“Peace and Order are in the Interest of Every Citizen”: Elections, Violence and State Legitimacy in Kenya, 1957–74

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In late-colonial and early post-colonial Kenya, elections repeatedly offered the occasion for the performance of a particular relationship between peace, violence and authority. The set of physical practices involved in elections, and the discourse around them, asserted both the autonomy of “the state” – as a thing somehow separate from society – and its monopoly of legitimate violence. Elections both empowered and constrained, authorising and demanding particular forms of behaviour. These demands were not uncontested, and elections saw both dispute among political elites and popular engagement; but their overall effect was to underwrite the position of Kenya’s provincial administration as the authoritative embodiment of the state.