Kenya Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as KEN by Abbreviationfinder, Kenya has been a multi-party democracy since 1991, regularly holding general elections. The elections are often accompanied by accusations of cheating. Corruption is a major problem, not least in politics. Leading politicians have been prosecuted by the ICC for violence after the 2007 election, but the charges have been discontinued due to lack of evidence. There are a number of relatively outspoken media, but the media climate has hardened in recent years.

The constitution guarantees citizens basic rights such as freedom of speech and religion, equal conditions for men and women and the right for suspected criminals to receive a fair trial.

  • Countryaah: Offers a comprehensive list of airports in Kenya, including international airports with city located, size and abbreviation, as well as the biggest airlines.

Citizens are free to form political parties, but party organizations are usually weak and ethnic affiliation plays a major role in politics (see further Political system).

The presidential election in August 2017 had to be rescheduled after the Supreme Court annulled it because irregularities had occurred and that the election had not been conducted in accordance with the constitution (see Current policy). The re-election that took place in October of that year was clearly won by incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta, but turnout was low. The main opposition candidate Raila Odinga boycotted the election, citing that the electoral commission did not implement all the electoral reforms he had demanded (see Calendar). The time leading up to the re-election became violent, and in strong opposition parties such as Nairobi and Kisumu, around 10 people were killed by security forces, according to Human Rights Watch. But the violence was not as widespread as after the 2007 election when over 1000 people were killed (see below).

Irregularities should also have occurred in connection with the parliamentary elections in 2017, but are not considered to have had such a significant impact on the election result.

The Election Commission is formally independent, but has been accused of favoring the ruling Jubilee Party (JP).

In January 2018, opposition leader Raila Odinga held an “installation ceremony” in Nairobi where he swore to around 15,000 supporters an oath to become “the people’s president” and safeguard the nation’s interests. But just two months later, he chose to reconcile with President Kenyatta, declaring that the two men would continue to work together, which would further weaken the opposition (see Current Politics). Kenyatta and Odinga agreed to form a new commission, the Building Bridges Initiative, to create reconciliation in society. In September 2019, it will present its report on what to do to address issues such as ethnic conflicts and corruption and more.

Women are under-represented in politics. However, the new constitution adopted in 2010 stipulates that one third of all seats in elected parishes must be filled with women. After the 2017 election, the 22 National Assembly’s 290 directly elected members are women. Three women were also elected to the Senate, and three of 47 governors are women.

Freedom of expression and media

The media scene is relatively lively in Kenya and the constitution adopted in 2010 strengthens freedom of press and expression. But the government has subsequently been criticized for new laws restricting freedom and journalists reporting on sensitive topics are exposed to threats, violence and harassment. The authorities also limit the freedom of the media with reference to the security situation in the country.

The media has traditionally examined the holders of power and reported on, for example, the widespread corruption. However, attempts are being made by the state government to control the reporting, and according to international press freedom organizations, the situation has worsened after the 2013 elections. The tribunal should be able to impose high fines for violating a code of conduct. Topics that are risky to report include security issues, police brutality and extrajudicial executions, ICC, corruption and land seizures.

In January 2018, TV and radio channels were banned from broadcasting directly from Odinga’s installation ceremony. The three largest TV companies Citizen TV and Radio, KTN News and NTV defied the ban and were prohibited from broadcasting any programs as long as an investigation is ongoing. The day after, however, the ban was lifted by a court (see Calendar).

In the spring of 2018, new legislation was passed that prohibits, among other things, fake news, bullying, hacking, cyber espionage and the spread of child pornography online. Critics warned that parts of the law could be used to limit freedom of the press.

Defamation cases and other pressures are used to silence criticism. Newspapers that are folded usually have to pay high sums in fines, which leads to a certain self-censorship. It also happens that journalists are arrested and harassed, often by government officials. The government can ban state advertising on inconvenient media. Many private media are facing financial problems.

On Reporters Without Borders index of freedom of the press in the world, Kenya ranked number 100 out of 180 countries in 2019. The country has steadily dropped investments since 2013 when Kenya was in 71st place.

Two companies dominate the media market: the Standard Group and the Nation Media Group (NMG).

