Kenya – Political, Economic and Social Development after Independence
Kenya – Political, Economic and Social Development after Independence
A country in East Africa, the Republic of Kenya was held a colony of the United Kingdom (UK) until 1920, after 70 years before becoming a sovereign state. Simply Kenya, it was formerly known as the British East African Protectorate as the Englishmen settle in the place because of its indigenuity, weather and climate. Kenya was placed under the British rule for the first time in 1888 after Imperial British East Africa Company (IBEAC) failed to do so. December 12, 1963 marked the independence of the country, giving opportunities for Kenyans to forge ahead into various political, economic and social changes despite the prevailing adversities while also striving at amalgamating national unity and safeguarding political stability. In this report, the developments after independence will be discussed with insights that are built upon the political, economic and social contexts.
Political developments after independence
Kenyan struggle is initially intended for political independence. According to Waweru, the political history of the country began in the last quarter of the 19th century. This is when the Britain started to established colonies and protectorates in the Eastern part of Africa. Expectedly, the changes that the British implemented were not beneficial to Africans, provoking unrest and formation of tribal political factions in the late 1920s. Uprising generally centers the organization of African political activities. The campaign for majority rule materialized in 1960, a move that unified the tribes against colonialism and in 1961, political leaders who fell victim of political unrest were freed.
Increased awareness of the need and urgency of political changes in the country was realized. Kenyan African Union (KAU), formerly known as Kenya African Study Union (KASU), was the central figure that embodied the fight for constitutional rights of the Africans through the leadership of James Gichuru. Came independence in 1963, Jomo Kenyatta, a Kenyan nationalist who had been imprisoned by the British, was elected as the first president.  Under his regime, Kenya became reasonably politically stable. Kenyatta embraced the Kenyan self-help and self-reliance movement which is mirrored by the Harambee. Harambee served as the political call to enable Kenyans to participate in various political activities as part of political equality initiative. Important to note is that Kenya is a presidential representative democratic republic.
A major development occurred, affecting the business language of the Parliament. Kishawili became the official language of the House in 1975, up until 1979 when the policy was amended of using both Kishawili and English as official languages. What became a supposed to be the continued manifestation of independence was shattered when the East Africa Community collapsed in 1977. Cold War began. In 1982, an aborted coup involving the Air Force section of the Armed Forces was discovered. Eventually, a one-party state was legalised by Section 2A of the Constitution. The Parliament passed it because of the intention to obstruct the formation of other legal political parties.
Enter the 1990s, Kenya experienced a quite different political environment because of a number of political challenges internal and external to the political structure. Political instability, widespread corruption and ethnic conflicts that coincided with political multipartyism in the early 1990s affected the political system of the country. Nonetheless, in 1997, despite the changes and challenges in the political system, Kenya was able to revise from oppressive laws inherited in the colonial era. The parliament reform initiative enabled Kenyans to acquire freedom of speech and assembly again, contributing to the generally credible national elections in that year. The 2002 elections, further, marked an important turning point for Kenyan politics, transferring power to the Kenyan African Union peacefully.
Economic developments after independence
There are three notable economic developments that Kenyan engaged into after independence: public investment, enhancement of smallholder agricultural production and private industrial investment. Kenyatta declared a war on the hindrances to economic development: illiteracy, disease and poverty. By virtue of Sessional Paper No. 10 of 1965, the nation started to eradicate poverty, raise literacy levels and providing social services to the citizenry. Between 1964 and 1971, the economy registered a GDP growth average of 6.5% as during this time Kenya came to witness a smooth expansion of African-owned businesses and peasant agriculture specifically in foreign exchange earning crops as coffee and tea. The cooperative movement was a significant instrument in handling and marketing the crops.
