Kenya Believe it? Tracking Orientations Toward Reconciliation After a Period of Acute Civil Conflict


Integrative complexity (IC) describes a person’s ability to differentiate and integrate aspects within an argument. The more complexity a person employs in processing information, the more likely he or she is to integrate new ideas into his or her own beliefs (Bar-Tal 2000; Bar-tal, Kruglanski, and Klar 1989; Conway, Suedfeld, and Tetlock, 2001; Ishiyama and Backstrom 2011). IC, then, is essential to negotiation processes, especially in cases of civil conflict, such as the Kenyan election crisis of 2007-2008. Identifying groups and individuals with high levels of IC can help us understand the dynamic shifts toward reconciliation in the post-conflict resolution process. This study utilizes machine-coded textual analysis based on Suedfeld’s IC scoring manual (Baker-Brown, Ballard, Bluck, de Vries, Suedfeld, and Tetlock 1990) to measure the effect of age, gender, party affiliation, and level of education on Parliamentary speakers’ orientation toward reconciliation (OTR) over a period of one year, immediately after the Kenyan election crisis. Tobit analysis demonstrates that education, party affiliation, and temporal distance from the conflict all have a positive influence on OTR.

Table of Contents: 


    In her essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?,” Gayatri Spivak argues that once a body has been rendered as Other, that body loses its voice and the ability to defend the value of its existence (1988). This phenomenon can easily be seen in ethnic and political violence narratives, wherein the identity of one group is reduced and dehumanized until it is left “killable, but not muderable [sic].” (Jensen 2013). Individuals become things to be discarded or done away with, friends become enemies, neighbors become strangers, and ordinary civilians become murderers. But how is this process done in reverse? How is the “cockroach” or “rat” re-complicated into a valuable human life, worthy of dialogue and compromise? Much research has been dedicated to understanding and preventing symbolic dehumanization in areas at risk for violent conflict, but there is little knowledge of how, when, and why these opposing groups begin to interact with one another as equals.

    Peace communication is an approach to conflict resolution, which relies on the ability of “rhetorical communication [to promote]... cooperation and social cohesion” (Blake 1998, 310).  This removes non-discursive elements such as weaponry from the rhetorical situation of the conflict, which creates more room for dialogue between opposing groups. Without dialogue, it is nearly impossible to cultivate or maintain peace (Blake 1998). However, most research in post-conflict resolution has focused on the context of the conflict, rather than the rhetorical processes that allow groups to view “their opponents as credible collaborators” in an agreement of social unity (Ishiyama, Backstrom 2011, 366). By tracking rhetorical complexity—a  measure of conciliatory language—in parliamentary debates in the period following the “Kenyan Crisis,” this paper seeks to identify which groups or individuals move toward reconciliation first (Bar-Tal 2000; Bar-tal, Kruglanski, and Klar 1989; Conway, Suedfeld, and Tetlock 2001; Hartzell, Hoddie, and Rothchild 2001; Ishiyama, Backstrom 2011; Suedfeld and Bluck 1988; Suedfeld and Jhangiani 2009). Identifying which factors or combination of factors influence an individual’s orientation toward reconciliation can help guide post-conflict resolution efforts. My findings suggest that education, party affiliation, and the timing of the debates all have significant influence on a speaker’s orientation toward cooperation and reconciliation with his or her opponent.

    Literature Review

    Communication in Conflict Resolution

    Hartzell, Hoddie, and Rothchild (2001) emphasize the nature of the settlement with regard to environmental factors and institutional choices as casual mechanisms in conflict resumption or cessation. Environmental factors include regime type, involvement in post-Cold War politics, diversity, the issue at stake in the conflict (ethnic, political or ideological), and the duration of the conflict itself. Institutional choices that affect peace settlements include “provisions for the territorial autonomy of threatened groups” (Hartzell, Hoddie, and Rothchild 2001, 202) and protection offered by third parties to former combatants. These aspects of the settlement affect perceptions of security, which influences the likelihood of conflict resumption or peace endurance. The authors coded these factors and explored their relationship to peace duration as measured in months without civil war after the settlement was put into effect. Their study found that democratic regimes with low-intensity conflicts over extended periods of time, whose settlements included protection of autonomy and security by third parties, experienced the highest level of peace endurance. Conversely, non-democratic regimes with high intensity, short- term conflicts, whose settlement arrangements did not include protections for threatened groups, were more likely to resume conflict in a shorter period of time. These findings indicate that security is a motivational factor for enduring peace agreements. It follows, then, that secure groups are more likely to cooperate with one another in making arrangements for conflict resolution.

