This paper reviews institutional reforms in the Kenyan water sector and their effect on water access. Despite a long history of reforms, a large proportion of the population still lacks access to water. The review showed that reforms during the colonial period gave the colonial government full control of land and water to satisfy the imperial quest for plantation agriculture and further limited water access to the locals through legislative fiat. After independence, the reforms initiated under ‘African Socialism’ to enhance equity that was severely neglected during the colonial period were adversely affected by global financial crisis of the 1980s. Similarly, the global initiative to ensure ‘water for all’ by 1990 was affected by a similar crisis and the subsequent introduction of neo-liberal policies in the country. The most recent reforms (initiated in 2000) are meant to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. The paper shows that by pegging its initiatives on global targets and foreign aid, Kenya has changed its policies and institutions to reflect the global trend several times. This has adversely affected the smooth continuity of policy process in the country.

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