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Kenya: Kenya Government Profile


President: Uhuru Kenyatta  Uhuru Kenyatta


President: Uhuru Kenyatta

Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya's founding president, took up his father's mantle to become chief of national in April 2013 despite facing charges of crimes against humanity over election violence five years before.

A few days before his swearing in, the Supreme Court ruled that the March 4 polls were valid, and that Mr Kenyatta would become the country's fourth president.

Backed by Kikuyu loyalists, Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta picked a running mate from the rival Kalenjin tribe, William Ruto, to form the Jubilee alliance. Both have been indicted by the International Criminal Court to face charges of orchestrating violence next the 2007 vote, an accusation they deny.

In those elections, the two men backed opposing presidential candidates and their two rival tribes were at the centre of the fierce blood-letting that drove 350,000 people from their homes.

Mr Kenyatta, ranked by Forbes as the richest man in Kenya, is heir to his late father's vast business empire that spans swathes of land, Kenya's biggest dairy company, five-star hotels, banks and exclusive schools.

He was born in 1961 in a little while next the release of his father Jomo Kenyatta from nearly 10 years' imprisonment by British colonial forces, and two years before Kenya's independence.

Educated in the United States at the elite Amherst College, where he studied political science and economics, he is viewed as the top political leader of the Kikuyu people, Kenya's major tribe making up some 17% of the people.

However, he as well appeals to Kenyans from different ethnic backgrounds, able to mingle not only with the elite he was born into but as well with the average Kenyan, cracking jokes using local street slang.

Correspondents say that with permanent heavy bags beneath his eyes and well dressed in pin-stripe business suits, Mr Kenyatta exudes an image of power and entitlement.

Kenya - Government

According to the constitution of 1963, as subsequently amended, the government of Kenya is led by a president who is chief of national, chief of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected to serve a five-year term; he may, however, dissolve the National Assembly during his term, or the National Assembly may dissolve itself by a vote of no confidence, in which case a new presidential election must as well be held. The president appoints the members of the cabinet (the vice president and the heads of the various ministries) from part members of the Assembly. The Assembly is barred by edict of the speaker from debating the conduct of the president. The cabinet is carefully balanced to maintain a multi-ethnic image, and the allocation of assistant ministerships is part of the communally arranged patronage system.

The unicameral National Assembly—established at the same time as the Senate and Home of Representatives were merged by constitutional amendment in 1967—consisted in November 1997 of 210 members elected for a maximum term of five years, plus 12 national members nominated by the president, and selected by parties in proportion to their parliamentary vote totals. In addition, the speaker of the Assembly and the attorney general are ex-officio members. Technically, MPs are allowed to introduce legislation, but in fact it is the attorney general who does so. Suffrage is universal at age 18.

The constitution recognizes the principle of maximum allocation of governmental powers to local authorities, and provision is made for the establishment of provincial assemblies with local administrative powers. The central government may abridge or extend the powers of local government in the national interest. The next elections are expected in early 2007.

Kenya - Political parties

Following a constitutional conference at Lancaster Home in London in February 1960, two national African parties were formed, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) and the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU). The fundamental difference between the two parties resided in the fact that KANU tended to represent those persons and tribes that were most closely associated with an urban-oriented nationalism and sought a highly centralized political system for Kenya, while KADU represented the additional rural and pastoral tribes, who feared a concentration of power by any central government. The political conflicts between these two parties tended to become identified with tribalism, since each party had a core group of tribes committed to it. In the national elections of May 1963, KANU won a majority of seats in both houses of parliament, and its leader, Jomo Kenyatta, assumed power. KADU dissolved itself voluntarily in 1964 and joined KANU.

Since 1964, KANU has dominated Kenyan politics. In March 1966, 30 KANU members of the Home announced that they had formed an opposition party, later named the Kenya People's Union (KPU), led by Oginga Odinga, a Luo, who had resigned his post as vice president. By-elections for the 30 seats, held in June 1966, resulted in the KPU's retention of only 9. In July 1969, Tom Mboya, the minister of economic planning, was assassinated. His death touched off old animosities between his tribe, the Luo, and the politically dominant Kikuyu, to which Kenyatta belonged. The government used the pretext of the assassination to ban the KPU and jail Odinga and other opposition leaders. In the 1969 elections, Kenyatta—who ran unopposed—and the KANU slate were returned to power. All parliamentary candidates as well were KANU members in 1974 and 1979; however, there were a lot of additional candidates than constituencies, and in all three elections a majority of incumbents were unseated.

