Until recently, Kenya was considered something of a success story in a troubled region; now, however, it is consumed by political and ethnic violence following last week's disputed reelection of President Mwai Kibaki. The unrest has shocked many both inside and outside Kenya who believed the election would confirm the country's reputation as East Africa's most stable developing democracy.
As a recent Pew Global Attitudes survey highlighted, this optimism was not unwarranted -- before the election, Kenyans were feeling relatively good about the direction of their nation. Moreover, Kenyans were overwhelmingly optimistic about the elections -- two-in-three believed they would be conducted fairly.1
However, as the survey also revealed, Kenyans have long been one of the major African nations most worried about tribal conflicts. Half of Kenyans rated conflict among tribal groups a "very big problem" for their country -- the second highest percentage among the 10 African nations included in Pew's April 2007 poll. Only Ivory Coast and Nigeria -- both of which have also experienced considerable ethnic violence in recent years -- had similar levels of concern. Obviously, it would appear that, for the moment at least, tribal tensions have trumped the confidence Kenyans held in their electoral system and democratic institutions.
Read the full report Despite Progress and an Upbeat Pre-Election Mood, Ethnic Conflicts Have Long Worried Many Kenyans on the Pew Research Center Web site.