Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science


Democratic consolidation in newly transitioned democracies has traditionally been attributed to widely accepted political and legal mechanisms, like elections and constitutions. Existing literature on democratization in sub-Saharan Africa is preoccupied with these mechanisms as prime indicators for democratic takeoff in specific countries. Hardly any attention has been paid to other less openly political mechanisms, such as the response to external shocks, as potential sources of institutional development that could advance democratic practices.

Yet national response to any external shock can entail a host of actions with potentially far ranging political implications, including transformation of the form and means of political contestation in a given country. The practical need for means to address urgent issues in response to the external shock could lead tothe emergence of institutional mechanisms that foster democratic practices. A logical question to ask is: How does mobilization against external shocks affectthe process of democratization in fragile democracies?

This project identifies the institutions that emerged in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Kenya and examines their impact on the country's democratization.

The dissertation adopts a historical institutionalist perspective, advanced through analyses of policy documents and a review of the secondary literatures dealing with HIV/AIDS and with post independence political developments in the country. Tracking institutional developments before and during the HIV/AIDSera, and examining the contribution from responses to the HIV/AIDS pandemic to these developments, provides insight into this kind of political change.

I conclude that although consolidation of democracy in Kenya is still in its infancy, mobilization against HIV/AIDS has inadvertently led to the emergence ofinstitutional mechanisms that, along with other factors like civil society agitation and international pressure, have built a significant structure for the practice of democracy. I emphasize that while HIV/AIDS has been documented in existing literature as set to reverse political gains across sub-Saharan Africa, mobilization against the pandemic in Kenya has led to the emergence of citizen driven institutions that contribute to advancing democracy.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access