Politics in East Africa

This overall research theme gathers (5) projets about political practices and representations in East Africa at the interplay between state institutions and everyday politics.

  • Devolution and Local ‘Politricks’ in Kenya

This programme, led by Deputy Director Chloé Josse-Durand since 2016, is about the role played by the new County positions in Kenyan politics. Topics include the political identities of the new electoral constituencies and the making of ethnic identities, the sociological profiles of local leaders, their policies and projects on the ground, as well as the strategies of the citizens and specific groups (council of elders, NGOs, community-based organizations, etc.) to challenge or benefit from the new devolved system.

  • Elections, leadership, citizenship

Elections have been at the heart of the research conducted at IFRA since its creation – notably through IFRA’s programme ‘the Observatory of East African Elections’.  Elections are ideal moments to scrutinize social and political transformations, such as imagination of citizenship, of leadership, aspirations, claims, and political apparatus. The act of voting and the use of new technologies of votes are also research objects per se which IFRA prioritized in some recent studies. Two books were published by IFRA on the elections in Uganda and in Kenya in 2014. In 2015, an exposition (Voting matters), an international conference and a roundtable were held to interrogate the materiality of voting and the imaginations of citizenship in Eastern Africa. A research project on Tanzania coordinated by Alexander Makulilo (UDSM) and Marie-Aude Fouéré (EHESS/IFRA) resulted in a special collection in the Journal of Eastern African Studies in 2017. An edited volume recently concluded research on the 2017 election in Kenya: Where women are. Gender and the 2017 Kenyan election (by N. Nyabola & M.-E. Pommerolle).

  • African Socialism, Nationalism, Pan-Africanism

This area interrogates what remains of African emancipatory political movements today, the memory, and heritage-making of renown political figures and experiments (in texts, songs, museums, etc.), and the role of politicians, artists and thinkers in promoting rekindled imaginaries of unity and solidarity in Africa. It explores the ways in which the past is made a symbolic and social resource into today’s politics at various levels of society. Two recent edited volumes by Marie-Aude Fouéré about Julius Nyerere (2015) and about the 1964 Revolution Zanzibar (2018, with William C. Bissell) illustrate this approach. This area intersects with the “Culture & Society” main research theme.

  • In/security, violence and policing

Social, physical and political insecurities are experienced daily by the urban population in East Africa. Following works done on militias and community policing, notably in collaboration with this CHRIPS, this programme looks into the daily practices of security and violence; it also focuses on violence and religion, especially on the Coastal and the North Eastern regions in Kenya. A geopolitical approach to security matters was pursued from 2012 to 2014 through the Observatory of the Great Lakes for which more than 40 notes were produced and can be found here.

  • Mobilizations and policies in the making

Land, social, economic policies are researched through the lenses of a sociology of public action. The context of constant reforms, the involvment of external and social actors and, in Kenya, the context of devolution provide a complex but challenging environment to understand policy making in Eastern Africa. In 2016, a conference on Land reform policies discussed the ordinary process of policy reforms and the involvement of social and international actors in it.