Politics in Kenya
Our turn to Eat

Our Turn to EatOur Turn to Eat is a book about the failure of nation-building in Kenya. It features chapters by political scientists, historians, economists, and sociologists to document the period 1950-2007. Taken together, the chapters develop an understanding of how the failure of successive governments to build a compelling national identity had laid the foundations for widespread civil strife. Despite the distinctive features of the Moi and Kenyatta regimes, most contributors find that since the late colonial period continuity, and not change, has been the dominant theme in Kenyan political life.

Through a range of methodological lenses and empirical material, the chapters highlight different aspects of this continuity: the strength of the provincial administration; the weakness of formal party structures; the central role of ethnicity in shaping political competition; the understanding of the state as a resource in itself; and the ultimately incompatible beliefs held by different communities regarding how power can be legitimately exercised. While writing the conclusion we realised that, taken together, the persistence of these factors over time helps to explain the failure of the nation-building project in Kenya, and the context within which disputed elections in late-2007 could lead to the collapse of political order and to the deaths of over 1,000 Kenyans.


  1. Introduction: Our Turn to Eat
    Daniel Branch & Nic Cheeseman
  2. Majimboism: The Troubled History of an Idea
    David M. Anderson
  3. An Unstable Foundation: Taxation and Development in Kenya
    Leigh Gardner
  4. Government & Opposition in Kenya, 1966-69
    Susanne Mueller
  5. Going for cai at Gatũndũ: Reversion to a Kikuyu Ethnic Past or Building a Kenyan National Future?
    Ben Knighton
  6. The Political Economy of Agrarian Laws in Kenya: Legal Impediments to Socio-economic Change, 1963-2002
    Cosmas Obote
  7. Of National Longing and the Antinomies of Post-colonial Kenya: The Case of Eric Wainaina’s Sawa Sawa
    Joyce Nyairo
  8. Histories of Association and Difference: The Construction and Negotiation of Ethnicity
    Gabrielle Lynch
  9. Political Parties, Elections and Ethnicity in Kenya
    Sebastian Elischer
  10. Constitutional Reform and the Crisis of Democratization in Kenya
    Shadrack Nasong’o
  11. Conclusion: The Failure of Nation-building and the Kenya Crisis
    Daniel Branch & Nic Cheeseman

Our Turn to Eat is available online via Amazon, Waterstones, and Blackwell’s.