The Challenges of State Policing in Kenya
Kenneth Omeje & John Mwangi Githigaro

This paper is concerned with the challenges and dynamics of state policing in contemporary Kenya. The popular transition to multi-party democracy in Kenya in 2002 came with a great hope and expectation of reforms in the political, economic, and security spaces. In particular, it was envisaged that reform in the security sector would, among other things, end the dismal paradigm of policing for regime security and replace it with a new dispensation of popular policing oriented to the general protection and security of the citizens. For about eight years into the new multi-party republic, the Kenyan police force was hardly reformed. The outbreak of the infamous post-election violence of early 2008 with its horrifying incidents of ethnic massacre and police incapacity and brutality graphically reported by the international media served as a reminder to security specialists and observers alike that the Kenyan security sector crisis, which reached a crescendo during the dictatorship of Daniel Arap Moi, is far from over. This study analyzes the transition from state policing to multi-choice policing in Kenya, including its underlying structural and empirical impediments, externalities, challenges, and opportunities.


This study investigates and analyzes the problems and challenges encountered by the Kenyan Police Force in their function of delivering effective policing services as required by law and expected by the public. The KPF has evolved from a pro-imperial colonial police (founded to subjugate the colonized ‘native populations’) to what it is today. Originally formed as a colonial constabulary, the institution was not created as a people’s police, but as a reactionary instrument of conquest and repression with the aim of achieving the imperial objectives of resource extraction and political domination. This peculiar history of pro-imperialist coercion and anti-locals disposition is what preponderantly shaped the institutional character and operations of most African police forces, including the KPF.[1] It is in this historical context that one can properly understand the role of KPF in the crackdown of the anti-colonial struggle and brutalization of activists in the nationalist movements for independence, such as the famous Mau Mau freedom fighters.[2] One of the greatest but rarely appreciated challenges of independence in Kenya and Africa was the need to transform the inherited colonial police force from an anti-people to a legitimate national police protective of, and owned by the people.

Sadly, the necessary transformative reform of the police force has been mostly elusive in the majority of the post-colonial states of Africa, not least in Kenya. Evidence from the 24 years of President Daniel Arap Moi’s regime reveal that the KPF was instrumental to a catalogue of human rights violations, including politically motivated disappearances and targeted killing of many perceived opponents. Many leading pro-democracy activists that campaigned for the expansion of the political space were repeatedly harassed and brutalized by the KPF. Unlawful and prolonged detention of opponents without trial was rampant. The media houses were not spared as a number of critical private media were banned.[3] Also, owing to the prolonged undemocratic rule by President Moi, the police institution became highly politicized with the result that recruitment and promotion of officers were for the most part based on cronyism and clannism. The police was seemingly dominated by hegemonic ethnic groups. Corruption became widespread even as violent crime soared. The 1990s witnessed an astronomically high crime rate, especially in the Nairobi area.[4] The image and reputation of the police was at its lowest ebb in the post-independence history. Moi presided over a highly regimented one party state largely sustained by an unprofessional police force that many critics likened to the Gestapo (secret state police) of the defunct Nazi Germany.

The return to popular democracy in 2002 following the election of President Mwai Kibaki came with rekindled hope and great expectation in the security sector that KPF would among other things be reformed and professionalized to be able to deliver efficient and productive policing. A number of progressive steps seemed to have been made since 2002 such as the emergence of preventive action through community policing of various neighborhoods. Community policing, which is the main plank of state policing service in Kenya and many modern democracies worldwide, is literally a bottom–up approach that aims at policing in partnership and with the consent of the people. Community policing adopts various strategies to build trust and partnership with the policed including reaching out to community stakeholders to ascertain their needs, public involvement in intelligence and neighborhood surveillance, the creation of police posts and liaison offices within short intervals in residential neighborhoods, sensitization of the public to the needs, difficulties and challenges of the police with a view to eliciting understanding and sundry supportive actions, etc. Since it was introduced in Nairobi under the Kibaki regime, community policing has been extended to various parts of the country. Ostensibly, there has not been independent impact evaluation of progress made and problems and challenges encountered in community policing in Kenya.[5] This practical gap in research becomes more compelling against the evidence of growing crime rates, coupled with allegations by many local and international NGOs and human rights watchdogs that KPF perpetrates egregious human rights violations with impunity. Hence, even though the return to multi-partyism in the post-Moi era created a great opportunity for reforms and transformation, this seems to have rapidly slipped away as evidenced during the 2008 post-election violence. The incapacity of the KPF was palpable during the violence as they seemed overwhelmed and unprepared to tackle the situation.[6] This project is therefore a significant inquiry that investigates the capacity deficits and challenges of the KPF.

