Kenya Elections: Does Power Sharing Undermine Democracy?

Kenya elections 3Kenya elections 2kenya elections 1With the Kenya elections coming up shortly, the world has turned its eye on the African country to see if it will be able to remain peaceful during its election process. In 2007, ethnic violence erupted after elections, making the issue of the relationship between candidates and ethnic groups a hot topic in this year’s election process. At the center of the debate: power sharing. Is it beneficial, or does it contradict the concept of a democracy?

Regardless of one’s opinion, the process of free elections entails that candidates need to gain voters’ support. However, this has specific implications within the African continent in that politicians retreat into their “tribal cocoons”, often seeking the support of large ethnic communities while leaving the smaller tribes to feel neglected. Many feel that the ethnic rivalries undermine democracy in Africa because they enhance the cohesion and exclusivity of ethnic communities which can eventually lead to ethnic wars, as in the case of 2007.

But while many attribute the violence of 2007 to power sharing with ethnic groups, a debate still exists over whether power sharing could be used as a means of improving democracy and preventing corruption. Cyprian Nyamwamu argues that negotiated democracy, where political power is shared evenly among various ethnic and interest groups, could work to end corruption by including minority groups in the political process. In other words, it would end the “winners take all” political system.

The overall question remains, is Kenya ready for democracy? Power sharing could be a means of ending corruption or of promoting it, but significant attention needs to be on strengthening political institutions to limit those with too much power. Perhaps power sharing could improve Kenya’s democracy, but this will never be so unless minority groups are offered a voice.

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