Graduation Year

Spring 2011

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

P. Edward Haley

Rights Information

© 2011 Carliann Brashier


Prior to the presidential elections in December 2007, Kenya was viewed as one of the few politically stable and economically prosperous countries in Africa, a paradigm for other African countries to emulate. At least this was the view held widely in the Western world. Missing in this analysis were the growing ethnic tensions which, although not a new phenomenon to Kenya (the precedence was established during the colonial era), had grown increasingly volatile during the past two decades. The 2007 controversial election results revealed even sharper bitterness and divisions among Kenyans. Ethnic lines were drawn and the country experienced two months of violence that left more than 1,000 people dead and 300,000 people homeless. With ethnic identification increasingly becoming a polarizing force in political competitions in Kenya, it is in the best interest of the Kenyan government to reform its electoral policies and procedures to generate a change in incentives which promote civic nationalism as a way to counter the negative aspects of an ethnically diverse nation. There are three key areas of the current electoral system where this process of change can begin: changing the current voting system of first-past-the-post (FPTP) to a closed list Proportional Representation (PR) system, redefining and creating mechanisms for better developing enforcing rules for political parties and campaigning, and finally, reforming the Electoral Commission of Kenya to make it the predominate authority on electoral activities in Kenya. Using Kenya as a case study, this thesis focuses on how electoral reform can be utilized as one way to decrease the use of ethnicity as a political tool which currently creates unnecessary tensions.