    Scholars Bar-Tal, Kruglanski, and Klar (1989) have also explored the effect of conflict perception on peace endurance. Their research focuses on the cognitive or psychological approach to conflict management, which emphasizes reconciliation as opposed to conflict resolution. According to this research, the nature of conflict is determined by the cognitive structures of the opposing parties. Cognitive structure refers to the “specific content of knowledge” (Bar-Tal, Kruglanski, and Klar 1989, 236) held by individuals. In a conflict schema, the specific content of knowledge indicates that the beliefs and ideas of the one group are fundamentally incompatible with the goals of the other group. The epistemic process by which the conflict is generated and validated determines the course that a conflict will take. Cognitive generation involves formulating content, that is, forming ideas and beliefs based on new knowledge and personal insights. Cognitive validation employs the consistency principle, whereby the individual tests new insights against stored knowledge. If the test reveals consistency with prior knowledge, then the cognitive content becomes validated. This causes a freezing of the epistemic process and the individual becomes unwilling to accept alternative ideas (Bar-Tal 2000; Bar-Tal, Kruglanski, and Klar 1989).

    Conflict termination can take one of two courses- conflict resolution or conflict dissolution. Conflict resolution demands that at least one group change its beliefs about their stake in the conflict, their perception of the opposing groups goals, or their perception of the conflict itself. Conflict dissolution, however, simply dislocates belief in conflict as the central issue. This means that there is a decrease in the motivational factors to continue conflict. The epistemic process of conflict resolution requires cognitive generation of cooperative ideas and cognitive validation of cooperation, and therefore, validation of the opposing group. This study situates psychological processes as a key determinant in the course of conflict termination (Bar-Tal, Kruglanski, and Klar 1989). Though we cannot empirically test the psychology of various players in a conflict, reconciliatory rhetoric can be used as a measure of the cognitive validation of the opposing group.

    Conceptual Complexity

    Conceptual complexity is a measure of “the degree of differentiation, which an individual shows in describing or discussing other people, places, policies, ideas, or things.” Greater differentiation indicates the recognition of ambiguity and a disposition toward flexibility in responding to opposing ideas. Less conceptually complex language, conversely, indicates that an individual views an event in terms of “black and white” or “good and bad” (Hermann 1999). With regard to conflict, a conceptually complex individual is less likely to see a particular issue as highly salient, and therefore more likely to engage in reconciliation (Bar-Tal 2000; Bar-Tal, Kruglanski, and Klar 1989).

    Conceptual complexity is measured by coding specific words, which are associated with high or low levels of complexity. Words linked to low levels of complexity include “approximately, possibility, trend, and for example” (Hermann 2002, 22). Words associated with high levels of complexity include words and phrases such as “absolutely, without a doubt, certainly, and irreversible” (Herman 2002, 22) Conceptual complexity scores are given based on the percentage of high and low levels of conceptually complex words in a given text. In a prior study, Hermann (2002) measured fixed personality traits, namely conceptual complexity and self-confidence, in order to predict how conciliatory or unwavering leaders may be when confronted with a conflict crisis. This is related to the process of cognitive validation in the work of Bar-Tal, Kruglanski, and Klar (1989), who cited confidence in the validity of one’s argument as having a negative impact on flexibility. Conceptual complexity, in this sense, is the pre-requisite for the cognitive processes involved in reconciliation (Ishiyama and Backstrom 2011)

