Since 1990 the banning of ethnic and other identity‐based parties has become the norm in sub‐Saharan Africa. This article focuses on Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda as three East African countries that have opted for different ways of dealing with such parties. Using case studies, it traces the origins of the party bans in Tanzania and Uganda and explores the reasons for the absence of a ban in Kenya. The analysis shows that the laws on particularistic parties have actually been implemented by the appropriate institutions. However, these laws have only marginally influenced the character of the political parties in the three countries: A comparison of regional voting patterns suggests that bans on particularistic parties have not ensured the emergence of aggregative parties with a national following in Tanzania and Uganda. In Kenya on the other hand, where such a ban was nonexistent until 2008, parties have not proven to be more regional.