Most Kenyans receive their news via radio. In connection with the outbreak of violence after the 2007 elections (see Modern history), a temporary ban on live broadcasts was introduced. It has been criticized as a restriction on media freedom. At the same time, it is clear that several local radio stations were used to stir up violence (see ICC trials after the 2007 election).


Corruption is a major problem in Kenya and the bodies available to fight corruption are ineffective. In 2018, the government said it wanted to attach great importance to the fight against corruption. Several corruption cases have since been revealed and charges have been brought against people in high positions.

However, it is difficult to gain insight into the state’s business. The government in Nairobi rarely discloses such information. The legislation available to make public documents available contains many exceptions, especially with regard to security issues.

According to the organization Transparency International’s index of perceived corruption in the countries of the world, in 2019 Kenya ranked 137 out of 180 countries, seven positions higher than the year before.

Judicial system and legal security

A central objective of the new constitution was to strengthen the judicial system, whose independence had been significantly eroded. Among other things, the President previously controlled the appointment of judges; it is now run by a new independent commission. It presents a list of candidates for the president who then elects one of those who must then be approved by Parliament in order to take office.

The government occasionally chooses to ignore court rulings. An example of this is its refusal to follow the courts’ decisions when in the case of opposition politician Miguna Miguna who was arrested in 2018 and expelled from Kenya (see Calendar). In some quarters, the budget cuts made in the judiciary are seen as revenge for the cancellation of the 2017 election.

In addition to corrupt judges, the judiciary has problems with police brutality, brutality and torture. It is common for suspected criminals to be shot to death. Human rights groups and the media report on hundreds of extra-judicial executions a year. The conditions in the overcrowded prisons are poor.

The most severe penalty is the death penalty, but no one has been executed in Kenya since 1987.

Violent crime has grown sharply in recent years. Brutal robberies and car hijackings have contributed to Nairobi’s reputation for being one of the world’s most dangerous cities. In the slums of cities, loosely composed “leagues” are raging. One of the most notorious is Mungiki, which is described as a sect-like group that terrorizes residents with mafia methods.

Mungiki also has an element of a religious sect that wants to revive African traditions and is anti-Western. The group is dominated by kikuyas and has its roots in a rural movement inspired by the 1952 mau-mau uprising (see Older History). It appears that politicians are using the gang to disrupt meetings organized by political opponents.

Many observers also believe that the outbreak of violence after the 2007 election (see Modern history) was largely planned and organized, and was carried out by gangs like Mungiki. A Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was appointed to investigate the historical background to the ethnic contradictions. In 2013, the Commission presented its report in which a large number of people were identified for human rights and other crimes, historically and until 2008. However, the report is disputed.

Attempts to answer someone in Kenya for the outbreak of violence failed and after a while the case was handed over to the ICC in The Hague. Four people were eventually indicted by the ICC in January 2012. Two of them, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, were elected in March 2013 as the country’s president and vice-president respectively. A trial against Ruto was initiated in September 2013, but was closed in April 2016 (see ICC trials after the 2007 election).

No trial of Kenyatta was ever filed, the prosecution was dropped for lack of evidence. In connection with this, ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda criticized the Kenyan government, which she accused of refusing to release important documents. The government must also have bribed, threatened and harassed witnesses so that they can withdraw their testimony.

The Kenyan government also invested large sums to convince governments in Africa, Asia and various Western countries that the trials would be closed down or postponed. The African Union (AU) demanded that the trial of Kenyatta be discontinued and adopted a resolution that no sitting African heads of state should be brought to justice. However, few of the AU countries were willing to act as Kenya, whose parliament voted for exit from the ICC. However, the country has not formally asked to leave the court.

The Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab has committed several acts of terrorism in Kenya. Most casualties were claimed in an attack on a university in Garissa in 2015 where 148 people were killed (see Calendar).

Kenya Crime Rate & Statistics



New government ready

Kibaki forms a new government, now without Odinga and other opponents of the conflict over the constitution.


The constitution is rejected

The constitutional proposal approved by Parliament in July is rejected in a referendum, with 57 percent of voters voting against it. The no-side has been organized in the newly formed Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) under the leadership of Odinga.


New constitutional proposal strengthens presidential power

Approves a proposal for a new constitution that will continue to have strong presidential power; The proposal causes a split in the government coalition National Rainbow Coalition (Narc); Leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Raila Odinga is one of the leading opponents of the proposal supported by President Kibaki.