    Integrative Complexity

    Integrative complexity (IC) assesses “individual or group information processing” by virtue of differentiation and integration (Liht, Suedfeld, and Krawczyk 2005). Differentiation refers to one’s ability to see various aspects within an issue. Differentiation is a prerequisite to the process of integration, which is the ability to synthesize and relate these aspects to one another. The combination of these two processes, differentiation and integration, forms a more cognitively complex perception on a given issue (Liht, Suedfeld, and Krawczyk 2005). IC is measured on a seven-point scale according to Suedfeld’s Integrative Complexity scoring manual. A score of one indicates low differentiation and low integration; three, high differentiation and low integration; five, high differentiation and moderate integration; and seven, high differentiation and high integration (Conway, Suedfeld, and Tetlock 2001).

     In previous studies, measuring integrative complexity has been shown to effectively predict conflict outcomes. The value of integrative complexity scores (IC) as predictors of conflict, relies on the assumption that leaders will respond to conflict crises by either a) denying the validity of the opposition, which would lead to the continuation, renewal, or onset of war or b) compromise with the opposition, which would lead to peaceful agreements (Conway, Suedfeld, and Tetlock 2001).  Empirical research has validated this assumption; lower IC scores have been linked to intensification of violent conflict, higher IC scores are associated with more peaceful and durable agreements (Liht, Suedfeld, and Krawczyk 2005). Therefore, understanding factors that influence integrative complexity can help predict the effectiveness of peace agreements.

    Expanding Previous Work

    The above research has presented the value of studying communication, some methods for measuring characteristics of communication, and what these characteristics can tell us about the likelihood of peace. These findings were taken into consideration in a previous study by Ishiyama and Backstrom (2011). Given that most empirical literature on conceptual complexity has been applied only to Western contexts, and that Kenya had recently experienced acute civil conflict following the contested election in 2007, the authors focused on Kenyan parliamentary debates over the newly proposed government as subjects for measuring conceptual complexity.  These debates gave the authors a unique opportunity to study the early stages of reconciliation and the process of “rhetorical decompression,” whereby language used regarding a highly polarized issue becomes “less stark and confrontational” (Ishiyama and Backstrom 2011).

    The study employed a machine-coded text analysis program called Profiler Plus and Hermann’s (1999) Conceptual Complexity (CC) measure to track the rhetorical complexity of various individuals debating in parliament. Though Hermann’s CC measure is less effective at measuring moderate and high levels of complexity than Liht, Suedfeld, and Krawczyk’s (2005) integrative complexity scoring, it is more reliable in terms of accuracy because it is machine coded. The authors dealt with the issue of using CC scores as a proxy for IC scores by using comparative qualitative research methods, which rely on the comparison of specific events while “changing a limited number of causal variables” (Ishiyama and Backstrom 2011, 14). Because IC scores reflect behaviors of individuals debating the same issue, the variance in complexity scores between different individuals is more valuable than the exact high and low scores. The authors coded for several independent variables including whether the speaker was a minister or assistant minister, party affiliation of the speaker (which was divided into ODM, PNU, and non-ODM or PNU members), age, gender, and level of education. An OLS regression analysis was conducted using these variables with conceptual complexity scores as the dependent variable.

    Contradictory to the author’s hypothesis, this study found that ministers, as opposed to non-ministers, exhibited significantly less complexity. Further, the author postulates that the high-stakes nature and timing of the debates might account for these findings. The study also found speakers belonging to the principal protagonists (ODM and PNU) in the conflict exhibited lower levels of complexity, and speakers outside of these parties exhibited higher levels of complexity (Ishiyama and Backstrom 2011). Contradictory to previous literature, there was no significant difference in CC scores based on gender, education, or age.  However, these findings support literature that suggests CC scores are lower in times of conflict. If this study were expanded over a longer period of time, variances among these variables may be found.

    Existing literature in political communication and political psychology supports the need for further exploration into the relationship between rhetorical complexity and peace agreements. My study expands the work of Ishiyama and Backstrom in order to better understand how groups move toward reconciliation in the period following acute civil conflict. Machine-coded pseudo IC scores based on Suedfeld’s Integrative Complexity Scoring Manual are used to measure rhetorical complexity in Kenyan parliamentary debates over a period of eleven months.

