Kenyan MPs – An Analysis


This file will store work in progress on the socio-economic analysis of Kenyan Members of Parliament, a research inquiry that has been conducted since 1983 and which covers the period from 1963 to 2003.


A. The Kenyan Cabinet


1. Ethnicity

The ethnic composition of the Kenyan cabinet has changed dramatically over the 40 years of independence. 1963 saw a Kikuyu-Luo alliance holding 60% of cabinet posts, a dominance that gradually declined as the single party emerged. The Kikuyu-dominated but “incorporationist” single party years, under both Kenyatta and Moi from 1969 to 1992 saw the Kikuyu and Luo together holding circa 40% of seats. The most radical change was in 1992, when the introduction of multi-party democracy and the defection of most Kikuyu and Luo to opposition parties led to the 1993 and 1998 governments being dominated by a four-way Kalenjin-Luhya–Kamba-‘Other’ (including Maasai, smaller pastoralist and minority communities) alliance.

Figures include President and Attorney General, after each election.  Saitoti is treated as a Kikuyu, Murumbi a Maasai.


2. Age


3. Sex


There has only ever been one female minister in Kenyan history, Winifred Nyiva Mwendwa, who was appointed a cabinet minister in mid-term, in 1995. She was, inevitably, given the Ministry of Culture and Social Services.


4. Socio-Economic Background


5. Electoral Performance


B. Members of Parliament

There have bene 909 individual elected or nominated as members of Parliament in the 40 years since the independence general election of 1963.


1.       Ethnicity

The ethnic composition of the national assembly has followed that of the nation as a whole very closely. The majority of MPs come from rural areas, generally areas where individual ‘tribes’, ethnic groups or communities dominate. In the settled areas of the ‘white highlands’ of the Rift Valley and neighbouring zones, multi-ethnic communities dominate, and political composition has often taken on an ethnic tone. Similarly, the urban areas have seen explicitly seat and city-based competition. In some seats, two or more communities were bundled together at independence, and therefore there has bene a long-running competition for control. Most were removed by the ethnically based boundary divisions of 1986 and 1997, but a few still remain. Finally, there are a few seats where once “ethnically homogenous” communities have been gradually altered by immigration and formal settlement schemes. This affected areas in Kwale, Taita-Taveta and Lamu on the coast, for example.


2. Age


The age of MPs has changed significantly over the years. The independence generation of 1963 were extremely youthful by both international and future Kenyan standards. Of the 150 Senators and Representatives of 1963 (none of the 3 Senatorial and 5 Representative positions from the Somali areas were filled in 1963), 27 were in their 20s, only 8 over 50.


The number of youthful members dramatically and consistently declined over the next four elections, so that after the 1983 polls, only 34 (of 141 whose date of birth is known) were less than 40.  With the mlolongo (queue voting) elections of 1988 and the addition of 30 news constituencies, the number of youthful members remained similar, but the number of unknown ages increased, reflecting the reduced availability of information of the period. 1992 Similarly saw a stabilisation, but also growing numbers of little-known individuals whose ages has never been publicised. With a further increase in the number of seats to 210 in 1997, there was a significant growth in those whose age is as yet unknown, but also, and despite this, a clear rise in younger politicians entering the house.

The average age of MPs rose from 36 in 1963 to a high of 49 in 1988, settling in 1992 and 1997 at a similar age of 48.

C All Candidates

The information available on parliamentary candidates over the last forty years is unfortunately scanty, and therefore there are large gaps in our knowledge of the properties of this elite and the differences between the aspirants and the victors in specific elections.


Research indicates that there have been circa 2330 individuals who have unsuccessfully stood for a parliamentary seat at some point in the last 40 years. The figures are approximate because some candidates have gone by different names in different elections, and it has not been possible to mach them, whilst in a very few by-elections there was no published list of candidates or results at all.