Did Development Fail in Kenya?

The ongoing violence in Kenya shows that economic development is no panacea, and may create its own set of grievances – particularly when done without regard to the abrupt changes it brings to societies. But Kenya isn’t an illustration of development failing, but of development at work: complex, powerful, and yet fragile.

Nairobi -- A month ago, Kenya fell prey to a sudden burst of post-electoral violence that has left over 1000 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. The intensity and scale of the violence have stunned the world.

Of course, Kenya had lived through tense electoral periods before, and few people who know Africa were blind to the many difficulties the country continued to face. But things seemed to be going well recently. This year’s campaign was exceptionally peaceful, and millions of citizens voted on December 27 – at times walking and queuing for hours to cast their ballot.

Perhaps more fundamentally, Kenya was unanimously seen as the “good student” of development, sometimes referred to as a symbol of an African renaissance. The “Kenya vision 2030 framework,” a set of ambitious macroeconomic, legal, and constitutional reforms, was being implemented in close partnership with the World Bank.

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