    Historical Background to Kenyan Election Crisis

    The Kenyan election crisis erupted from the controversial election of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU). Kibaki’s declared victory contradicted opinion polls, which had predicted a win for Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). These parties evolved along ethno-regional lines with PNU representing the historically elite Kikuyu, as well as Embu and Merus, and ODM representing the Luo and Kalenjin, along with other underrepresented groups. The General Elections of 2007 resulted in ODM and its affiliate parties taking 102 of the 207 parliamentary seats, while PNU and its affiliate parties won 64 seats. Though ODM had a clear victory in Parliament, there was much debate, and eventually, politically motivated ethnic violence, surrounding the legitimacy of Kibaki’s claim to the presidency. A power-sharing agreement was established, wherein Kibaki would retain the title of President and Odinga would serve as Prime Minister. A coalition government with equal representation from ODM and PNU was created in April of 2008, accompanied by a new constitution. The debates tracked in this study begin in March of 2008, during the formation of the coalition government, and continue through February of 2009 (Ishiyama and Backstrom 2011). 

    Theoretical Argument

    A speaker’s orientation toward reconciliation (OTR) is effectively measured by the integrative complexity of their language (Conway, Suedfeld, and Tetlock, 2001; Ishiyama, Backstrom, 2011; Suedfeld, and Bluck 1988; Suedfeld and Jhangiani, 2009). High levels of integrative complexity reflect recognition of shades of grey in an argument, which is an indication that the speaker is willing to accept the validity of the opposing party and the possibility of a “win-win” scenario (Bar-Tal 2000; Ishiyama and Backstrom 2011). One’s ability or willingness to recognize “shades of grey” is determined both by the cognitive complexity of the individual and the stake that individual has in the argument (Hartzell, Hoddie, and Rothchild 2001; Bar-tal, Kruglanski, and Klar 1989). Different individuals, therefore, have varying degrees of integrative complexity that they can apply and articulate in an argument. As opposing groups begin the process of conflict resolution, individuals possessing certain characteristics should move toward reconciliation sooner and more so than others. These variances can be tracked between groups identified by social and personal characteristics such as age, gender, education, and political affiliation.

    The personal and social characteristics identified in this study change the speaker’s approach to the conflict or OTR. Shifts in this approach are reflected in the speaker’s language. For instance, Ishiyama and Backstrom found that ministers (representing older members of parliament) were more inclined to reconcile than non-ministers (representing younger members of parliament). However, Ishiyama and Backstrom’s study focused on a single-issue debate over the course of three days during the conflict period in Kenya. Literature has suggested that OTR is lowest during times of conflict (Tetlock 1985). Further, the authors note in the analysis that the high-stakes nature of the debate could have accounted for the low CC scores of ministers. This may also be a consequence of the fact that in the early debates over the formation of a new government, party leaders were primarily concerned with having a say in parliament on behalf of their party, rather than maintaining the existence of a unified government. Non-ministers, conversely, had less to lose in terms of power and more to gain by participating in negotiations. As negotiations proceed and the existence of the party is no longer at stake, however, ministers may become more open to cooperation with opposing parties than non-ministers. This is supported by literature which shows younger people are more likely to speak in terms of black and white than older people.

    H1: Older speakers in Parliamentary debates will trend toward positive OTR relative to the OTR of younger speakers.

    The political context of an individual’s party can also influence the speakers OTR. For example, Ishiyama and Backstrom found that speakers not affiliated with the principal protagonist parties (ODM and PNU) were more inclined toward reconciliation than speakers affiliated with ODM and PNU. This is not unexpected since speakers from smaller parties were not as involved in the conflict. It follows that as negotiations proceed, these speakers should be more willing to cooperate than speakers in principal protagonist parties.

    H2: Speakers not affiliated with principal protagonist parties (ODM and PNU) will trend toward positive OTR relative to speakers affiliated with principal protagonist parties.