From a Weberian perspective, the Kenyan state does not have the monopoly of the legitimate use of force required to maintain law and order, as well as to guarantee internal and external sovereignty in a modern state. One of the hallmarks of state sovereignty in the contemporary international system is the ability to guarantee the security of its citizens and territory.[7] The concept of state security is both fuzzy and problematic, and more so in Africa given the historical diversity of states as political units with a considerable proportion of them derogating from the Westphalian benchmark. There exist multiple networks of power within and beyond the geo-spatial state boundaries in many African countries with the result that some of the African states have been differently described as weak states, quasi-states, fragile states, pseudo states and shadow states.[8] From available empirical indicators, the Kenyan state ostensibly fits into the mould of states in Africa categorized as weak or fragile, given the fragmented nature of policing and security domains in the country. Apparently, the Kenyan state, like many in Africa and elsewhere in the developing regions, can scarcely guarantee security for it citizenry.

New security governance models seem to be taking shape in Kenya. At the heart of the new security governance architecture is a plethora of self help efforts and the privatization of state security. This emerging security architecture, which seems to be the trend in many parts of the developing world, has been conceptualized as multi-choice policing,[9] which includes a mixed bag of both functionally responsible public and private security providers on the one hand, and a subterranean network of uncivil and dysfunctional groups that provide alternative but too often menacing security. Some of the alternative security providers that pose threats to state security in Kenya include militia and vigilante groups that have partly emerged in response to the apparent incapacity and failings of the Kenyan state. The re-introduction of multi-partyism in 1991 brought with it the dissolution of the state monopoly of violence by heralding the emergence of ethnic militias. These militias were consequently mobilized as forms of extra-state violence. With time, these militias assumed a life of their own and the Kenyan state could no longer control them.[10] It has been observed that the Kenyan militia groups are in many instances filling a security vacuum left by the state. But in reality, the diffuse security arrangements constitute a threat to the KPF that has the sole mandate of maintaining law and order as is typical of state policing agencies elsewhere. The KPF officials interviewed for this study claim that the underlying challenges of state policing in Kenya have to do with the growing incapacity of the state to provide the necessary infrastructure for policing, such as operational equipment and facilities. The magnitude and intensity of “structural violence”[11] in the Kenyan society have also aggravated the propensity of criminal and organized violence in the country, and by corollary, the policing challenges.

Our empirical findings suggest that poverty levels have a correlation with increased crime in Kenya. In the study, we came across narratives suggesting that the breakdown of social order predisposes the youth to crime, and this tends to be in line with major sociological discourses of violence, such as the social control theory in criminology. The underlying assumption of social control theory is that individuals are potential law violators, and it is primary social bonds such as family and friends that keep them in control. Without such supportive social bonds, theorists argue, many vulnerable folks, especially (but not exclusively) those on the margins of society, become prone to criminality and deviant behaviour.[12] Hence, from this sociological perspective, criminality in the society is linked to the weakening of ties that bind people to the supportive networks that hold the society together. The correlated links between poverty and crime mentioned above is a trend supported by the apparent shift from conventional security paradigm (national security, national interests and military power) to human security, a shift which in the post-Cold War international order seems to have justifiably taken center-stage in national security strategies, especially among developing countries.[13] The human security debate was advanced by the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report that defined human security in terms of freedoms. Freedom from fear (of violence and conflict) and freedom from want (hunger and deprivation) is a simplified way of capturing human security.[14] In Africa, non-military dimensions of security, such as environmental degradation, poverty, resource scarcity, and so forth threaten both societal security and national security.[15] Human security concerns are thus among the contemporary challenges to the provision of state security by KPF.

