Ethnic Politics : Voters, Parties and Policies in Kenya and Zambia

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: This thesis is an investigation of ethnic politics, both as a concept and as an empirical phenomenon. It is based on the propositions that (a) most instances of ethnic politics are non-violent rather than violent and, (b) most scholarly work in the field is explanatory and devoted to violent ethnic conflict. Consequently, it is argued that there is a need to focus on descriptive analysis of non-violent ethnic politics.Hence, the first part of the thesis is devoted to a conceptual discussion of ethnic politics: what does it mean and refer to? The underlying objective of the conceptual investigation is to develop an analytical framework that will improve and facilitate descriptive empirical analysis. It is deemed essential that the framework include several different aspects of both the participatory and policy dimensions of politics, in order to capture accurately the overall impact on ethnicity on politics. In the second part of the study the aptness of the developed framework is tested in a comparison of the nature of, and extent to which, an ethnic cleavage influenced politics in Kenya and Zambia during the 1990s. Voters, parties and distribution policies are examined in order to assess the impact of ethnicity on politics in the two societies. Both objective manifestations, in the form of election data, official statistics etc., and subjective manifestations, i.e. perceptions and attitudes sought through interviews, are employed in the investigation. The analyses reveal a substantial difference between the two countries, with an ethnic cleavage being far more prominent in Kenya than in Zambia. The investigation, however, also shows a considerable variation in the extent to which ethnicity affects the different aspects of politics. This underscores the importance of examining different aspects of politics in order to accurately assess the overall impact of ethnicity on politics.

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