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State building, democratization and the role of ethnic political identity: a case study of Kenya.

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It has been argued that a significant proportion of socio-political problems and challenges in the modern African state are rooted in the history of the colonial project of state formation, and the subsequent emergence and crystallization of ethnicity as a serious threat to the establishment of the nation-state (Mamdani 1996, 2001). Ethnicity continues to serve as an important determinant of inclusion and exclusion to state power, and thus access to state resources, often leading to political violence and civil strife that continues to stifle progress and stability. This research has two fundamental broad objectives. The first is to interrogate how ethnicity and cultural identity evolved into a complex social and political identity of significance in the political struggles of citizens within the modern Kenyan nation-state. The second is to problematize the ways through which ethnic competition and differences are expressed in current ‘democratic’ political processes and how this affects the attainment of democracy in its true sense. These certainly necessitate an engagement with the following central questions: Why is it that in Kenya economic and political struggles are fought along ethnic lines? What are the consequence of such mobilizations to state building and democratization in the country? Why have sub-national formations been so difficult to do away with and continue to influence the discourse in Kenya, including the recent post-election crisis? I critically interrogate the origins of polarized ethnic identities and analyse the role that such ethicized political identity plays on state building, nationalization of politics and the establishment of discursive democracy in Kenya.


M.A. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg 2014.


Ethnicity--Political aspects--Kenya., Kenya--Politics and government., Theses--Sociology.