Methodological Imperatives

This study is based on qualitative methods of data collection and analysis. The study made use of both primary and secondary data. With regard to secondary data, the following types of data were collected: official statistics and information about the rate, diversity and the nature of crime in Kenya; budgetary allocation to the police force - how it is disbursed and utilized, as well as the general information about the dynamics of security and law enforcement in Africa. All secondary data and information were sourced from academic and policy literature (especially, books and journals); and publications of governments, international organizations and civil societies.

Regarding primary data, this study adopted the use of semi-structured interview method of data collection for the police, civil society, and specific catchments of the public. Choice of study locations and selection of respondents were based on a simple non-probability method of purposive sampling, implying that territorial locations and fieldwork respondents were selected on the basis of their considered relevance to the study, as well as the logistical convenience of the researchers. Primary data collection was done in Nairobi and Nakuru in the Rift Valley between October 2010 and March 2011.

The project interviewed police officers of various ranks from the two fieldwork locations. The researchers specifically targeted to interview officers that worked in the police headquarters where crimes are recorded and investigations instituted, as well as those that were deployed to potential tinderbox areas inhabited by low income people where there are high levels of unemployed youth, social deprivation, poverty-related crimes and recurrent offenders, including large sections of people who are easily mobilizable for political violence. The study interviewed 41 police officers of various ranks drawn more or less proportionately from the two study areas. With regard to civil society, the study interviewed 13 key officers of 10 different human rights and security sector NGOs based in the 2 project locations and 40 members of the public purposively drawn from the high density, potentially violent–prone residential communities. The two field study locations were chosen because they are notorious for high levels of crime based on the annual crime statistics for recent years. Secondly, the two cities were among the most affected by the post-election violence of 2008. Empirical data was analyzed interpretively using relevant conceptual themes.

A Brief Summary of Factors that Account for Insecurity in Kenya

Fieldwork interviews with police officers of various ranks, civil society and grassroots citizens indicate that a multiplicity of factors account for insecurity in the country. The factors mentioned by respondents include unemployment among the youth, poverty, police collusion with criminals, drugs and peer influence, the growth of vigilantes and ethnic militias, corruption and political machinations in the police force, collapse of the family institution, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons attributed to conflicts in the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region, etc. Below is a typology of crimes handled by the Kenyan police developed from our fieldwork.

Typology of crimes handled by the Kenyan police

Policing Challenges

From our fieldwork, the Kenyan police face several deficiencies that in varied ways hinder their effectiveness in implementing their broad mandate of maintaining law and order. This part looks at various challenges that the police force faces in the discharge of their duties.

Transport Deficiencies

Our fieldwork indicates that the Kenyan police are critically challenged with regard to transport facilities. The policing needs far outweigh the transport resources at their disposal. Whereas there are minimal vehicles to carry out their duties, the few available resources are poorly serviced and scarcely fuelled. The fieldwork team was informed by some of the police respondents that each police vehicle has a quota of 10 litres of fuel a day (i.e. every 24 hours) regardless of the jurisdiction. The lack of reliable transport means therefore that the police will be slow to respond to incidents of crime. Similarly, it also minimizes police presence in certain crucial localities, making it possible for criminals to have a field day. The police acknowledge that their mere presence in various localities is in itself deterrence to crime. The poorly serviced vehicles also mean that the police cannot match the speed and efficiency with which criminals often escape from crime scenes. The interviewed police officers therefore see a correlation between their response to crime and their transport infrastructure. As one officer noted:[16]

In this station, we for instance have one vehicle. It looks like a ‘Mamba’ (Swahili for crocodile) because it is neglected; it is not serviced regularly and keeps breaking down so often. In a word, it is dysfunctional. Tell me then how is it possible to handle our responsibilities if transport is a challenge? It means that we may not respond adequately to crime issues.

