Influence of political culture on intercommunal cohesion : case of migori county , kenya
Magara, Karen Nyamoita
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Elections remain high-stakes affairs across the world. Studies indicate that often social cleavages – religious, gender, racial, ethnic and tribal lines among others – are exploited by politicians as a means to acquire and retain power. The objectives of this study were to establish how ethno-political identity and political patronage influenced intercommunal cohesion at the subnational level and explore corrective measures to address the divisive elements of political culture so as to enhance intercommunal cohesion in Migori County, Kenya. Cultural Identity Theory was used to explain the relationship between the variables of the study. Descriptive research design comprising of qualitative and quantitative methods was used to describe the relationship between the variables of the study. The target population of this research consisted of elected politicians and the residents of Migori County who have lived in the county at least in the last five years and from whom a sample size of 384 was obtained to participate in the study. Questionnaires and interview schedules were used to collect data while frequency graphs and charts were used to analyse quantitative data while content analysis was used to make sense of qualitative data. The study established that ethnopolitical identity and political patronage had negative effects on intercommunity cohesion in Migori County. Precisely, the study established that minority communities felt that their voice did not matter in the county political matrix unless they were allied to the party supported by the dominant ethnic community. It was further found that people who disagreed with the dominant political party and the local political kingpins were branded community traitors and unworthy of seeking political leadership in the county and this fostered political animosity within and between ethnic communities in the county. Comparatively, the two dominant communities living in the county were found to hold diametrically opposed political positions and support for different political parties and this served to undermine cohesion among them. The practice of democracy was also found to be subject to manipulation and gerrymandering as the popular will of the people particularly in political party primaries was disregarded by party leaders to the chagrin of its members. In terms of corrective measures, majority of the respondents were of the strong view that the law regulating political parties needed to be implemented, particularly in light of party financing disclosure so that rich unpopular people do not undermine democracy using their resources and consequently weakening cohesion. It also emerged that the state authorities responsible for fostering unity needed to be more visible and active at the grassroots to help fight stereotypes. In conclusion, in view of the two facets of the country’s political cultures that were studied in this research, Kenya’s political culture has negative implications on intercommunal cohesion. Politicization of ethnicity and political patronage in Kenyan politics weaken the social bonds among different ethnic communities. The corrective approaches that have so far been put in place are relatively effective with electoral reforms being more effective than political party reforms. The following recommendations are made based on the findings of the study; the government of Kenya should step-up electoral reforms efforts that will help the country address problems of ethnically inclined political activities, the NCIC to work together with IEBC to punish those who breach the set codes of conducts, the NCIC is encouraged to work closely with the citizenry and other politicians to identify individuals and institutions that encourage the undesirable political culture practices and punish them appropriately, and the general public is urged to shun politicians and political institutions that are founded on ethno-political identity and political patronage and give leadership opportunities to candidates and parties that promote inclusivity and social cohesion.
Africa Nazarene University