Kenya's Quest for Democracy: Taming Leviathan

In This Review

Kenya's Quest for Democracy: Taming Leviathan
By Makau Mutua
Lynne Rienner, 2008
331 pp. $65.00

The ethnic violence that disrupted the 2007 elections in Kenya is well analyzed in this account of that country's recent democratization and constitutional debates by Mutua, a prominent Kenyan legal scholar. As might be expected, not least because he was himself a participant in these disputes, he puts a lot of emphasis on what may seem like somewhat arcane constitutional wrangling between the government, various opposition groups, and experts. But the book does an excellent job of explaining the divergent interests that shaped these conflicts, most notably the state elite's desire to maintain its power and privilege and an increasingly assertive civil society's attempts to impose accountability on the state from below. The poison of ethnic conflict seeped into these debates over the course of the 1990s, abetted by the manipulations of Daniel arap Moi's administration and later by the prevarications of Mwai Kibaki's government, and the resulting ethnic violence undermined the democratic progress that had seemed inevitable only a couple of years ago. Mutua has provided a solid introduction to contemporary Kenyan politics, as well as a savvy reflection on democratization in an African context.

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