Human Resource Capacity Deficits

The Kenyan police are understaffed and therefore the country is under policed. There are estimates that the Kenyan police have a total population of about 40,000 personnel (figures as at end of 2010). The public - policing ratio can be deduced therefore to be roughly in the ratio of 1:1000 going by the 2009 national population census figures of roughly 40 million citizens. This is far below the UN recommended police – public ratio of 1:450.[17] But the Kenyan public – policing ration referenced above is only in theory. Our fieldwork data reveals that a quarter of the Kenyan police are engaged in office administration duties, guarding the political elites or serving as drivers to top government officials. Hence, the active number of police officers engaged in crime prevention and real public service is about 30,000 personnel. It is instructive that a staggering number of 2,500 officers are permanently deployed to the personal service and protection of top political office holders (President, Prime Minister, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, etc). The President and his family alone are guarded by 200 elite squad drawn from the general service unit; the Prime Minister and the Vice President each has 45 armed guards at their disposal.[18] This lends credence to the view that post-colonial policing philosophy in Kenya has hardly been transformed. The KPF is still overly concerned with regime security as opposed to citizen security.[19] One of the officers interviewed on the matter commented as follows:[20]

[...] the police force needs some reorganizing of sorts in terms of deployment of officers. There are some non-essential services carried by the police that would be left out to other government departments. For example, police drivers assigned to top government officials would be more useful in general policing as opposed to their current duties.

There are still other factors that affect the capacity of the police. Natural attrition, physical injury, resignation for greener pastures elsewhere and dismissal on disciplinary grounds also contribute to reduced capacity of the police. The last population census figures suggest rapid growth and changes in the country’s demographic structure. However, it is apparent that government policy makers have not responded progressively to address the policing needs of a state with rapidly changing demography. For instance, the Kenyan police had a three year recruitment freeze that lasted between 2008 and 2010. The annual recruitment process was resumed again in early 2011. Our research team gathered that the recruitment freeze was instituted to wait for the government to establish a Police Service Commission in line with the recommendations of Ransley Report (The National Taskforce on Police Reforms). This commission will oversee police conditions of service, recruitment and training among others. A new police training curriculum that involved the participation of various stakeholders has been recently completed. Under the new curriculum, police recruits will now train for nine months as opposed to the previous six months while graduate officers will train for 21 months after which they are appointed to the rank of assistant inspector of police.[21] The Kenyan Police Strategic Plan of 2008 - 2012 envisages to have expanded enrolment to possibly meet the UN recommended police - population ratio of 1:450 by 2012.[22] As at the time of writing in the Spring of 2012, the bridging of this capacity deficit was yet to be met.


Dominant opinions of police officers suggest that their terms and condition of service are inadequate. A cross section of police officers interviewed noted that they are not adequately compensated for their services. They also observed that housing is a challenge for junior officers as they are compelled to share living units of two or three bedroom flat accommodation with other families. The police also lack adequate health insurance given the life threatening dangers they are exposed to in their law enforcement duties and fight against crime. The poor conditions of service are also evident in their operational and logistical facilities. They have minimal IT infrastructure and in many instances have to do with manual recordings and filing of information. All these factors contribute to their low morale at work and also predispose many officers to a professional lifestyle of corruption. The majority of police officers interviewed noted that due to their inadequate pay, they are prone to engage in corruption to meet their subsistence shortfalls. The lowest ranked police officer, a constable, earned about Kshs 4,645 (US$60) per month prior to 2004. This was increased in January 2004 to Ksh 10,000 (US$125).[23] In 2009 the Kenyan Internal security minister announced a pay increase for police officers, a process that would be implemented in phases. In the first phase the police would get a 28% pay increase in which a constable would earn Ksh 21,205 (US$265), an additional increase of Ksh 2,400 on their present monthly wage of Ksh 18,805 (US$235).[24] A typical mid-income salary in Kenya would be about Ksh 50,000 (US$600) per month. The category of people that would earn this range of monthly income includes bank clerks and middle-ranking government employees. Corruption in the police force further aggravates the state of insecurity in the country through such tendencies as officers taking bribes to release offenders or to abet such crimes as drug trafficking.

