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The Buffalo and the Squirrel: moral authority and the limits of patronage in Kiambu County’s 2017 gubernatorial race

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Abstract

In the 2017 race for Kiambu County's governor seat, debates concerning the morality of incumbent governor William Kabogo played a distinctive role in his defeat at the hands of populist challenger Ferdinand Waititu. Shortly before the April nominations for Jubilee Party gubernatorial candidate, rumours circulated that Kabogo had publicly insulted the women of Kiambu at a campaign meeting. Kabogo ultimately gained a reputation for arrogant conduct at public meetings and an apparent belief that giving large cash hand-outs could buy his re-election. Drawing on 19 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Kiambu County, this paper probes the debate surrounding Kabogo's conduct. The article argues that Kabogo's defeat reveals moral premises according to which politicians in central Kenya are assessed, notions that stem from household-based understandings about proper masculine public conduct that Kabogo had allegedly transgressed. I underscore the limitations of patronage–both in Kabogo's actual practice and as an analytical trope. Instead, I emphasise the moral concerns of women voters who rejected the notion that money alone could buy their votes and–in ‘bringing down’ Kabogo–insisted that relations between themselves and politicians could not be divorced from moral qualities of respect.

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APA

Lockwood, P. (2019). The Buffalo and the Squirrel: moral authority and the limits of patronage in Kiambu County’s 2017 gubernatorial race. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 13(2), 353–370. https://doi.org/10.1080/17531055.2019.1592332

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