Kenya general elections in Bondo and Gem: the origins of Luo ethnic factor in modern politics
Alila, Patrick O.
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This analysis traces the historical origins of Luo ethnic factor to lay the basis for a discussion in a separate paper of the role it plays in modern politics. The ethnic factor is seen to emerge from social transformation starting from the pre-colonial period. And this took place differently in the two research areas Bondo and Gem. Gem evolved as a centralised entity having a common hereditary leadership in which clanism has all along played a determining role. Bondo comprised of Sakwa, Asembo, Uyoma and Yimbo which evolved as separate entities has had marked heterogeneity without a common clan system. Also in comparison to Bondo, Gem especially during the colonial period experienced a higher level of development particularly in the field of education, communications and crop production which reinforced its prevalent clan system. The crux of the argument in the overall analysis is that following the introduction of elections there has been a process of selective modernisation whereby both 'modern' and 'traditional' values have combined. The institution of elections is not therefore operating purely under the influence of values elections are associated with in western democracies especially the determining role of parties in electoral politics. Thus the initial organisation of elections for independence in Kenya backed by a strong commitment to nationalism showed what seemed like a triumph of elements of modernity over tradition in the election process. But this was in reality not the case as evidenced by the ascendancy of traditional forces of ethnicity in the post independence politics. As a matter of fact even strong nationalists like Odinga and Argwings-Kodhek from Bondo and Gem respectively had their ethnically derived power in Luoland it is this power base which they resorted to due to the nature of post independence politics. The events of 1966 which resulted in the birth of the KPU and the dramatic shift to one-party state in 1969 are notable in this connection. Luoland has consequently been plunged into a crisis of leadership and political participation quite evident in election politics. This has resulted, in the Luo ethnic factor becoming a significant, if not a crucial, factor in elections in practically all constituencies in Luoland. The result is on the one hand that there have been similarities in election politics between constituencies as was indeed found to be true in Bondo and Gem, On theother hand these two constituencies show differences mainly due to their contrasts in social transformation.