In terms of communication, the police are deficient in a number of ways. The first is that their communication equipments are susceptible to being tapped and in the past, criminal elements have used this sort of subversion to gain access to confidential police communication. The communication gadgets are also highly limited in number relative to the communication needs of officers. The result is that they have in many instances used their mobile phones at their own expense to carry out their official duties. Another issue that many serving officers expressed disenchantment about with regard to their conditions of service is promotion and transfer. Respondents contend that the police promotions and transfers are not handled in a transparent manner. The following excerpts drawn from our fieldwork data are illustrative:

The conditions of service are poor. For example, the police work for long hours whereas they are supposed to work for eight hours. The promotion system is not based on merit but on nepotism. There is no health insurance and there is shortage of housing.[25]

On a general scale, I think the conditions of service are below standards. One, we work a lot beyond the normal 7-8 hour schedule and we are paid little and this hinders our effectiveness. Housing is also a challenge. Police officers at the junior levels live in shared single unit houses, such as a two bedroom flat. We are Kenyan citizens and our private lives should be taken care of; we have children who ought to feel they are decent citizens. A police officer’s child grows up in an environment that has no provision for privacy. Adequate housing should be a priority in the force. We also lack medical and insurance cover for officers and if one is injured in the course of duty, officers or their families are not compensated in good time and this demotivates the force. Some of these issues impact on the way officers do their work and even breeds corruption in the workforce.[26]

Police promotion is in many instances based on nepotism and favoritism. You could be diligent in your duties, perform at the top of your class in a course but you have to ‘know’ someone at the top to push your case. We need a proper promotion scale like in the military where there is consideration, for example, for the number of years an officer has served, among other factors. In the police one could spend 10 years in a particular rank without promotion.[27]

The communication gadgets we use are inadequate and defective. These gadgets work partially ... In towns, such as Nairobi, the police communication can be tapped by criminal elements. These gadgets have in the past been in the wrong hands such as ex-officers who have been sacked. This does compromise on police operations.[28] 

Budgetary Deficits

The dominant opinion of police officers interviewed suggests that the annual budgetary allocation of the Kenyan police is hardly enough to ensure that they discharge their duties effectively. A cross-section of the interviewed officers alleged that the allocation the force receives is also subject to misappropriation by top commanding officers, thereby further impeding their service delivery. A considerable percentage (30% or about 12 KPF interviewees) further argue that in budgeting, priorities are often misplaced and available resources are not utilized in a prudent manner partly because most policy makers and implementers are civilians who may not have the experience of where financial resource allocation are most needed. These sentiments expressed by a section of the police interviewees suggest their willingness to serve the citizens but they seem to be hindered by lack of involvement in budgeting of public finance. The tension here is that the bureaucratic civilian component of policing seems to be more primarily concerned with regime security (and by extension serve the top echelon of the state apparatuses) with the result that citizen policing and security are substantially compromised. The over-concentration on regime policing is a common phenomenon in most developing countries, not least in Kenya. The disproportionate preoccupation with regime policing in Kenya is reinforced by the fact that the state policing agencies in Kenya are not independent agencies, but are subject to political control and direction under the Office of the President. The Kenyan police force does not have an independent vote in the national budget and receives its allocations from the pool allocated to the Office of the President.

