Politics in Kenya remains vulnerable to ethnic tensions despite its openness and vibrancy, but it can also be argued that Kenyan politics is becoming increasingly mature. This article explains the political economy dynamics behind the first two orderly presidential successions in post-colonial Kenya. It proposes a conceptual framework that shows how instrumental ethnicity plays out in a quasi-differentiated society in which ethnic organizations are the key conduits for the flow of rents between political and economic elites. More specifically, it shows how the internal fragmentation of ethnic groups intensifies the structural uncertainties that are commonly associated with intra-elite pacts in weakly institutionalized polities. It is argued that the 1978 and 2002 presidential successions in Kenya were orderly, paradoxically, because some of the crucial political and ethnic organizations were fragmented to the extent that they created conditions of great uncertainty for the elite. In this context, the rule of law was upheld as a last-ditch strategy to mitigate uncertainties in the face of rampant fragmentation. This shows that ultimately elite fragmentation can generate political stability provided that there is enough at stake for the elites. HORRIFYING IMAGES OF THE POST-ELECTION VIOLENCE in Kenya in 2007–8 have been used by some in the media to portray Kenya as a country teetering on the verge of tribal warfare. The fact that such a dramatic deterioration of order occurred in a country that was considered to be one of the most stable in the region has led many to examine the underlying fractures in the Kenyan state. Indeed, Kenya’s plight attracted so much *Biniam E. Bedasso (biniam.bedasso@econrsa.org) is a Policy Research Associate at Economic Research Southern Africa. I am grateful to John J. Wallis for reading and critiquing draft versions of this article. I would like to thank Adam Szirmai, Kaj Thomsson, three anonymous referees and the editors of this journal for comments and suggestions. I gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Robert S. McNamara fellowship programme of the World Bank and Agence Francaise de Developpement. 1. Mike Pflanz and Richard Holt, ‘Kenya on the brink amid “genocide” claims’, The Telegraph, 2 January 2008, (16 March 2015). 2. See, for instance, Susanne D. Mueller, ‘The political economy of Kenya’s crisis’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 2, 2 (2008), pp. 185–210; Daniel Branch and Nic Cheeseman, African Affairs, 114/456, 361–381 doi: 10.1093/afraf/adv020 © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Royal African Society. All rights reserved Advance Access Publication 11 June 2015

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