Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Kenya

Period of democratic transition: 2002
Pro-democracy civic movement: not present

After the death of Kenya's charismatic president, Jomo Kenyatta, in 1978, Vice President Daniel arap Moi assumed the presidency. Initially very popular for following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Moi began to consolidate power in a de jure single-party state after a failed coup attempt in 1982. The Moi regime's history of torture and corruption was overlooked by external financers who considered Kenya to be an important outpost against communism in the region.

To appease donors, in 1992 Moi approved the return to a multiparty electoral system. Nonetheless, he continued to dominate electoral politics through excessive use of state patronage, control of key media, and harassment of the disorganized opposition. Elections in 1992 and 1997 were neither free nor fair. In 1997, dissatisfaction with the Moi regime was heightened by an economic slowdown exacerbated by a sharp drop in tourism and suspension of International Monetary Fund financial support. Anti-Moi and pro-democracy demonstrations followed but were not able to alter the outcome of the election. Following the failure of the opposition in 1997, pro-democracy movements began to peter out. However, in the run-up to the 2002 presidential election, the opposition became substantially better organized and more unified and was able to defeat Moi's chosen successor in a landslide that ended Moi's 24-year rule and more than 40 years of power for his political party, Kenya African National Union.

The new president, Mwai Kibaki, took steps to combat the widespread corruption that was characteristic of the Moi regime. Although Kibaki's rule is substantially more transparent and legitimate than that of his predecessor, Kenya has never quite been able to shake the legacy of corruption left by Moi.

This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.