A comparative analysis of the recurrent expenditure in the Office of the President (OP) between 1999 and 2004 revealed that allocation to the security services (KPF, Administration Police, and General Service unit) accounted for the highest disbursement of 64% to 79% over the period. Whereas KPF received the highest allocation (an average of over 30%), their allocation fluctuated downward when there were emergencies, such as drought and natural disasters, which are administered by the OP. Furthermore, development expenditure for the police stood at 9% of the OP’s allocation. For instance, in 2003/04 financial year, the OP received 6.72% of the national budget and in that same period KPF’s recurrent expenditure accounted for 35% translating to Ksh 8.7 billion, while Ksh 517 million went towards capital expenditure.[29] The implication therefore is that many of the KPF’s development projects remained under-resourced. This is far below the budget allocation that was anticipated to actualize the Police Strategic Plan of 2003-2007 as parts of efforts to modernize the force. In the above Strategic Plan, the police envisaged to spend about Ksh 15 billion to facilitate acquisition and rehabilitation of suitable police offices, cells and residential accommodation.[30] In a nutshell, it is discernible that the police expenditure on capital development projects is significantly curtailed by other competing demands and emergencies within the OP. The development expenditure approved by the National Assembly for the 2009/10 financial year for the provincial administration and internal security under which the police services fall had a budget of Ksh 3.6 billion or 1.4% of the total vote of the OP.[31] The inadequate budgetary allocations are further evident in the observed infrastructural deficits (notably transport and housing) narrated by many of interviewed police respondents.

Policing Transnational Crimes

Traditionally, transnational crime has “referred to criminal activities extending into, and violating the laws of two or more countries.”[32] In recent times, the United Nations in its Convention against Transnational Organized Crime has defined transnational organized crime a bit more broadly to include any criminal activity that is conducted in more than one state but perpetrated in another, or committed in one state where there are spill over effects into neighbouring jurisdictions.[33]

Transnational crimes are not a new phenomenon in modern international history as organized crime groups have existed in the past. Examples include the relations between the Italian and American Mafias since the 1950s, and the smuggling operations by the Chinese triads, among others. Since the 1990s, however, there has been an upsurge in transnational crime globally. A number of reasons have been advanced to explain this state of affairs. Firstly, the proliferation of these crimes can be explained in part by the increased transnational flow of people, goods, and money in the second half of the twentieth century, a process referred to as “globalization” and which has contributed to the growth of both licit and illicit economies operating transnationally. Secondly, the spread of free market economies and democracy in most of the non-western world has contributed to increase in these crimes as a result of their undermining state authority.[34]

A significant number of interviewed police officers observed that policing transnational crimes such as terrorism, money laundering, cybercrimes, banking frauds, and drug trafficking is posing significant multifaceted challenges. On a general scale, there are significant challenges in terms of personnel capacity gaps and operational infrastructure needed to police these crimes. The legal framework of these growing crimes has a couple of challenges mostly with regard to formulation and enforcement of regulatory laws. For instance, on 30th April 2003, the government introduced the suppression of terrorism bill (through Supplement No. 38 of Kenya Gazette). The anti-terrorism bill was abandoned midway as anti-lobbyists of the bill perceived that if enacted, it could be perceived as calculated to stereotype and victimize the Muslim population. Critics of the bill argued that it was a reproduction of the US PATRIOTS Act. Opponents of the bill, such as sections of the civil society organized rallies countrywide to educate Kenyans on the evils of the bill. Indeed, the US and Britain had issued travel advisories to their nationals against visiting Kenya until the anti-terror legislation was enacted. One of the claims made against the bill was that it allowed problematic police searches and extra-judicial actions against suspected terrorists who would have no recourse within the law.[35]

The secrecy concerning the training and equipping of the special units of the police for counter-terrorism operations have in the past heighted the chances of repression and unaccountability by a police largely perceived to be incompetent, corrupt, repressive and alienating the public that it serves.[36] As one interviewed police officer put it, the fight against terrorism is viewed as being discriminatory to the Muslim community in Kenya:[37]

Curbing terrorism is, however, challenging because the Muslim population claim the efforts put in place are discriminatory to them.