    Factors that influence integrative complexity can also affect a speaker’s OTR. More educated people have higher integrative complexity than less educated people. It should follow, then, that the rhetoric of highly educated speakers should reflect recognition of grey areas more so than less educated speakers. During the conflict, educated Kenyan parliamentary speakers had comparable scores to less educated people. As negotiations progress, however, it is possible that more educated people might move toward reconciliation sooner than less educated people.

    H3: More educated speakers will trend toward positive OTR relative to less educated speakers.

    Some literature suggests that women have higher integrative complexity than men (Gilligan,1992). However, studies of rhetorical complexity in political forums have shown that there is no significant relationship between CC scores and gender (Liht, Suedfeld and Krawczyk 2005; Pancer et al. 2005).  It should be noted that these studies do not take into account that women represent an extreme minority in these political forums. In the Kenyan parliament at the time of the debates, women represented fewer than 8 percent of all speakers. It is possible that in an effort to overcome gender stereotypes, women in the Kenyan parliament would match the rhetoric of the most confrontational speakers within their party so that they will not appear weak. If this assumption is true then we can expect that women’s OTR will remain low throughout the debates. On the other hand, it is also possible that as the climate of the debate begins to cool down, women will become more comfortable expressing the desire to cooperate, and would therefore demonstrate a greater inclination to reconcile sooner than their male counterparts.

    H4: Female speakers will trend toward positive OTR relative to male speakers.

    Research Design

    Identification of Sample and Unit of Analysis

    The Kenyan election crisis in 2007 lead to a period of civil war along ethno-regional lines. Despite the fact that violent conflict was still breaking out all over the country, the Kenyan Parliament convened to debate matters of running the country as one government, no matter how partisan. Transcripts from these parliamentary debates represent ideal subjects for studying factors that influence a speaker’s orientation toward reconciliation as groups move into post-conflict resolution. Further, as noted by Ishiyama and Backstrom, studying the Kenyan parliament addresses a gap in the empirical literature concerning reconciliation in the post-conflict period, which has mostly focused on non-Western political contexts.  Ishiyama and Backstrom were interested in variances in the orientation toward reconciliation between different groups in debates on a single issue. I, however, am interested in movement of orientations toward reconciliation between groups over time. For this reason, the scope of my study includes all the debates from the first convening of the Kenyan Parliament after the election crisis in March 2008 to February of 2009.  By expanding the scope of this study to include all the debates over a period of 11 months, I am better able to track variances in OTR across different speakers. The unit of analysis in my study is speaker-debate session. I create this unit by organizing the transcripts from Kenyan Parliamentary debates according to the date of the debate session and speaker. I gathered information on education, gender, age, and party affiliation, for speakers in parliamentary debates, which occurred in the period of interest. Drawing from the qualitative comparative research methods used in Ishiyama and Backstrom’s study, I compare two speakers, whose characteristics match with the exception of one variable to create my sample. For example, in order to understand the degree of  influence from education relative to the influence from other characteristics, I chose two speakers from the same debate session, of the same party, same gender, less than ten years apart and age, but with different levels of education. I repeat this comparative event sample for every variable in each debate session. This gives me a total of eight speakers per debate session and allows me to track shifts in the cooperative dynamics between opposing groups, as reflected by degrees of integrative complexity in their rhetoric.

    Conceptualization and Operationalization

    Previous literature has shown that IC and CC scores are effective measures of an actor’s orientation toward reconciliation because low IC scores are associated with going to war and high IC scores are associated with peace agreements (Suedfeld, Jhangiani, 2009; Suedfeld, Bluck, 1988). Literature has also shown differences in IC scores between different political positions/party affiliations, different levels of education and different age groups (Liht, Suedfeld, and Krawczyk 2005; Suedfeld and Tetlock, 1977; Pancer et al. 1992).

    Further, IC scores have been shown to change from the point at which conflict ends to months down the road as negotiations are carried out. Assuming that a) personal and social characteristics affect IC scores, and b) IC scores can change over time, and c) IC scores are a measure of orientation toward reconciliation, than it should follow that tracking cc scores for different speakers over a period of time will allow us to identify “first movers” toward reconciliation.

