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Essay: Governance in Kenya

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  • Subject area(s): Politics essays
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  • Published: March 18, 2021*
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  • Governance in Kenya
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Kenya is a developing country in the sub-Saharan Africa that is classified as a low middle-income economy by the World Bank. The country is governed under a constitution promulgated in August 2010. The governance system is made of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary (The Attorney General 2012).

The Executive is led by a president and his deputy elected democratically after every five years. The election of the president in Kenya follows the majority democracy that we have gone through in class. The majority have their way after every five years while the minority have their say as an official opposition whose role is to keep the government in check (The Attorney General 2012).

The legislative arm constitutes the National Assembly and the Senate whose members are elected in a competitive representative democratic process in every five years. The members of these houses represent 249 constituencies and 47 counties. Apart from the legislative role, this arm of government also has an oversight role over the other arms and has various mechanisms of checking the actions of the national and county governments (The Attorney General 2012).

The mandate of the Judiciary is to interpret the Constitution and uphold the rule of law in the country. The Judiciary has been checking other arms of governments, particularly when their actions are in violation of the constitution (The Attorney General 2012).
On top of the three arms, there exists a devolved system of governance made of 47 counties. The counties are governed through an executive constituting of a governor and a team of county executive officers. There is also a county assembly that is the legislative arm of the county and also plays an oversight role over the executive (Lakin and Kinuthia 2013). The main objective of devolution is to bring services closer to the people and enhance equality in sharing of resources. This method of promoting equality is quite different from the one learned in our tutorial. In the tutorial, taxation was discussed as a method of bridging the income gaps in a country by redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor. In the Kenyan case, devolution is being used to make sure the poor in the rural areas also have access to public services. Apart from bringing equality across the various regions of the country, devolution is aimed at opening economic opportunities to poor people in the rural areas and eventually bridge the income differences.

Kenya faced serious governance issues in periods before 2003. The political crop had failed to focus on developing the economy and providing services to the common citizens and the economy was headed to a halt (Anderson 2002). The status of the country at that time mirrored the autocratic leadership we discussed in lecture six. The qualities of autocracy identified in our study ranging from lack of checks and balances within government, oppression of the civil society and the media and non-participatory policy making were quite evident at that time.

The situation changed tremendously after the 2003 general election and the coming in of the Narc government. The government embarked on a transformative agenda and put in policies to turn around the economy and improve the life of the common man (Branch 2011). The democratic space also expanded substantially and the place of strong institutions was enhanced. It is from 2003 that the ideal role of a government as demonstrated in our lecture two was realized in Kenya. In our lecture, we found that the role of a government is to provide public services and provide a favorable environment for the private sector to thrive. This approach was evident in Kenya since 2003 where the conducive environment provided by the government resulted in a very vibrant private sector that has been driving economic growth in the country.

One of the important policies put in place was the free primary education that significantly increased access to education. There was also significant investment in the infrastructure of the country and more so the road network (Branch 2011). The current government has continued the development agenda and significant expenditure in infrastructure, and the energy sector is evident (Kenya Bureau of Statistics 2016). The democratic space, especially in the era of a new constitution that has a couple of provisions on checks and balances, is still robust. The fruits of devolution are also evident across the country. The most notable changes are in the Northern Eastern region of the nation, a region that has been marginalized for long. The people in these areas are receiving services like good roads and access to water for the first times in their lives (Kimenyi, Mwega and Ndung’u 2016).

Despite the strengthening of the economy, questions have been raised on the rising debt level that is being termed as unsustainable and one that will transfer huge burdens to the future generations (Kimenyi, Mwega and Ndung’u 2016). Cases of rampant corruption and misuse of public resources have also been a matter of concern, and it is worrying that around a third of the annual budget is going to waste (Ludeki, Tuta and Kichamu 2005). The country is also highly ethnically divided and the government of the day is always perceived to be serving the interests of the ethnic groups supporting the leaders.

The situation in Kenya presents a chance to compare different aspects of development learned in class. The case is a clear demonstration of the trade-off between good governance and development. The significant shift from dictatorship in 2003 and the associated economic growth demonstrates a correlation between democracy and development in the Kenyan case. This is in line with the arguments by Acemoglu and Robinson that the difference between poor and rich nations was the presence or absence of strong and inclusive institutions and good governance. It is also in tandem with the argument of William Easterly that economic development depends on the soundness of the economic policies implemented.

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