Terrorism continues to pose significant challenges to the police. The interviewed Kenyan police officers have “securitized” terrorism as a major threat issue that needs to be addressed urgently. The interviewed police officers perceive terrorism threats as emanating from the lawless state of Somalia that has lacked a central governing authority since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. There are striking narratives of interviewed police officers to the effect that terrorist threats abound from the famous Somali-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab said to have clandestine recruitments and training centers in Kenya.

Terrorism is a transnational crime that goes beyond the purview of the state police. It has increasingly become a global problem that requires concerted action by the comity of nations. Kenya has been a target of terror attacks in the past. On August 7th 1998, the US Embassy in Nairobi was attacked in which over 200 lives were lost. Apparently, the anti-terrorism debate in Kenya is dominated by the regional policy agenda of the US government in which the Kenyan government is considered an important ally given the country’s geographical and historical proximity to the Middle East and the Arab world believed in Western security agendas to be the principal source of contemporary international [Islamist] terrorism. Hence, with regard to the Global War on Terror (GWOT) championed by the US government, there appears to be a convergence of interest between the Kenyan state security apparatus and the US foreign policy goals on security.[38] From a purely Kenyan state-centric position, this relationship is arguably beneficial because international cooperation and support may assist the Kenyan state to overcome capacity deficits in terms of policing terrorism. Police officers interviewed, cognizant of the fact that they cannot effectively prosecute the anti-terrorism campaign alone, advocated the need for partnership with international bodies, such as Interpol.

In the Post-9/11 international order, the global war on terror has been waged by the US government and its allies. Increasingly, the US has securitized aid to Kenya by the deployment of their Civil Affairs team to the Muslim-dominated North Eastern Province and Lamu in the Coast Province as a counter-terrorism strategy to secure its interests and those of its allies. The threats are perceived to emanate from several sources. For instance, the North Eastern Province is believed to be a soft underbelly of Al-Qaeda in East Africa. The Lamu area of the Kenyan Coast is perceived as a permissive “ungoverned” area in which terrorists fleeing violent clampdown from the Middle East and North Africa take advantage of weaknesses in the state’s governance capacity to flourish undetected. The other threat emanates from the high levels of social and economic deprivation and grievances among Kenya’s Muslim population, which is believed to make large sections of the youth sympathetic and vulnerable to the course of Islamist militant groups.[39] Analysts like Hills,[40] while acknowledging that Kenya is reputed to host Al-Qaeda operatives and sympathizers, further argues that terrorism seems to matter less to the ordinary Kenyans when compared to the high rates of common crime manifested in such incidents as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, use of narcotics and the flow of illegal weapons.

A cross section of interviewed police officers of various ranks in both Nairobi and Nakuru fieldwork locations allege that terrorist organizations operating from Somali have established a range of secret training bases in Kenya and that this is a challenge to their provision of internal security. The following excerpt from one of our fieldwork respondents is illustrative:[41]

The hub of terrorism in East Africa is Somali and we have in the past heard or gathered intelligence that the recruitment of terrorists and training is done in parts of Eastleigh – a Somali suburb in Nairobi [our emphasis].’

Regarding law enforcement, some of the interviewed police officers cited the lack of a comprehensive legislation as an impediment to curbing the growing threat of new crime waves such as those that operate through modern technologies like cyber crimes, identity impersonation and theft, copyright infringements, and so forth. They noted that the Kenya Communications Amendment Act of 2008 in which cyber crimes are defined is not sufficiently comprehensive as there are a number of new crimes that are not covered by the Act. For instance, respondents observed that over the past two years there has been an increase in fraud involving mobile phone money transfer services that is not adequately addressed in the 2008 legislation. Interviewed police officers stress the need to constantly review legislations to make them more responsive to changing crime trends, especially cyber crimes.