    Identification of Analytical Process

    The dependent variable in my study is the IC score of speakers in the Kenyan Parliamentary debates. A pseudo-IC score based on Suedfeld’s integrative complexity scoring manual is derived using the machine-coded textual analysis software ProfilerPlus. These scores are based on the ratio of words which demonstrate differentiation to words which demonstrate integration. Integration is indicated by words such as system, becoming, resulted, and changing, while differentiation is indicated by words such as could, also, different, and support. The score is calculated using the following equation: 2.6*(DIFF/(DIFF +1))+3.671*(INT/(INT+1)) when INT = the number of words indicating IC and Diff = the number of words indicating CC. This is a more nuanced approach than calculating CC scores, which analyzes cognitive complexity as a fixed personality trait rather than a cognitive process influenced by individual characteristics and social dynamics. These scores represent changes in the rhetorical complexity for each speaker in the debates over time and reflect changes in OTR.

    The independent variables in my study are the characteristics of speakers in parliament. These include age, gender, party affiliation (whether or not the speaker is affiliated with a principal protagonist party), and level of education. I analyze the relationship between these factors and the strength and timing of reconciliation using a combination of Tobit regression analysis and descriptive statistics.

    Pros and Cons of Pseudo IC Score in Measuring Orientation Toward Reconciliation

    IC scores are more appropriate for measuring OTR than CC scores because they are better able to measure high and low levels of complexity, whereas CC scores are only effective at measuring moderate and high levels of complexity. Machine coded pseudo IC scores are not as nuanced as traditional IC scores, however, because the program cannot account for the content of the words the way a trained coder could. Similar to the Ishiyama and Backstrom study, the issue of IC score accuracy becomes negligible when approached as qualitative comparative research. This places greater emphasis on the dynamics between groups to measure OTR than individual scores. The IC scores used in this study control for debate content and the influence of other characteristic variables by comparing speakers from the same debate session and whose characteristics match with the exception of one variable. This yields a dataset that tracks the dynamic shifts toward reconciliation influenced by the independent variables in the study.


    Tobit Regression Analysis

    Because IC scores are measured on a scale of 1-7, the model needed to account for a lower bound of 1 and an upper bound of 7. For this reason, I chose to use a Tobit regression analysis to analyze the strength and direction of the relationship between IC scores and education, gender, party, and age. Table 1 reports my findings.

    Influence of Party Affiliation on Orientation toward Reconciliation

    The results from the Tobit regression suggest that party affiliation has the most significant influence on OTR. The IC scores of speakers affiliated with the principal protagonist parties were more than half a point lower than speakers affiliated with non-principal protagonist parties. This supports hypothesis two, which predicts that speakers not affiliated with principal protagonist parties will have positive OTR reconciliation relative to speakers affiliated with principal protagonist parties. Figure 1 demonstrates the impact of party affiliation on OTR.

    Because political parties in Kenya have historically been drawn along ethno-regional lines, the violence after the election crisis had been labeled as tribalism and ethnic conflict (Brown 2003). One would expect, then, that OTR of speakers in parliament would be low among the ethnic groups most directly impacted by violence, regardless of party affiliation. However, my results suggest that the speaker’s political stake in the debate, as opposed to his ethnic identity, is a significant factor in determining his OTR. Though my study did not control for ethnicity, the non-principal protagonist parties were ethnically divided from one another in the same way as the principal protagonists parties. Despite the fact that both groups had been exposed to the same historical ethnic tension and were immersed in the same conflict, speakers affiliated with ODM and PNU exhibited significantly less willingness to reconcile than speakers affiliated with other parties, as demonstrated in Figure 1.

    Influence of Education on Orientation Toward Reconciliation

    My findings also suggest that education influences the strength and direction of OTR. “Education” was organized into three categories; speakers without a post-secondary degree are coded as 1, speakers with a bachelor’s degree and/or trade school are coded as 2, and those with post-graduate degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorates, are coded as 3. Each increase in the level of education, from no degree to a bachelor’s degree, and from a bachelor’s degree to a post-graduate degree, is associated with more than half a point increase in IC. This supports hypothesis three, which states that more educated speakers will have positive OTR relative to less educated speakers. The effect of education on IC is illustrated in Figure 2.

