Department of Political Science

Devolution and Corruption in Kenya: Everyone’s Turn To Eat?

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  • Michelle D'Arcy, Trinity College, Dublin, Denmark
  • Agnes Cornell
How does decentralization affect patronage and rent seeking? While centralization is seen as enabling these practices, many expect decentralization to reduce them. With few examples of meaningful reform it is difficult to establish if this is the case in the context of African states. We look at the impact of decentralization on rent seeking and patronage in Kenya, where the devolution of significant powers to county governments has recently taken place. We suggest that devolution has not removed these practices but rather brought them down to the local level in response to popular expectations that it is “everyone's turn to eat”. The realization of this expectation for a broad constituency of ethnic groups and elites has facilitated – so far – the embedding of these reforms. Our findings thus suggest that the implementation of meaningful decentralization has been achieved via the decentralization of patronage networks, meaning that the “our turn to eat” character of ethnic patronage politics persists. As a result, although a greater number of groups now have their turn, ethnic minorities within some counties feel marginalized, including certain trapped minorities from politically relevant groups.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAfrican Affairs
Volume115
Issue459
Pages (from-to)246-273
Number of pages28
ISSN0001-9909
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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