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'No Raila, No Peace!' Big Man Politics and Election Violence at the Kibera Grassroots

Johan de Smedt
African Affairs
Vol. 108, No. 433 (Oct., 2009), pp. 581-598
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40388421
Page Count: 18
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'No Raila, No Peace!' Big Man Politics and Election Violence at the Kibera Grassroots
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Abstract

This article investigates the relationship between national politics and local violence in the aftermath of Kenya's 2007 election. Focusing on the Kibera slum, the article shows that while the area's ' big man' Raila Odinga at times appeared to have a strong hold over his constituents at the grassroots, patrimonialism and big man politics cannot provide a full explanation of the post-election violence. Instead, local socio-economic factors played a key role and lent the conflict its own specific dynamics. The article also shows that while Raila's strong patron-client relationship with Kibera residents has empowered him as a national politician, in his current role as Prime Minister this relationship restricts his political room for manoeuvre. Thus the focus on Raila's 'big man' status in Kibera illustrates the pressures faced by Kenyan politicians in mediating between their public roles and the demands of their constituents.

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