Nationalism is devotion and loyalty to one’s own country. Kenya has had a sense of nationalism before it was even an independent country. The nationalism grew stronger as they bonded together to revolt against the British. Nationalism is actually a value written in the Kenyan constitution.
Fareed Zakaria in his book A Post-American World states that many non-western countries are frustrated with the western world’s view of history. I am curious in the differences between the British perspective of Kenya gaining their independence and Kenya’s perspective.
Zakaria warns that nationalism can be a problem. He believes that as countries become more successful, they are less willing to rely on other nations for help. He says, “As the number of players-governmental and nongovernmental-increases and each one’s power and confidence grows, the prospects for agreement and common action diminish.” This may cause issues because as he states later, many problems in the world today cannot be solved by one country independently. They need to work together. For example, Kenya has been helpful in aiding the Somalians alongside Nigerians during the Somalian crisis. However, as Kenya’s economy is growing they may soon reach a point where they feel so powerful that they do not want to work with other countries. They may not exactly fall into the issues that Zakaria fears because they are still an emerging economy. This may be something important to focus on in the coming years as their economy continues to grow.
The country began to see conflict between groups when a multi-party system was introduced in the 1990’s. This difference in opinion, as you can imagine, led to conflict between different parties. Furthermore, there is a wide variety of ethnic groups in Kenya, so there has been past conflicts surrounding these different identities. However, the most noted conflict was in 2007-2008. This conflict was started around the 2008 Presidential Election. Different ethnic groups differed on their political opinion. In Kenya, political parties are often ethnically divided. The conflict began when President Mwai Kibaki won the presidency. People believed that there was some manipulation with the results. The conflict was between the Kikuyu and the Kibaki people. The Kikuyus have been in political power for a long time, which was what the new President was. This set off a violent period of riots and killings. This violent period lasted for a month before the United Nations intervened.
Inequality is a huge problem in Kenya. As I mentioned in Blog Post #1, there is huge income inequality. The top 10 percent have the 40 percent of the income in the country. The GDP looks okay at first glance, but then you look at the large amount living below the poverty line. Furthermore, the poverty in certain areas is much worse than in others.
Tony Judt speaks in his book Ill Fares the Land about the issues surrounding income equality. He says that the countries who have a smaller income gap tend to fare better in a variety of areas. Even if the rich are very rich in the country, the country as a whole will be less successful. He also talks about how closely life outcomes are tied to income. He says, “There is a reason why infant mortality, life expectancy, criminality, the prison population, mental illness, unemployment, obesity, malnutrition, teenage pregnancy, illegal drug use, economic insecurity, personal indebtedness, and anxiety are much more marked in the US and the UK than they are in continental Europe.” Although he is talking about the US and the UK in this section, it is clear the results can be translated to Kenya as well because of Kenya’s large income equality issue.
Overall, I believe Kenya is in the middle of an important part in their history. While they have bonded together because of their somewhat recent independence and emerging economy, they are only just beginning a long journey. The 2007-2008 Kenyan conflict shows us that there are still issues surrounding their political system. With only several decades of a multi-party system, it will take some time before their political system can be fully united. In addition, it will be important for them as they gain a higher economic status to remember the issues surrounding income inequality. They will need to close that gap in order to truly grow as a country. They will also need to be mindful of the problems with nationalism as their economy continues to grow.