Particularistic Exchanges and Pacts of Domination in Africa: Examining how Patronage Appointments may have increased Resistance to Public Sector Reforms in Kenya

Sylvester Odhiambo Obong’o


The complex bureaucratic institutional mechanisms that make it difficult to implement reform policies are deliberately set up by most African rulers to serve their selfish interests, which are diametrically opposed to the objectives of public sector reforms. It means that the emergence of a new form of institutional arrangements, which produce more efficient patterns of relationship between state, markets and civil society in the management of public policies, depends on dismantling the old order. In order to be successful, the proposed reforms require altering the internal incentive of the bureaucracy, which would in turn fundamentally alter the power controls and relationships on which a traditional bureaucracy is based. But this new and more efficient pattern of relationships has for a long time been resisted by the existing web of associations created by patronage appointments.

This paper examines political emasculation of key public service institutions through patronage appointments leading to loyalty to the government of the day, but with no institutional integrity and with a weakened trust among the actors in the external environment (Cameron 2010). Under such circumstances, prospects for reform depends either on fundamental political change or on engaging with that class’ fear that reform represents a threat to their interests (McCourt 2007). Therefore, this paper contends that the lackluster performance of public sector reforms in Kenya was not because reforms were implemented but yielded unsatisfactory results, but because several initiatives never got past the implementation stage at all. Rather, they were blocked outright or put into effect only in a tokenistic, half-hearted manner (Polidano 2001), due to vested political interests.

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