The Kenya Forum | Gaining Elective Positions in Kenya - A Brief History - The Kenya Forum

November 26, 2022


Kenya now needs to go back to drawing board to find an electoral system that is conducive to the rest of Kenyans at large

More by Rieko Mwenyewe

Gaining Elective Positions in Kenya – A Brief History

Gaining Elective Positions in Kenya – A Brief History

Photo courtesy the Brookings Institution

Rieko Mwenyewe gives his personal take on the history of elections in Kenya…

The task of attaining, particularly a parliamentary elective position in Kenya, is not a very easy matter in the current situation. In 1957, it was an easier deal because Kenyans were still controlled as a British Colony in the United Kingdom.

The Legislative Council

It was a walk in the park in those days for pioneer members of the Legislative Council, better known as Legico, when stalwarts like Jaramogi Oginga Odinga represented Central Nyanza, C.T. Munei, represented Rift Valley, C.M.G Argwings Kodhek, represented Nairobi together with Thomas Joseph Mboya, W.B.Akatsa, North Nyanza, B.A.Ohanga Central Nyanza, J.K.Tipis, Rift Valley, G.Orinda, South Nyanza.


There was a notable problem when the British government agreed to let Kenya be independent in 1961 and proposed Jaramogi Oginga Odinga to be the Prime Minister. He refused and suggested that the Mau Mau detainee, John Kamau Muigai, as President Jomo Kenyatta was known then, to be the prime minister. This was opposed by the members of the Kenya African National Union, which was headed by James Gichuru but Jaramogi Oginga Odinga insisted that unless Jomo Kenyatta, who was detained at that time was released, Kenya could not be Independent.

The British government yielded to pressure and Hon. Jomo Kenyatta became the first Prime Minister of Kenya in 1963. He was elevated to president in December 1964. The first cabinet minister at that time was Appolo Benea Ohanga. The first education minister was J D. Otiende from Maragoli.

The One-Party State

The Republic of Kenya became a de facto one-party state in 1964 when the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) merged with the Kenya African Nation Union (KANU) to form only one party. Jaramogi Oginga Odinga became the first Vice President. Hon. Daniel Arap Moi became the third Vice President in 1967 after Hon. Joseph Murumbi took over from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in 1966.

Multi-Party Democracy

Kenya’s government returned to multiparty democracy in 1992 after a fierce struggle mounted by among other luminaries, Hon. Stanley Njindo Matiba, Hon. Charles Rubia, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Hon. Paul Mugane Muite, Hon. Martha Wangari Karua, Hon. Nthenge and Hon. Martin Shikuku Oyondi.

It’s Who You Know

After the introduction of multiparty politics in Kenya it became a more daunting task to become a Member of Parliament or even a council member. It was even more difficult to be nominated by a recognized national party. To do so one had to be associated with a prominent past member of parliament or a monied person. Those who gained during this time supported by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga were, C.M.G. Argwings Kodhek from Gem, Samwel Onyango Ayodo from Karachonyo, Ramogi Achieng’ Oneko from Uyoma.

People who were privileged to succeed as Members of Parliament had to be recommended by the likes of President Arap Moi, mostly supporters from Rift Valley Region, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga from Nyanza, Uhuru Kenyatta from Mt. Kenya, and lately Hon. Raila Amolo Odinga from Nyanza and Hon. William Arap Ruto from Rift Valley.

Becoming a Minister was even more difficult and most ministers had to adhere to the President’s pecking order.

The First Women Members

The matter of women being elected members of parliament was also another issue because of violence and lack of money. The first woman member of parliament was Hon. Grace Aketch Onyango of Kisumu City in 1979. Other women began to be members in 1983.

Queuing to Vote

Around 1988, President Daniel Arap Moi introduced a voting system of queuing behind a recommended person which was commonly called Mulolongo. This system was so filled with anomalies and direct rigging it oftn made a winner in to a loser. The most daring loser at that time was Hon. Kenneth Matiba.

President Moi Stays in Power

At the 1992 general elections, Hon. Daniel Arap Moi won on simple majority criteria but he only attained 33 percent of the total votes cast and at least 25 percent in five provinces which was easy to attain but still the question of rigging elections emerged.

This was repeated at the election in 1997.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times…

In 2002 Kenya held one if its best general elections (in terms of fairness) where there was no rigging claim.

Come 2007, however, Kenya had perhaps its worst general election when more than 1000 people were killed and over 30,000 people were displaced in post-election violence following a hotly disputed election and allegations of vote rigging.

The Constitutional Amendment Act

The Constitutional Amendment Act of 2010 changed the voting system and reduced the term of incumbency to two terms. The group that gained more was women for which an introduction of women representatives in parliament was set at 47 for each county. But all the same, things were not rosy for people from the lower class to be elected. This left the field to the rich class only.

Where To Now?

Kenya now needs to go back to drawing board to find an electoral system that is conducive to the rest of Kenyans at large which will deal with the winner-takes-all control, the rigging menace, and make it easy for any Kenyans to contest as an elected Member of Parliament, Senate, Women Representative, Governor and Member of County Assembly.


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