Control in Kenya, 1952-78 29
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The idea that Kenya is made up of 42(+) tribes is widespread, but the origins, nature and consequences of any list are not well-known. This article compares ethnic classifications in all Kenyan censuses to demonstrate the origins of the ‘42’ in (only) the 1969 census, and the multiple political purposes of classifying and counting. To make sense of why the 42(+) remains significant, I argue a cultivated vagueness provides a sense of consistency, linking a national past to present and future, while providing the basis for both numbers-based competitive politics and more inclusive politics. Moreover, it avoids engaging in politically risky work of making legible sense of shifts in ethnic identities, classifications and numbers, and avoids having to resolve their relation to the nation, which benefits both state and citizens. Extending literature on the political utility of uncertainty, I theorise this cultivated vagueness as magic, backed by opaque forces, potentially dangerous or beneficent, which deters interrogation or certainty on all sides. To further clarify this awkward relationship between vagueness and certainty, I argue ethnic classifications are intelligible via the social imaginary of the 42(+), but not especially legible, contesting the literature on census practices as tools of legibility and governability.
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This study investigates the framing of arguments used in debating the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 1982 and the Election Amendment Bill 2012 in order to interrogate how the elite conceive of the place of political parties in Kenya, as well as examining the transformations of this conception in the two periods. Through coercion and fallaciously invoking the democratic intentions of the bill, the illustrious history of KANU, and the need to unite behind KANU and President Moi, the 1982 bill resulted in an overinstitutionalized party system. The passage of the 2012 bill resulted in perpetuating an underinstitutionalized party system legitimized through overwhelmingly invoking the desire for freedom of association. Despite the differences in the framing of the arguments and the resultant impact of the bills, there is a strong underlying continuity that shows an instrumentalist conceptualization of political parties by the political elite in both the periods.
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Once the major success story of a troubled continent, by the early 1990s Kenya came to be regarded as its fallen star. This book challenges such images of reversal and the analytical polarities which sustain them. Based on several years of research in Kenya, the analysis ranges from telescopic to microscopic fields of vision - from national political culture, oratory, and the staging of politics, to everyday struggles for livelihood among people in one rural locale during the past century. This sliding scale of analysis allows the author to experiment theoretically with a number of themes informed by contemporary analytical tensions among post-modernist 'chaos', historical contingency, and structural regularities. The result is a study which combines many disciplines and perspectives to give a rich and varied picture of the culture of politics in twentieth-century Kenya.
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Kenya has been the object of much controversy among students of African politics. Some view it as one of the greatest “successes” of the post-independence period; others see it as an example of all that is wrong with African development. Henry Bienen approaches this controversy by asking whether the concept of political participation has been properly understood in the African context. His case study of political participation in Kenya discusses administration, party politics, ethnicity, and class. He suggests that in a system dominated by elites, individuals and groups exert influence primarily through patron-client networks and local administrative and party organs. Local politics is the most important arena for most people, it is argued. As long as the regime adopts policies which maximize economic growth and take account of peasant middle and small holders, and as long as individual representatives can be replaced even though no change of regime occurs, limited political participation leads to political stability. Originally published in 1977. The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.