Meritocracy in Kenya

Meritocracy in Kenya
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Meritocracy in Kenya
Meritocracy is a political philosophy that recognizes the need to give power and
responsibilities to individuals based on talents and ability. The system identifies a criterion
through which performance and competencies are measured through examination or
demonstrated experiences. In many advanced societies, allocation of job positions and
appointments is based on merit, including work experience and academic qualifications.
However, the system is not appreciated and utilized effectively in the developing societies such
as Kenya. Therefore it is prudent to state that Kenya is yet to embrace the system of meritocracy
due to ethnicity, weak institutions, and corruption despite the promulgation of a new constitution
as well as commitment to embrace democratic values.
Weak and selective law enforcement policies make meritocracy vulnerable to abuse. It is
noteworthy that the political culture in Kenya is maturing since the promulgation of a new
constitution in 2010 despite challenges in the electoral and governance system. Political flaws
experienced in the country previously posit the non-adherence to democratic values. Over time,
civil society groups, opposition political leaders, and private sector have criticized the political
culture and processes (Kithinji, Koster, & Rotich, 2016). Politically, meritocracy is non-existent
due to colossal nature of ethnicity in Kenya. The political elite can easily cheat their way to the
top or abuse office without facing charges. A closer examination of the political leaders is a
reflection that merit is not the defining factor of leadership. Most of the leaders have pending
cases in court related to corruption and other vices. Only a few members of the political class fit
the bill of academic excellence and principles of leadership (Kithinji, et al., 2016). In fact, a
significant majority of the members of parliament win their seats through intimidation and
bribery of voters. It is evident that the transfer of excellence from the private to the public sector
is a serious issue that needs redress.
Kenya has a high number of qualified individuals who are unemployed. Reports indicate
that unemployment stands at over 45 percent. Getting employment in the public or private sector
is largely dependent on connection to leaders and managers. As such, individuals from wealthy
families or political elite can easily get employment devoid of the qualifications. Similarly, one
can get employment by bribing the employer to seek approval. It is not surprising to find a
masters degree holder working in a low-paying and menial job. The same extends to promotion
where most workers have to bribe or get connection to the leaders to get such recognition.
Ethnicity is another serious problem that jeopardizes the meritocracy system. The biggest
tribes such as Kikuyu, Kalenjin, and Luhya have an added advantage over the minority groups.
They comprise the largest representation in the public and private sector employments. As such,
the tribal element plays a crucial role in getting jobs and other opportunities (Alam, 2014). It is
noteworthy that Kikuyu and Kalenjin have produced the country’s four presidents. As such, the
communities have benefited from biased policies and socio-economic opportunities due to
proximity to the presidency. Similarly, ethnicity affects regional balance on political and
economic affairs.
Nonetheless, Kenya has improved significantly following the adoption of a new
constitution that has led to creation of public institutions to ensure adherence to democratic
values that promote meritocracy. For instance, the appointment to most public offices is
dependent on work experience and academic qualifications (Kithinji et al., 2016). In addition,
devolution system has ensured the largely marginalized communities such as Turkana and
Mijikenda get a share of social and economic opportunities.
In sum, meritocracy is yet to get roots in Kenya in both the private and public sector.
Some of the factors that undermine meritocracy include ethnicity, corruption, electoral injustices,
and weak institutions. However, the country has shown improvements toward embracing the
culture of meritocracy in appointments and political leadership. The 2010 constitution has made
it possible for the country to realize significant gains on promoting meritocracy.
Alam, M. (2014). The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission of Kenya: A well-
intentioned “gender policy” threatened by structural, cultural, and political challenges. In
women and transitional justice: Progress and persistent challenges in retributive and
restorative processes (pp. 88-102). Palgrave Macmillan UK.
Kithinji, M. M., Koster, M. M., & Rotich, J. P. (Eds.). (2016). Kenya After 50: Reconfiguring
historical, political, and policy milestones. New York, NY: Springer.

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