Pluralism Project – Abstracts

Constitution, Diversity and Unity Project



Below are the abstracts—brief summaries—of the papers that have been prepared in draft form and are available on this website.

For final publications, they will be revised by the authors, taking account of comments made by readers.  And we shall introduce more consistency into the styles of citation, headings etc., and some will be shortened.

From each abstract, below, there is a link to the full text. If you wish to comment, please feel free to write to or tweet @KatibaInstitute, and your comments will be passed on to the author(s).

Chapter 4:  County governance and pluralism in Kenya

Conrad M. Bosire

The 2010 Kenya Constitution is clear about the pursuit of pluralism and diversity through its devolved system of government comprising 47 county governments and the national government. The objectives of devolution proffer that counties are to enhance diversity for purposes of national unity, and that county governments will facilitate the accommodation of ethnic minorities. The argument presented in this paper is that, despite these broad intentions or purpose, the detailed design of county institutions and relevant institutions at the national level does not give a serious attention to the principle of pluralism. Groups or communities to be accommodated are not properly identified and no objective effort has been made to address this through enabling legislation or policy.  As a result, aspects such as electoral system, composition of the public service and administrative structures and other avenues where pluralism can be pursued in devolved governance, have not been effectively implemented. Despite the poor institutional design, political will and serious efforts to ensure inclusiveness, diversity, and pluralism, can overcome some of the poor designs and ensure realisation a part of the broad constitutional goals.

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Chapter 5: The Politics of Culture in Kenya since 2010: Implications for pluralism

Lotte Hughes, Steve Ouma Akoth and Celia Nyamweru


This chapter examines some key developments around culture and pluralism since the passing of the new constitution in 2010, drawing on new research findings. It starts by placing the subject in international context, including the ways in which cultural rights have become more visible in human rights protocols. It describes how culture and cultural rights feature in the 2010 constitution, and tension around these concepts which became sharply apparent during the constitutional review process. The subsequent rise and rise of culture (or ‘notions’ of culture) have become particularly apparent in devolved counties; for example, in the use by county governments of culture in tourism promotion, marketization of resources, and branding; in the proliferation of cultural festivals and other types of cultural performance across Kenya; and more broadly in the use of culture as a political propaganda tool, especially during the 2017 election campaigns. Cultural heritage is also emerging as a new way for communities to negotiate change at grassroots level. The constitution is not the only driver of these processes; the authors discuss other factors. While some of these developments are problematic, others, such as cross-cultural fusions, show that Kenya is moving toward becoming a plural society.

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Chapter 10: Pluralism, Language and the Constitution

Jill Cottrell Ghai

 This paper examines the linguistic situation of Kenya, with a brief account of the history of government policies in the field of education and elsewhere in regard to language. It outlines the constitutional provisions as well as recent policy and legislative moves and explores the impact of devolution. It concludes –tentatively – that, though there is considerable commitment to strengthening the place of Kiswahili, the task is not easy. And policies on other languages than Kiswahili and English are not clear. In fact there is no really vision of Kenya’s linguistic future. It ends by raising the issue of the connection between respect for language and respect for the communities as people.


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