    Kenya’s Elections Act of 2011 required that all persons nominated for an election must hold a post secondary degree. This requirement led to the exposure of some questionable claims about degrees supposedly held by members of parliament and was subsequently removed from the bill in late 2012. My findings set precedent for requiring that members of parliament hold post-secondary degrees, so as to ensure greater cooperation in a politically contentious climate.

    Influence of Timing on Orientation Toward Reconciliation

    As shown in Figure 3, the timing of the debates also had a significant impact on OTR. The six debates analyzed covered a period of just over eleven months, each debate representing about two months time elapsed. Every two-month period was associated with a .18-point increase in complexity. This increase could be explained by the fact that, as the time from the conflict increased, the centrality of violence diminished, and was replaced with issues of government and policy. However, it is also possible that the process of dialogue itself increases complexity and compounds over time. This interpretation is supported by literature that suggests that the complexity of one party influences the complexity of the other party in a debate, which would indicate that exposure to complexity has a positive influence on OTR (Tetlock 1985).

    Dynamic Shifts in Orientation Toward Reconciliation

    Though gender and age did not have a statistically significant influence on IC scores, the differences in scores illustrated in Figure 4 show interesting dynamic shifts that warrant further investigation. My first hypotheses, that older speakers will have positive OTR relative to men, could not be conclusively supported; a more comprehensive iteration of this study might reveal more nuanced trends. At the onset of debates, age appeared to have little impact on complexity. As debates progressed, however, older members of parliament appeared to have positive OTR relative to younger members of parliament. Hypothesis four, which predicted that women would have positive OTR relative to men, was not supported by my findings, however, this may be due to the fact that women represent an extreme minority in the Kenyan parliament, and are pressured to be more confrontational in order to be heard. Exploring political contexts where there is an equal representation of women might reveal greater differences in OTR between males and females. Further, because all other characteristics are kept equal in measuring the difference according to gender and age, it follows that the content of the debate was responsible for the shifts in differences between IC scores among these variables. A further iteration of this study might find trends in dynamic shifts toward reconciliation according to gender and age based on the subject of the debate.


    The willingness of leaders to reconcile and collaborate is essential to the process of conflict resolution. Understanding the nuances of dynamic shifts toward reconciliation can help predict and guide effective peace agreements. Integrative complexity scores track these dynamic shifts by measuring the rhetorical complexity of speakers’ rhetoric. Though previous studies have used integrative and conceptual complexity scores to analyze political leaders’ willingness to peacefully reconcile, there is little known about the personal and social characteristics that influence such willingness. By tracking the integrative complexity of speakers in parliamentary debates according to age, gender, education, and party affiliation, this study identifies significant influences on orientation toward reconciliation.

    In particular, this study finds that education, party affiliation, and timing of debates, all have a significant impact on orientations toward reconciliation. Higher levels of education, political distance from the conflict, and temporal distance from the conflict all have a positive influence on OTR. These findings support hypotheses three and four. Neither gender nor age had a significant impact on IC, which contradicts hypotheses one and four, but is consistent with the findings of other studies in rhetorical complexity. However, the shifts in differences between IC scores according to gender and age set precedent for further study into the relationship between these variables and OTR.

    When conflict enters the infinitely complex realm of language, one finds more room for opposing ideas and the bodies, which represent those ideas; to value the words of one’s opponent is to value their life. Peace, then, is not the absence of conflict, but rather, conflict done well. Understanding the factors that influence orientations toward reconciliation can help construct, rebuild, and maintain peaceful, discursive frameworks of conflict.  


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    Table 1: Tobit Regression Analysis of Integrative Complexity



    Robust Std. Error




























    n=48  pseudo R2 = 0.13

    Figure 1: Predicted IC Score Based on Party Affiliation


    Figure 2: Predicted IC Scores Based on Education

    Figure 3: Predicted IC Score According to Timing of Debate Session

    Figure 4: Difference in IC Scores Over Time