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Role of Ethnic Grievances in the Instigation of Political Violence in Nairobi County: Case of Mathare and Kibra Informal Settlements


This study emerged in response to knowledge gaps on the role of ethnicity in the recurrent political conflicts in Mathare and Kibra, the worst of which occurred during the post-election violence of 2007. In solving the research problem, a systematic and methodical investigation on the causes of the recurrent political violence in the study area was done using a mixed research design. This analytical exercise involved testing of hypothesis about the relationship between quality of life differences and ethnic grievances. And qualitative interviews were informative on factors of conflict formation, escalation, and de-escalation. In testing the instrumentalist theory of conflict, it was observed that statistically significant differences existed between ethnic groups in conflict—the in-group and out-group—about horizontal inequalities and ethnic grievances. The in-group had a higher standard of living than the out-group, and the out-group had higher levels of ethnic grievances than the in-group. Importantly, it was found that there was a statistically significant relationship between horizontal inequalities and ethnic grievances in the study area. Revealed in qualitative interviews was that the relationship between horizontal inequalities and ethnic grievances is significant because it reflects the fears of the in-group of being dominated by the out-group and the frustrations and resentment of the out-group at being dominated by the in-group. The findings have defined the causal mechanism that is basic to the instigation of political violence, ethnic grievances borne of horizontal inequalities between the in-group and out-group. Entities like the National Integration and Cohesion Commission have a better understanding of the conflict dynamics that are basic to political violence in the study area and to other informal settlements that have experienced or are susceptible to political violence.


Horizontal inequalities, ethnic grievances, in-group, out-group, political violence

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