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Date of Award


Author's School

College of Arts & Sciences

Author's Program

African and African American Studies

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (A.B.)




The origins of current contentious land debates in Kenya are largely a product of the land consolidation and registration process of the mid 1960s. Following Kenyan independence in 1963, the Kenyan government was dealing with the fundamental question of what it meant to be a Kenyan citizen. Different groups in Kenya had competing views of what they “imagined” Kenya to look like. Land was at the epicenter of these debates, as Jomo Kenyatta and the Kenyan government implemented land consolidation and registration policies, which were largely an extension of British colonial development plans. While many Kenyans were optimistic about independence and the new government, not all Kenyans benefitted from the consolidation of land. Rather, large swaths of the population were excluded from these policies, while the political elite acquired large holdings. This fueled unemployment and landlessness throughout the 1960s. The exclusionary characteristics of land policies in the mid 1960s were purposeful and utilized as part of a top-down elitist nation building project, which aimed to create swaths of middle-class farmers. The outcomes of these policies become direct threats to the Kenyatta’s vision for the Kenyan nation state, forcing Kenyatta to adopt strong authoritarian policies to maintain a stronghold on political power.


Timothy Parsons

Additional Advisors

Mungai Mutonya, Adwoa Opong

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