How Political Parties have Evolved since Independence


Political parties bring people who share similar views on political activities or issues together to win an election. Across the globe, governments are formed through political parties. This explains why parties become very active in mobilizing voters and popularizing themselves ahead of any election. Ideally, political parties should attract and inspire people to support their cause by enrolling as members. They ought to resonate with concerns that citizens have and should unify or mediate citizens with diverse interests.

Since Kenya became independent, many changes have happened in political parties. These changes are more or less similar to what we are witnessing today. Here’s how political parties have evolved over time:

#1 KANU takes Power

Upon independence in 1963, the Kenya African National Union (KANU) produced the first president, Jomo Kenyatta. KANU had been founded in 1944 to effectively articulate the grievances of Kenyans against the colonial government at the time. KANU was a product of a merger between the Kenya African Union (KAU), the Kenya Independence Movement (KIM) and the National People’s Convention Party.  In 1960, the Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) was formed to challenge KANU. However, KADU dissolved and joined KANU voluntarily after independence, in 1964.

#2 Ban of Opposition Parties

Even so, a smaller party, the Kenya People’s Union (KPU) formed in 1966 became the opposition. The party was later banned following political unrest and its leader was detained. No opposition party was registered after 1969, making KANU the only political party. After President Kenyatta’s death in 1978, his vice president, Daniel Moi, formerly a KADU member, took over as interim president. He became the president in October, 1978 after being elected to head KANU.

#3 The Single Party State

The National Assembly passed an amendment on section 2A of the constitution in June, 1982 make Kenya a single party state in June 1982. This made KANU the only political party in the country, and the single party reign was further reinforced during the 1988 elections.

#4 Return of Multiparty Democracy

The National Assembly repealed section 2A of the constitution in 1991 paving way for formation of more political parties. By 1992, several parties had been formed and in December 1992, the first multiparty elections were held. KANU retained 55% of parliamentary seats with the rest going to opposition parties. The 1997 parliamentary reforms expanded Kenya’s democratic space with the number of registered political parties growing to 26 from just 11.  Since then, over 160 political parties have been registered with the likes of Ford Kenya, Ford Asili and DP being formed during the Moi era and Narc, Ford people, SDP, Sisi kwa sisi, Safina etc in the run up to 2002 general election.

#5 Regulation of Political Parties

After promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, measures to control political parties were put in place through the Political Parties Act, 2011. The Act puts in place measures that guide formulation, management and regulation of political parties to avoid mushrooming of parties allied to individuals and to prevent dishonest leaders from forming parties for monetary gains. The Office of Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) was established by the Act to implement and enforce the law.



  1. John M. 11 October, 2016 at 09:25 Reply

    Point to note, nowadays some political parties are formed on the basis of tribe, which has caused negative effects example : post election violence experienced in 2007-2008 election

  2. Chuma 4 November, 2016 at 12:55 Reply

    There was no opposition back then………..if one goes against the government its banned. the new constitutions shields political parties, am sure by now so many could be been deregistered or banned for opposing the government of the day.

  3. Kimani 30 January, 2017 at 12:01 Reply

    It has been a journey to realization of democracy in Kenya and so many suffered the likes of Matiba, Anyona and Martin Shikuku. Lets appreciate the democracy we are enjoying now.

  4. Peter K. 5 December, 2017 at 09:38 Reply

    Good read indeed! I now understand the struggles and sacrifices that our leaders made with much respect to the greater democracy of our nation

  5. Kish 5 December, 2017 at 09:50 Reply

    Enyewe Kenya tumetoka far, I am motivated to form my own party before the coming general election and vie for an elective seat in celebration of multipartism.

Leave a reply