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Kenya: Between Hope and Despair 1963-2011.

Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011. Daniel Branch. Yale University Press. [pounds sterling] 25.00. xiv + 366 pages. ISBN 978-0-300-14876-3. This history begins, not surprisingly, with the granting of independence in order to see how independence entrenched a new ruling class with political parties to support it. Prof. Branch argues that the violence that followed the last general election can only be understood as part of the country's history. To make sense of Kenya's political history in the first half of the hook Prof. Branch has used reports sent home by diplomats in Nairobi. If not unbiased or always accurate, they do fill in the gap left by the absence of official government archives. In the second half he uses the archives of non-governmental bodies, e.g. churches or dissident exiles for his sources. It is interesting to note that concomitant with the violence were public debates about it and the corruption and ineptitude that have been part of public life. (It is this dichotomy, this 'culture of impunity' enjoyed by the ruling class that the new 2010 constitution was meant to address.) The author concludes that the banality and normalisation of violence are ... products of the political system, or at least those that inhabit it', or, in other words, violence is a tool to he used to gain and then to keep power. This was and is due to the courts' inability (or unwillingness) to act and the police, to arrest and prosecute. The dream of 1963 remains just that. (D.M.L.)
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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2012
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