Rescaling Government, the Perils of Polarization and Violent Politics in Kenya

Andrew Linke, University of Colorado at Boulder

Kenya's new 2010 constitution call for the devolution of certain executive and legislative authorities from the national level to 47 counties. However, there is a chance that competition for newly contested county positions could lead to violent conflict. In contrast to a context of demographic diversity or homogeneity, conflict studies research suggests that the risk of violence is highest where two large groups dominate a population. Using two rounds of nationally representative surveys I fi nd that bi-modal population polarization at the district level prior to Kenya's 2007 national poll is a strong predictor of exposure to election violence. Expanding upon this result I identify two contextual mechanisms (low socio-economic status and ethnocentric attitudes) that may explain the link between polarization and violence. Quasi-experimental Average Causal Mediation Effect Estimates indicate that locality poverty is a more powerful explanatory mechanism than district ethnocentric preferences.

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Presented in Poster Session 8