Ethnicity and Ethnic Politics in Kenya: Policy Gaps Analysis

Kenya like most African countries is multi-ethnic and is perceived to be one of the most ethnically fragmented societies in Africa. Notably, there is no statistical evidence to confirm the exact number of ethnic groups in Kenya, as for decades the total number of ethnic groups in Kenya stood at 42 based on the census that was conducted in 1969. The 2009 Census found that there were more than 42 ethnic groups in the country. In particular, the 2009 population census listed no less than 111 ethnic groups in Kenya up from 42 in 1969, which is partly attributed to the success of the struggles by some of the historically marginalized communities, to be officially recognized by the state. Ethnicity has taken place in different sectors in Kenya including, senior government appointments, county government employment, employment in Parastatals, students’ admission in secondary schools, employment in Universities as well as geographical locations of universities in Kenya. In terms of appointments, the cabinet composition during Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta regimes demonstrate ethnicity based on the dominant tribes in the cabinet. In this regard, employment in the County government have contravened the law by recruiting more than 70% from dominant groups, employment in Parastatals have also been based on ethnicity. Student admission in secondary schools does not portray ethnic balance, employment in universities is dominated by few ethnic groups thus denying other tribe employment opportunities, and lastly, some counties do not have a single university. In order to address ethnicity, it is vital to establish laws that will give the judiciary the teeth to deal with hate mongers. In the same vein, it is imperative for the government to come up with measures to create a sense of common belonging through the development of ideologies with which people can collectively identify. Additionally, it is important for the government to come up with measures to implement the Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) as well as the Ndung’u Land Report findings. The implementation of these findings will help sought out the injustices that have prevailed over the years and provide for extensive solutions towards the animosity that has existed since independence. Lastly, there is need for the introduction of the quota system with regards to senior government appointments in order to avoid the employment of people from one region thus enhancing diversity and inclusivity consequently breaking the cycle of negative ethnicity in the public service sector.