Kenyan politics 101 by Chris


For those that may have not have read a previous blog post of mine, I have been very much intrigued by Kenyan politics.  They are similar to the U.S. in many ways and also differ in many other ways.  I know that the people here love to watch the news to hear about the political events and they also love to read the paper to read about them as well....and in order to enter into a conversation about politics here, you have to study up.  I have found it to be a great conversation starter as many people are very emotionally charged about the politics here and it helps them to open up about their life and their struggles which can help to build a relationship and lay the groundwork for evangelization efforts.  I will try my best to explain the similarities and differences between the U.S. and Kenya in this regard.

This is Kenya's current president, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Kenya, just like the U.S., was a British colony.  It received independence from the U.K. on December 12, 1963 and was declared the Republic of Kenya on December 12, 1964.  Compared to the U.S. it is a relatively young country.  I was surprised that Kenya is only on their 4th President.  The current president is Uhuru (meaning Freedom) Kenyatta.  He is the son of the 1st president, Jomo Kenyatta, which the airport in Nairobi is named after along with many other things.  His father was president from December 12, 1964 until his death on August 22, 1978.  After his death, his deputy president (we us the word vice instead of deputy) Daniel arap Moi became president and served until 2002, when Mwai Kibaki won the general election.  Kenya has an election every 5 years for president vs. the U.S. where it is every 4.  They changed their constitution in 2010 and the president can only serve for 2 consecutive terms (10 years) vs. the U.S. where it is 8 years maximum.  In the 2012 election, Uhuru Kenyatta won the election and has been serving as the president.  The next election is in 2022 and the campaigning in the run-up to that election has already begun.  There is a new peacemaking initiative called BBI (Building Bridges Initiative) that is the main topic of the day.

Kenya has 3 main branches of government, similar to the U.S., the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.  This is where things start to differ greatly from the U.S. in the structure of government and I am still trying to understand it myself.  I already spoke of the executive branch and here, the legislative is made up of the Senate (like the U.S.) and the National Assembly (kind of similar the the House of Representatives).  Kenya is made up of 47 semi-autonomous counties vs. the U.S. having 50 states.  Each county here as an elected governor similar to the states in the U.S. and then each county has its own county assembly made up of MCAs (members of the county assembly).  The way people explain this is that these are like mayors, so it would be similar to each mayor also being the local representative in the state.

The last branch is the judiciary which is made up of the highest court which is the Supreme Court, just like the U.S.  There are two levels of courts: Superior Courts and Subordinate Courts.  The superior courts are the aforementioned Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Environmental and Land Court and the Industrial Court.  The lower courts are the Magistrate Courts, the Kadhi Courts (Kadhi means judge), the Courts Martial, along with other lower level local courts.

Kenya is also a member of The East African Community (think of the European Union here) along with the neighboring countries of what is called the African Great Lakes region.  This is kind of funny, because we are from Michigan which is the U.S. Great Lakes region!  The EAC is made up of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan.

There are many daily debates about what BBI is all about, who will be the next president, etc. as well as many questions directed towards us about our government.  A recent happening here is that a county governor was recently impeached and it coincided with the U.S. presidential impeachment.  The governor here was impeached and removed from office and replaces.  The same process is currently starting with another county.  Also, the governor of Nairobi recently signed over the county government to be run by the national government as the governor was arrested late last year on 19 charges of corruption.

Our countries are in negotiations of a trade agreement which would be nice for us as we would have more U.S. choices on the shelves other than Coke, Heinz ketchup and Kellogg's Rice Krispies.  
Our presidents recently met in the U.S. on February 6th, 2020

Also, on February 10, 2020, the U.S. began a new partnership with Kenya in establishing the first overseas joint terrorism task force.  42 Kenyan police and intelligence officers will spend 12 weeks in Quantico, Virginia at the FBI HQ undergoing counter-terrorism training.  I have to admit this was welcome news and it should help alleviate the fears of friends and family back in the states.

I have learned that as much as some Kenyans love to talk about their politics, it is not a welcome thing for a foreigner to say something about it.  It is similar to what my father once taught me which is "Son, never call another person's baby ugly!"  I really miss my Dad when I think of all of these sayings that he had.  He passed away on February 18th, 1998.  Please pray for the repose of his soul, his name was Alfred Joseph Carmody.  Also, please pray for our family and for the ongoing mission Our Lord Jesus Christ has called us to here in Kenya!

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