Kenya at a Tipping Point: The 2013 Presidential Election

Editor's Note: This chapter is part of the 2013 Foresight Africa full report, which details the top priorities for Africa in the coming year. Read the full report here. 


  • The 2007 post-election violence shook Kenya to the core and erased its status in Africa as a country devoid of conflict.  There is a great expectation that Kenyans have learned their lesson and are unlikely to engage in vio­lence this time around.
  • Both Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who are leading con­tenders in the upcoming election, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court. This could have serious implications for the country if one of them is elected since it would likely exacerbate ethnic tensions in Kenya and have broader implications for the country’s relationship with the international community.
  • The other important dimension of the upcoming election is the establishment of decentralized, local governments. Under the new constitution, there will be 47 county gov­ernments that will be headed by a governor.

In 2013, probably the most significant presidential election in Africa will be in Kenya on March 4, and it is likely to have far-reaching implications not only for Kenya but also for the region.  This election will be the first general election after the 2007-2008 post-election violence, and there is growing anxiety over whether there will be a repeat outbreak of violence.  In addition, Kenya will be voting under a new constitution, which also has implications for the electoral process.  Finally, two of the leading five candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court for their involvement in the 2007 post-election violence.

Mwangi S. Kimenyi discusses the current Kenyan political landscape, the key players in this election, and the impact of the new, devolved constitution on the Kenyan electoral process.  He also touches on the International Criminal Court indictments of William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta and their exacerbation of ethnic tensions within the country.