Political Parties In Kenya: Reality Or Myth


Assuming you didn’t know, there are 42+ ‘registered political parties’ in Kenya. Kenya has 42 tribes, which means each tribe has their own political party..or something like that. The question therefore, does what we have qualify as political parties or are they tribal bargain tools? Is this what the ‘second liberation heroes’ fought for? Is Kenya a multiparty democracy, just because we have many vehicles to power? Let’s find out..starting with the definition of a ‘political party’:

A political party is defined as an organised group of people with at least roughly similar political aims and opinions, that seeks to influence public policy by getting its candidates elected to public office.

We can see that political parties are to be based on shared ideologies and principles. Not around a hero..for the obvious reasons that heroes are mortals unlike ideologies. We are talking about people who subscribe to similar views concerning taxes, governance, lifestyle and so on organizing themselves politically. For instance, the pro-choice (people who support abortion) can come together to form a political movement, big enough to allow them change the laws to accommodate their views. Similarly, the pro-life team can form a party to further their views. The unifying factor n both cases being ‘shared ideologies’ not personalities.

So, while we should be eternally grateful for the prevailing freedom and the work that went into it, I think we still don’t have a political party in Kenya. Forget what we have on paper, I invite you to face reality. By design or otherwise, the struggle to make Kenya a multiparty democracy only managed to give life to tribalism (a topic for another day).

Political Parties In Kenya

I know this may sound a bit insensitive seeing that people died in the struggle to democratize Kenya, but the truth is that we ended up with tribal bargain tools instead. Either our liberators were not genuine or impostors hijacked the process and selfishly divided Kenyans. The so called democratic political parties are an insult to multiparty democracy. Don’t dismiss me just yet, indulge me a little longer…

Multiparty Democracy In Kenya

It’s true that Kenyans enjoy freedoms they never had under single party rule. You can air your views against those in power without having to watch your back these days. Does that make us a Multiparty Democracy? You guess is as good as mine. We have democracy (i.e. we get to elect our leaders) and freedom (i.e. ability to determine the terms of our interactions with others), but we still don’t have a political party. And I’m not making this conclusion without facts.

Ask yourself what the ideological differences between members of Ford Kenya and Wiper Democratic Party are. If you are lucky, you’ll find none. Ever bothered to find out one thing that members of ODM always want, but which those in URP are opposed to? Don’t bother for such things are never to be found. I would advice against it, but you can investigate the ethical differences between Amani National Congress and TNA members….you’ll have nothing to share.

I mean, figuring out the unifying factor in ODM, TNA, URP, FORD KENYA, AMANI and so on is as simple as looking at who is in charge. We unite under tribal chieftains. Their personal views then become community ideologies and making them succeed becomes the priority. You still think that’s how a political party operates?

Know this, uniting around ideologies give rise to fewer structured and lasting political parties while hero-worship can only birth short-lived tribal groupings. The ones that die immediately the hero dies or leaves politics e.g. what happened to FORD Asili and POA. You can see how people are opposed to the formation of strong national parties. Those who want to ride on tribal emotions cannot let that happen without a fight.

Examples of Political Parties

Real political parties outlive their founders. In fact, they always stand for unique ideals and value systems. It is why political parties are created; to cater for different morals and political points of view. A political party will appeal to certain members of the society across all the tribes, religions and race.

Let me use the American example, there are two popular political parties with very distinct beliefs. The Republicans wouldn’t tolerate homosexual marriages just like the Conservatives in UK. On the other hand, the Democrats are too liberal to describe. But what is common about these political groupings is that they have members across all ethnic groups, races and religions.

Is that the case with Kenya? I doubt it. Here, ODM is for Luos and any Luo who isn’t a member of ODM is a traitor. Kalenjins who don’t like URP are sellouts while Kikuyus who oppose TNA are called rebeles. Why? Because ODM belongs to Raila, URP is Ruto’s and TNA is Uhurus (tribal point-men).

If you are not convinced that these are not political parties but personality cults, let Raila leave ODM and form another party and you’ll see all his followers move to the new outfit. Uhuruto have now moved to Jubile Party and it’s just a matter of time before TNA and URP are buried. It’s that unfortunate. How did we get here? I’ll share with you how political dynasties work, in another post.

Way forward

If you agree that what we have are personal-turn-tribal projects to bargain for a seat at the table, you may also want to know the disadvantages of such groupings. For starters, they have been used to fuel ethnic hatred and to propagate siege mentality, like we see in Luo Nyanza and other places. That ‘political parties’ can exist to ensure inter-ethnic intolerance is heartrending to say the least.

Without even listing all the demerits, people must reject the status quo and support the formation of National Parties. Anyone who is spearheading the formation of such ideology based groups should be supported by every well meaning Kenyan. We must say no to tribal chieftains, who by the way, are the beneficiaries of fake multiparty. Let me know what you think..just comment below.

Comments 11

  1. This is an awesome recap on the current status of our political domain as far as political parties are concerned. Under formation of Political Parties Acts, the existing parties are nothing near political parties but just tribal outfits. This is a nice read Sam, thanks.

  2. Absolutely, there are neither ideological nor ethical differences among these parties. We are rallied to support individuals and not ideologies. I once asked if these parties have websites that can inform undecided voters on their true ideological positions. I tried looking for a tna.com or odm.com or urp.com without success. We have a long way to go in the struggle for ideological formations in this country.

  3. Yes I totally agree with you, most political parties are formed on the basis of ethnic background(mtu wetu mentality) but truth said, they are used as tools by political leaders to bargain for their personal selfish interests at the expense of common mwananchi.

  4. Yes we do not have political parties but brokers for tribal based bargains. That I had to show my ID in every stop between my teeth during the famous saba saba for a dillusioned cause is a pity. Very few if any of our politicians have ideologies only propaganda for political offices. Any call for a national party is worth working for and supported

  5. We are a multitribale party or multiperson party nation. The parties are either pro Rails, Uhuru or Ruto or may be pro Kikuyu/Luo/Kales etc.
    The benchmark at which we began the multipartism was poor coz the main aim was to unseat Moi

  6. Your royal Awesomeness, let me say the Founder of raw politics or better still use the most controversial title you just earned yourself, national disaster…hehehe, very sober post with little prejudice. I reiterate this part “people must reject the status quo and support the formation of National Parties. “.

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Political Parties In Kenya: Reality Or Myth

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