Dissertation Abstracts

Analysing the Political Riskscapes of the 2022 National Elections in Nairobi, Kenya

Author: Carol A Mbeche, carolmbeche@gmail.com
Department: Sociology and Politics
University: University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Supervisor: Prof. Melanie Samson and Prof. Suzy Graham
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: elections , violence , democracy , risks
Areas of Research: Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty , Environment and Society , Political Sociology


In Kenya, election violence has become a persistent feature in the contemporary political landscape. The first election violence occurred in 1992, stirred by then-President Moi, who is from one of Kenya’s dominant ethnic groups, the Kalenjin. He sought to retain power and control over resources (Njiru 2018). During this time, politicians in the dominant Kenya African National Union (KANU) party led by Moi mobilised and funded unemployed youth groups in the Rift Valley, a Kalenjin-dominant region, to drive supporters of opposition parties from other ethnic groups out of their territory (Oloo 2010). Since then, such strategies of intimidation, harassment and violence have predominantly been employed by both political incumbents and opposition leaders seeking to retain or win power and promote their interests and those of their ethnic groups (Osamba 2005; Kamungi 2009). Kenya’s political landscape has often been shaped by either physical violence or tensions between certain ethnic groups. These acts of violence have led to hundreds of thousands of killings, displacements, and the destruction of property each time Kenya goes into elections (Adeogbo and Iyi 2011; Mutahi and Ruteere 2019). recently, there has been a reduction in physical violence. However, the country still goes through ethnic tension. Consequently, there were already predictions of violence in the 2022 elections if the new constitutional rules are not adhered to, or past loopholes in the electoral process are not fully addressed (Lynch, Willis and Cheeseman 2022). The focus of most literature in Kenya has been on understanding democracy in Kenya (Koko 2013; Cheeseman, Lynch and Willis 2014), the role of ethnicity in elections (Long and Gibson 2015; Wambua 2017), voting behaviour, electoral processes, and rigging (Ferree and Long 2014; Lynch, Willis and Cheeseman 2022), the historical context of Kenya’s violence and electoral violence in general (Hansen 2009; Adeagbo and Iyi 2011; Wambua 2017). What is relatively understudied (see Osborn 2008; Kahura 2013) are the experiences of ordinary people of violence and how they navigate such risky political and election-related violent spaces. This study addresses this gap by analysing the intersectionality of how ordinary people navigate election violence risks by advancing the concept of riskscape. Riskscape is a concept that describes how multiple and intersecting risks are embedded in specific places and are shaped by social practices (Muller-Mahn and Everts 2013). By identifying the election-related risks and where they may occur, this study aims to answer the question: how do people living in Nairobi, Kenya, navigate the riskscape of political and election violence during the 2022 national elections?