Politics in East Africa

A political rally in Makunduchi, Zanzibar, October 2010

This overall research theme gathers (5) projets about political practices and representations in East Africa at the interplay between state institutions and everyday politics.

Elections, Leadership, Citizenship

Elections have been at the heart of research conducted at IFRA notably through its programme ‘The Observatory of East African Elections’.  Elections are ideal moments to scrutinize governance, party-state relations, imagination of citizenship, leadership, aspirations, claims, and political apparatus. The act of voting and the use of technologies of votes are also research objects per se. Over the years, many publications and events resulted from this program. For the 2022 Kenyan elections, IFRA’s research team is documenting and analysing a variety of social, political and economical issues.

Devolution and Local ‘Politricks’ in Kenya

This programme, led by Deputy Director Chloé Josse-Durand since 2016, is about the role played by the new County positions in Kenyan politics. Topics include the political identities of the new electoral constituencies and the making of ethnic identities, the sociological profiles of local leaders, their policies and projects on the ground, as well as the strategies of the citizens and specific groups (council of elders, NGOs, community-based organizations, etc.) to challenge or benefit from the new devolved system.

African Socialism, Nationalism, Pan-Africanism

This area interrogates what remains today of varied emancipatory political movements for Africa, their memory, the heritage-making of renown political figures and experiments (in texts, songs, museums, etc.), and the role of politicians, artists, activists and thinkers in producing rekindled imaginaries of unity and solidarity in Africa. It explores the ways in which the past is made a symbolic and social resource into today’s politics at various levels of society. Two recent edited volumes by Marie-Aude Fouéré about Julius Nyerere (2015) and about the 1964 Revolution Zanzibar (2018, with William C. Bissell) illustrate this approach. This area intersects with the “Culture & Society” main research theme.IFRA’s Pan-Africanism Forums, organized with the Alliance France in Nairobi and The Elephant, are part of this research theme.

In/Security, Violence and Policing

Social, physical and political insecurities are experienced daily by the urban population in East Africa. Following works done on militias and community policing, notably in collaboration with this CHRIPS, this programme looks into the daily practices of security and violence; it also focuses on violence and religion, especially on the Coastal and the North Eastern regions in Kenya. Research conducted by IFRA’s former Director, Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle, highly contributed to this project. Also, a geopolitical approach to security matters was pursued from 2012 to 2014 through the Observatory of the Great Lakes for which more than 40 notes were produced and can be found here.

Mobilizations and Policies in the Making

Land, social, economic policies are researched through the lenses of a sociology of public action. The context of constant reforms, the involvment of external and social actors and, in Kenya, the context of devolution provide a complex but challenging environment to understand policy making in Eastern Africa. In 2016, a conference on “Land reform policies” discussed the ordinary process of policy reforms and the involvement of social and international actors in it.

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