Following reports that Odinga, who had been freed in 1971, was planning to form a new, Socialist-oriented party, the National Assembly on 9 June 1982 declared Kenya a one-party national. In the wake of the attempted coup that August, Odinga was again detained, and treason charges were brought against his son, Raila Odinga, dean of the engineering school of the University of Nairobi. The treason charges were later dropped, but Oginga Odinga remained under home arrest from November 1982 to October 1983. By that time, presidential and parliamentary elections had been held, with some 900 KANU members vying for the 158 elective seats.

A clandestine dissident group known as Mwakenya was founded in 1981. In 1986, 44 persons were being held in connection with this group, 37 of whom were convicted of sedition. Other underground opposition groups emerged in the 1980s and in 1987 a lot of joined to form the United Movement for Democracy (UMOJA, Swahili for unity).

In December 1991, the Moi government decided to end KANU's monopoly on legal political activity. A grand coalition known as the Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD) was formed, but, before the December 1992 election, it fragmented into two factions—FORD-Kenya, headed by Oginga Odinga and FORD-Asili, led by Kenneth Matiba. The Democratic Party of Kenya (DP) was headed by Mwai Kibaki and the Kenya National Congress (KNC) by Chilube wa Tsuma. Three other parties were active, even in the face of persecution by Moi's police. In particular, government prevented opposition MPs, domestic and international human rights figures, and journalists from entering the security zones of the Rift Valley, where the government conducted a policy of ethnic cleansing against the area's non-Kalenjin people. In 1993 alone, the KANU-led government arrested 36 of the 85 opposition MPs.

In the run-up to the scheduled 1997 elections, opposition parties made a brief attempt at unity with the formation in 1995 of the united National Democratic Alliance. Factional bickering, however, rendered it stillborn. As well in 1995, the Safina Party was founded by Richard Leakey, the world-renowned paleoanthropologist and former chief of the Kenya Wildlife Service, a post for which he was handpicked by President Moi. Leakey intended to organize an umbrella opposition party, but Moi promptly banned Safina. By 1996, however, several opposition parties had tentatively acknowledged their support of Safina. By March 1997 there were 26 registered political parties, but only 10 won parliamentary seats in the 1997 elections judged as fairly credible.

In the run-up to the 27 December 2002 elections, the opposition led by Mwai Kibaki organized a grand electoral alliance, the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). The seats won by party were as follows: NARC 125, KANU 64, FORD-P 14, other 7; ex-officio 2; seats appointed by the president: NARC 7, KANU 4, FORD-P 1.

Kenya - Local government

Kenya is divided into seven provinces: Coast, Northeastern, Eastern, Central, Rift Valley, Nyanza, and Western. (The Nairobi area is separate and has appropriate status.) These are subdivided into 63 districts, each headed by a presidentially appointed commissioner; provincial government is closely supervised by the central government. There are two types of upper local authorities (municipalities and county councils) and four types of lower authorities (urban councils, township authorities, area councils, and local councils). The Nairobi area, administered by a city council, is the direct responsibility of the central government. A lot of of the councils raise their own revenues by taxes, construct and maintain roads, carry out public health schemes, construct and improve housing, support education, and provide agricultural and social welfare services.

Kenya - Judicial system

The legal system is based on the 1963 constitution, the Judicature Act of 1967, and common law court precedent. Kenya accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations. Customary law, to the extent it does not conflict with statutory law, is used as a guide in civil matters concerning persons of the same ethnic group.

The judicial system consists of the Court of Appeal, which has final appellate jurisdiction, and subordinate courts. The High Court, sitting continuously at Nairobi, Mombasa, Nakuru, and Kisumu, and periodically at Eldoret, Kakamega, Nyeri, Kitale, Kisii, and Meru, consists of a chief justice and 24 associate judges, who are appointed by the president of the republic. The High Court has both civil and criminal jurisdiction, serving as an appellate tribunal in some cases and as a court of initial instance in others. Lower courts are presided over by resident magistrates and district magistrates. Questions of Islamic law are determined by qadis' courts. Military courts handle court-martials of military personnel.

Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, the president has considerable influence over the judiciary. The president appoints the High Court Judges with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. The president as well has authority to dismiss judges, the attorney general, and other officials upon approbation of a tribunal appointed by the president.

