Emergence of inter-identity alliances in struggles for transformation of the Kenyan constitution

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Jacob Mwathi Mati


Struggles for transformation of the Kenyan constitution brought into alliances disparate movements from below, sections of middleclass, and factions of political, economic and religious elites, in challenging the government. The emergence of these alliances presents useful cases for examining the dynamic relationship and politics between these movements, and also for probing social movement theory. Specifically, given the centrality of identity consciousness in movements, how were intrinsic class, religious, gender, generational and ethnic identity interests, contestations and cleavages overcome to enable inter-identity alliances in these struggles? More critically, how relevant are the dominant social movement theories in explaining this phenomenon? Is theoretical straightjacketing useful for analysing movements with such diversity? Drawing from in-depth interviews and existing literature on Kenyan constitutional reform struggles, this paper illustrates how alliances between the different identities and movements were forged to allow for a common struggle. The paper further illustrates that while political opportunity structures explain certain aspects of this phenomenon, framing, civic education and community organising strategies were critical enablers for collective identity formation

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Select interviews:
Ndubi interview 24/09/2009, Nairobi.
Mwachofi, interview 27/09/2009, Voi
Waruku, interview 29/09/2009, Nairobi.
Kibwana, interview 21/10/2009, Nairobi.
Rema, interview 22/03/2010, Nairobi.
Ong’ong’a, interview 26/03/2010; Nairobi
K’otieno, interview 07/04/2010 Nairobi.
Mwanyumba, interview 07/04/2010, Voi
Wadenya, interview 09/04/2010, Nairobi
Ouma, interview 07/04/2013, Nairobi