Coping with the Christians?

Muslim Politics in Kenya
  • Donal B. Cruise O’Brien


The legalisation of multi-party politics in Kenya, for the 1992 and 1997 national elections, created an apparently propitious environment for symbolic confrontation, an opportunity quickly recognised by the Muslim intellectuals who announced the creation of an Islamic Party of Kenya in February 1992. That the government and its courts should refuse legal recognition to this particular party for the 1992 elections, or until immediately before the 1997 elections, probably neither surprised nor dismayed the founders of the Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK). The image of a persecuted Islam was after all the immediate point of the exercise, an image confirmed by official non-recognition: and that non-recognition did not prevent the IPK’s local activists from making alliances in particular constituencies, notably in Mombasa, with politicians from other opposition parties. notably from FORD-Kenva.1 So fan so good. from a militant Muslim point of view. But the opportunity offered by multiparty politics in other respects would appear to have led those militant Muslims into a trap, an opportunity to compound their own marginality within the Kenyan state. IPK’s founders, buoyed up perhaps by their own propaganda, with their easy denunciations of the corruption and abuse of power of the KANU government, by their own equation of Islam with power and modernity, have seriously underestimated their opponents and overestimated their own strengths.


Muslim Community Colonial Rule Coast Province Muslim Student Supreme Council 
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© Donal B. Cruise O’Brien 2003

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  • Donal B. Cruise O’Brien

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