Free Expression and Authority in Contest: The Evolution of Freedom of Expression in Kenya Open Access

Ngugi, Charles Muiru (2008)

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The status of freedom of expression in Kenya improved considerably in the 1990s. By the early and mid 2000s, Kenyans could express themselves without fear that the state would arrest, detain, or otherwise interfere with their expression. This relatively expansive freedom was the culmination of historical contests between the modern Kenyan state on the one hand, and anti-colonial nationalists, post-independence liberals and contemporary democratizing elements, on the other. Using a historical analysis of political, cultural and social thought and action, this dissertation explores the evolution of freedom of expression in Kenya. It also offers a holistic examination of the history of free expression in Kenya, which has tended to be treated in bits and pieces, often contingent upon donor or government funding. The interdisciplinary nature of this study strengthens prior research on freedom of expression and places the current free expression climate into a larger context. The historical approach that is utilized adds to this knowledge by examining the tension between liberty and authority in a developmental setting across time. This study also fulfills the need for more engagement with the history and politics of contemporary Africa. In the past, most scholars have focused on precontact, anthropological history of the continent, and tomes have been written about Africa's archeology and prehistory. However, this is not solely a historical project. It also makes a contribution on how free expression can be mobilized in the effort to consolidate emergent constitutionalism in Africa, and updates the historiography of free expression in Africa. This study is also an attempt to locate emerging formulations of freedom of expression, and to document their recent and current implementations.

Table of Contents




Introduction: Free Expression Theory and the Kenyan Context 1

Free Expression: Some Theoretical Perspectives 5

Freedom of Expression in Traditional African Society 15

Freedom of Expression in Kenya: A Historical Perspective 19

Significance of the Study 23

A Note on Research Methods 26

The Case Studies 30

Organizational Structure and Synopsis of Chapters 39


Freedom of Expression in Late Colonial Kenya 1944-1955 41

Free Expression and Counter-insurgency 43

Social-political Context of Free Expression in Colonial Kenya 54

Legal Regime and Freedom of expression 66

African Press and Free expression 74

Discourses and Views of the Nationalist press 78

Government Reaction Before the State of Emergency 97

Freedom of Expression During the State of Emergency 107

Conclusion 111


Freedom of Expression and the Struggle for Kenyatta's Succession, 1974-78 114

Context of freedom of Expression in the mid 1970s 121

Rise and Intensification of Discontent and Dissent 137

Freedom of Expression, Politicians and the Kenyatta Regime 147

Intellectuals and the Kenyatta Regime 160

Government Reaction to the Rise of Dissent 176

Conclusion 195


Freedom of Expression and the Constitutional Debate 1997-2004 199

Political Reforms and Freedom of Expression in the 1990s 203

Free Expression and the Push for Reforms in 1997 214

The IPPG Deal and Free Expression 217

Constitutional Reforms and Freedom of Expression 223

Regulatory Changes in Specific Media Sectors 228

Other Restrictions on Freedom of Expression 237

Legislative Reforms and Freedom of Expression 240

Non-legislative Measures Curtailing Freedom of Expression 250

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