Lessons from Kenya’s General Election, 2022

The Emergence and Triumph of Class Politics?

Writing in 1974, Robert Miller looked into the formation of classes in Africa and whether the continent had sufficiently developed a class consciousness that differentiated the rich from the poor. In Russia, class conflict had led to the 1917 revolution that overthrew the state Duma and the Tsarist government. A similar conflict had also emerged earlier in France where King Louis XVI was overthrown and killed by peasants who protested higher taxes, economic deprivation, and conspicuous spending. With the rise of African socialism in the cold war era, Miller was intent on interrogating whether class formation in Africa was complete and thus sufficient for class-based political ideologies. He was pessimistic, observing that “present evidence is not sufficient to enable one to predict the formation of class” in Africa.

Tribal Inequality and the Real Class Politics

Even though Ruto ran on a platform based on class politics, the voting patterns that emerged afterwards did not reflect any form of class consciousness. In fact, ethnic voting patterns observed in previous elections persisted, and it’s these patterns that granted him a win. From the map below, Ruto gained most of his votes from Central Kenya, Rift Valley, and some parts of Western Kenya. On the other hand, Raila got his votes from other regions of the country including Nyanza where he comes from, lower eastern, the coast, and North Eastern. To the keen observer, Raila seems to have had a much wider following in the more impoverished parts of Kenya while Ruto drew more votes from the wealthy Central and Rift Valley regions. Several questions arise. Why would poor regions vote for Raila while the wealthier regions vote for Ruto? Wasn’t Ruto the champion for hustlers, the poor, and the downtrodden?

Blue = Odinga’s Azimio Coalition while Yellow = Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Coalition
Colors might have changed but the presidential outcomes of the 2013 elections look similar to the blue and yellow 2022 map depicted above. Source: Vote UK Forum

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Zinah Issa

Zinah Issa

Reflecting on the cognitive and sociocultural nature of our societies.