Wednesday, 20 July 2011


In July 2011, the website foreign policy published their annual list of failed states. Kenya was ranked 16th on that list, and this evoked a great deal of negative emotions from the Kenyan public. I mean, Kenya has its fair share of problems, but listing it with countries such as Somalia and Pakistan is unfair, surely.
I decided to do some research on the matter, and this is what I found out:
The fund for peace on its website, describes itself as “an independent, non-partisan, non-profit research and educational organization that works to prevent violent conflict and promote sustainable security.” It measures pressures on a state, moreso than the states capacity to handle them. Its research is guided by 12 primary social, economic and political indicators (check them here) and I have summarized these below. The indicators are then analyzed on a scale of 1 to 10:
1. Demographic pressures
These pressures include pressures deriving from high population density, group settlement patterns, high population growth rates, natural disasters, epidemics and environmental hazards.
2. Massive movement of Refugees and IDPs

This is the forced uprooting of communities as a result of random/targeted violence causing food shortages, disease that could lead to humanitarian and security problems both within and between countries.
3. Vengeance seeking group grievances
These are groups with historical injustices, patterns of atrocities committed against groups, public scapegoating of groups believed to have acquired wealth, status or power as evidenced in the emergence of hate radio, pamphleteering and stereotypical/nationalistic political rhetoric.
4. Chronic and sustained human flight
This is brain drain and voluntary emigration of the middle class due to economic deterioration, and growth of the Diaspora.
5. Uneven development
This investigates group based inequality, or perceived inequality in education and economic status, as well as group based poverty as measured by poverty levels, educational levels etc.
6. Poverty and decline
This is the progressive economic decline, collapse or devaluation of the national currency, “extreme social hardship imposed by economic austerity programs, growth of hidden economies, including the drug trade, smuggling, and capital flight, and increase in levels of corruption and illicit transactions among the general populace.”(fund for peace)
7. Legitimacy of the state
Massive and endemic corruption and profiteering by ruling elites, and the loss of confidence in state institutions.
8. Public services
This investigates whether there has been progressive deterioration of public services, such as the failure of the government to provide health, education etc.
9. Human rights and rule of law
This is the rise of dictatorships, politically inspired violence, rise of the number if dissidents and political prisoners, and the widespread abuse of legal, political and social rights.
10. Security apparatus
Private militias, army within an army, armed resistance to governing authority and elite guards beholden to the government.
11. Factionalized elites
This investigates tribalism, nationalistic political rhetoric, absence of legitimate leadership widely accepted as representing the entire citizenry.
12. External intervention
This looks at the military engagement, economic intervention by outside powers, and humanitarian intervention into internal conflict.
The fund for peace also ranks five key state institutions (leadership, military, police, judiciary and civil service). Leadership is judged to be weak, the military is poor, the police are poor, judiciary is poor and the civil service is weak.
The fund for peace then releases its findings in the July of the next year, after analyzing thousands of reports. Hence the results that were released in July 2011 were for the year 2010. Kenya’s performance from 2007 to 2011 is as follows: 2007-31st, 2008-26th, 2009-14th. 2010, 13th, 2011-16th.
Keeping in mind that the lower the ranking a country is, the worse the conditions in this country are (Somalia is position 1), it is obvious that Kenya’s position deteriorated progressively from 2007 to 2010, but improved slightly in 2011, mainly because of the free and fair referendum, and the promulgation of the new constitution. The enshrinement of the bill of rights and devolution of government will undoubtedly lead to the improvement of the Kenyan situation.

However, the issue of refugees and IDPs, factionalized elites and external intervention are not improving, in any case the factionalized elites (tribalism, nationalistic political rhetoric and absence of legitimate leadership widely accepted as representing the whole citizenry) the situation is getting worse despite the best efforts of the national cohesion commission.
Some of the challenges that stand in Kenya’s way to improving its standing on this list this year include:
• The ruling of the international criminal court on whether the six cases will be confirmed and criminal proceedings started. Whether or not this happens, justice must be achieved for the more than 1000 Kenyans that lost their lives in the 2008 post election violence. Failure to do so, whether by the ICC or the local judiciary will be a win for impunity and injustice. If the perpetrators of the 2008 violence are not prosecuted, what will stop such violence from occurring in the general elections of 2012?
• Secondly, the implementation of the constitution must be achieved within the stipulated time by all costs. This will ensure that we don’t go for a snap election that we are ill-prepared for. Thirdly, the campaigns for the elections will have to be conducted in a way that respects peace, justice and harmonious coexistence between the different communities, tribes and religious groups living in Kenya.
• Fourthly, the famine that is currently ravaging parts of northern Kenya must be addressed, the influx of refugees into Kenya from Somalia must be mitigated, and the refugees who are currently living in Daadab must be housed in proper conditions, and their health, food, security and clothing situation also addressed.
• Fifth, the runaway inflation, deterioration of the Kenyan shilling and rising cost of living addressed. This will ensure that the economic situation of Kenyans does not worsen.
• Sixth, the corruption that always takes place in the two years preceding a general election must be addressed and culprits taken to court, so as to give the public confidence in the government, as well as enable the state to provide the basic services to Kenyans.
In conclusion, the failed state index which did not receive the attention it deserved from Kenyans raises a lot of pertinent issues for all Kenyans to interrogate. The immediate future for Kenya is exciting yet fraught with danger. If there had been no elections in 2012, Kenya’s ranking would have undoubtedly improved. However, that, together with The Hague, drought, tough economic conditions, and slow implementation of the constitution means that we have to be very involved and wary as we move forward.


  1. we are heading somewhere...history has shown that change comes at a cost!! 2008 might be that cost!!..the kenyan govt really needs to look at these though..!!!Uneven development,Public services,Factionalized elites

  2. it must look at them, plus the serious challenges that we will be facing this year-hague cases, implementation of the constitution, corruption, drought and the hard economic times.

  3. nyce blog, this country needs change and the change starts with us

  4. Thats so true Sustainey...and we must use th freedoms our grandfathers fought for to achieve even greater rights.