Kenya benefited from the flawed economic policies in the neighboring countries. Regional economic developments left Kenya as the only premier nation in the region with a sound economic policy to attract foreign investment. However, downturns and stagnation lurked in the economic system and GDP rate has been on the decline since 1974. The cause of the decline, which was coupled by the political adversities, were the quadrupling oil prices, inflation rates and their accompanying high interest, unfavorable trade terms, affecting the tourist industry at most. Poor weather, regional conflicts, influx of refugees and global recession lowered the demand for Kenya’s traditional export. It was also noted that policies imposed by the World Bank and IMF contributed to the economic decline of Kenya. The economic growth resumed in 1994 due to improved weather, favorable impact of economic liberalization and emergence of global economy from recession.
During these years of economic upsurge and downsurge, one of the key challenges was the creation of productive employment opportunities for its rapidly increasing workforce. The extent of the problem was evident by the fact the demands that all resources and means are utilized to create jobs as well as enhance incomes and livelihoods were insufficient. What the Parliament did was to include all non-farmers in the efforts to transform Kenya economically. Trade, commerce and service industries were intensified as well as the continuous expansion of Kenya’s export. In recent years, the creation of small scale enterprises proved to be efficient in terms of creating jobs and providing attractively priced products. The sector also devoted its effort in developing entrepreneurial skills which were pivotal to Kenya’s industrialization.
Social development after independence
It is also because of the Harambee call that Kenyans actively engaged in raising education funds, building social amenities required by a community, being mindful of the plight of others in all aspects of human life, raising bursary funds for education, national disasters, health and medical care. KANU also came up with a series of objectives to accomplish in order to build a just, democratic African socialist country which included: political equality, social justice, human dignity, freedom from want and disease, equal opportunities and high and growing incomes to be distributed equitably. At independence, Kenyan leadership, with Kenyatta as the primary figure, developed a five-year development plan for Kenya.
Population planning was in the core of the plan, as leaders believed that it is related to economic growth. There is also the increased allocation of resources to development and a pledge to build much needed schools, hospitals and housing. Further, in the context of health, Kenya has begun to move in the direction of rural-based services concentrating more on the prevention of the mundane everyday diseases such as dysentery and malaria and poor nutrition and sanitation which are the real causes of high morbidity and mortality. Prior to the independence, in the social schema, literacy levels were fairly low and disease patrolled the majority of households.
In sum, Kenya had witnessed a hodgepodge of political, economic and social turmoil and developments. There are significant themes that emerged, nevertheless. First, Jomo Kenyatta has been a central force in the development in these areas as well as the succeeding presidents. Second is the spontaneous development which was realised from the period of 1964 to 1973 and the downturn was experienced on the onset of 1990s. Lastly, intensification of nation-building is therefore evident in the sound interplay between political, economic and social policies.
1) Multitude of studies of post-independence Kenya points basically to two theses: politics and economy. On the one hand, Kenya’s development was analyzed in terms of the impacts of the systems of agrarian production, foreign investment and multinational films. On the other hand, the role of politics was emphasized, dwelling on the personality of politicians or on critical elections or party conferences.
2) After attaining political independence, Kenyatta’s first step was geared at promoting economic and social development. Aside from attuning the need to create sense of togetherness, national identity and unity, he raised the standard of living of Africans by promoting education, health and welfare.
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Berg-Schlosser, B. D. (1982). Modes and Meaning of Political Participation in Kenya. Comparative Politics, 14(4).
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Sabar, G. (2002). Church, State and Society in Kenya: From Mediation to Opposition, 1963-1993. London: Routledge Publishing, Inc.
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Waweru, J. F. (1988). The Bitter Struggle to Independence. Global Security Organization online.
 IBEAC was not able to continually rule Kenya because of financial and manpower problems.
 Waweru, 1988.
 Amsdem, 1974.
 Berg-Schlosser, 1982.
 Castro, 1995. Facing Kirinyaga.
 Harambee refers to traditional Kenyan community self-help events. It is also the official motto of the country.
 Shillington, 2005, p. 757.
 Bates, 2005, p. 45.
 Shillington, 2005, p. 758.
 Sabar, 2002, p. 125.
 About Kenya, online.
 About Kenya, online.
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