Kenya - Armed forces

Until 1963, Kenya's defense was the responsibility of the UK. On 10 December 1963, the withdrawal of British armed forces from Kenya was completed.

In 2002 Kenyan armed forces had active personnel of 24,400. The army of 20,000 was equipped with 78 major battle tanks. The navy had 1,400 personnel with four patrol and coastal combatants. The air force had 3,000 personnel, 29 combat aircraft, and 34 armed helicopters. The 5,000-member national police has general service, air, and naval paramilitary units. Kenya contributes personnel to seven international peacekeeping missions, mainly in other African nations. In 2001, Kenya spent $179.2 million on defense or 1.8% of GDP.

Kenya - International cooperation

On 16 December 1963, Kenya became a member of the UN; the country participates in ECA and all the non-regional specialized agencies, and is a signatory to the Law of the Sea and a member of the WTO. Kenya is as well a member of the African Development Bank, Commonwealth of Nations, G-77, and AU. President Daniel Arap Moi was OAU chairman during 1981/82 and 1982/83. In February 1975, Kenya signed the Lomé Convention, thereby acquiring preferential access to the EC for certain products. On 26 June 1980, Kenya signed an agreement with the United States allowing the latter access to air and naval facilities at Mombasa.

Since the US embassy bombings in August 1998, the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, and the November 2002 hotel bombing in Mombasa, the two nations have solidified their common front against international terrorism. The Bush government designated Kenya a strategic regional pillar in the American national security strategy, and renewed airbase, port access, and overflight agreements with the Kenyan government. In December 2002, US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, travelled to the region. Kenya receives 75% ($15 million of $20 million) of the funding authorized by the US Congress for counterterrorism in Africa.

Nairobi has become increasingly significant as a headquarters for international agencies (inclunding the secretariat of the UN Environment Program) and as a convention center for world organizations.


Government type: 


Administrative divisions: 

7 provinces and 1 area*; Central, Coast, Eastern, Nairobi Area*, North Eastern, Nyanza, Rift Valley, Western


12 December 1963 (from the UK)

National holiday: 

Independence Day, 12 December (1963)


12 December 1963; amended as a republic 1964; r

eissued with amendments 1979, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2008; note - the 2008 amendments established the coalition government and the position of prime minister

Legal system: 

based on Kenyan statutory law, Kenyan and English common law, tribal law, and Islamic law; judicial review in High Court; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; constitutional amendment of 1982 making Kenya a de jure one-party state repealed in 1991


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch: 

unicameral National Assembly or Bunge usually referred to as Parliament (224 seats; 210 members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms, 12 nominated members who are appointed by the president but selected by the parties in proportion to their parliamentary vote totals, 2 ex-officio members) elections:

last held 27 December 2007 (next to be held in December 2012) election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - ODM 99, PNU 46, ODM-K 16, KANU 14 other 35; ex-officio 2; seats appointed by the president - ODM 6, PNU 3, ODM-K 2, KANU 1

Judicial branch: 

Court of Appeal (chief justice is appointed by the president); High Court

Political parties and leaders : 

Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-Kenya or FORD-Kenya [Musikari KOMBO];

Forum for the Restoration of Democracy-People or FORD-People [Reuben OYONDI];

Kenya African National Union or KANU [Uhuru KENYATTA];

National Rainbow Coalition-Kenya or NARC-Kenya [Martha KARUA];

Orange Democratic Movement or ODM [Raila ODINGA];

Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya or ODM-K [Kalonzo MUSYOKA];

Party of National Unity or PNU [Mwai KIBAKI];

Shirikisho Party of Kenya or SPK [Chirau Ali MWAKWERE]

Political pressure groups and leaders: 

Council of Islamic Preachers of Kenya or CIPK [Sheikh Idris MOHAMMED]; Kenya Human Rights Commission [L. Muthoni WANYEKI]; Muslim Human Rights Forum [Ali-Amin KIMATHI]; National Convention Executive Council or NCEC, a proreform coalition of political parties and nongovernment organizations [Ndung'u WAINANA]; National Muslim Leaders Forum or NAMLEF [Abdullahi ABDI]; Protestant National Council of Churches of Kenya or NCCK [Canon Peter Karanja MWANGI]; Roman Catholic and other Christian churches; Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims or SUPKEM [Shaykh Abdul Gafur al-BUSAIDY] other: labor unions

International organization participation: 


Flag description: 

three equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and green; the red band is edged in white; a large warrior's shield covering crossed spears is superimposed at the center