According to the International Narcotics Control Strategy report entitled Money Laundering and Financial Crimes 2011, Kenya serves as a major hub for money laundering. The laundering of funds is attributed to Somali piracy, corruption, misuse of casinos, and narcotics proceeds. Further, Kenya’s financial system is said to be laundering over US$100 million each year. The report argues that the unregulated networks of the Hawala money remittances (mostly used by the Somali refugees in the country) are largely untracked by the government.[42]

Drug Trafficking

Interviewed police officers of various ranks in the two fieldwork locations of Nairobi and Nakuru indicate that policing drug trafficking poses significant challenges. Respondents posit that Kenya serves as a transit point of narcotics transported to various quarters of the international market with some finding their way into the local market. The officers cite a number of challenges in addressing the narcotics trade in the country. Whereas the police have a specialized anti-narcotic unit within the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), respondents still point to a number of hurdles. One of the challenges is the fact that the drug traffickers control enormous wealth and are allegedly insulated by top echelons in both the police and the upper levels of government. The following narrative is illustrative:[43]

Drug traffickers have a lot of money and could influence the termination of cases that we investigate if they see significant inroads being made into their territory. There is therefore the issue of interference in our work. Sometimes officers could be prepared to raid a certain place but then they suddenly get orders to stop such a raid. In the past some top leaders in the government have been connected with drug lords and when such crippling orders are given we comply [...]; you could be out investigating and a senior police officer intervenes in the case and the consequence could be your immediate transfer to extremely backward areas such as Turkana or North Eastern Province.

The criminal justice system is apparently rendered inefficient in dealing with drug trafficking because of the powerful connections and immense wealth of drug lords, allowing them to easily circumvent the process. Another challenge in addressing drug trafficking offences, as interviewed police officers noted, is with the law itself (the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Control Act No. 4 of 1994). Police officers cite the above law as having loopholes, especially with regard to bailing of offences and this implies that police can let go of drug suspects in their custody and who, for obvious reasons, will go underground and never turn up for their pending cases. Yet another challenge is that of operational infrastructure. Police officers interviewed argued for the need to have extra equipment to detect drugs in various ports of entry to mitigate transmittal of drugs. There is also the challenge of keeping up with the constantly evolving criminal devises of drug traffickers. Drug traffickers devise desperate and creative methods that make the detection of drugs difficult. The following narrative of an interviewed police officer tries to capture some of these devises:[44]

Cocaine is for instance carried in a person’s stomach and so it is not easy to detect it unless you suspect that the trafficker has swallowed the wrapped drugs and then you can detain the person somewhere and observe them. Other drugs such as heroine are placed in the interior linings of briefcases and then sealed. Some traffickers put drugs in their shoe soles. Tender babies are also made to carry drugs in their napkins. In that case, it would be embarrassing to undo a child’s napkin to detect the drugs.

In early 2011, the Minister of State in charge of Internal Security and Provincial Administration, Prof George Saitoti, tabled the names of alleged masterminds of high profile drug trafficking in Kenya in the Kenyan Parliament. The suspect’s list included four sitting members of parliament and a businessman. The police were thereafter mandated to investigate these allegations. The police failed to link the five persons mentioned in allegations of drug trafficking in a preliminary report handed over to Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere. The report states that despite “efforts to conduct investigations, it proved elusive to secure substantive evidence with which to implicate, let alone prosecute any of the mentioned suspects.”[45] The detectives cited lack of informers to give evidence on the levelled allegations. The report identifies Vanga, Shimoni, Kilifi, Malindi and Lamu as major entry points while Kijipwa, Ukunda, Lunga Lunga and Voi airstrips were found to be favoured routes for drug smuggling because of minimal police presence. The detectives established that drugs mainly enter the country through the Kilindini Harbour in containers disguised as rice, sugar, second hand clothes, and used motor vehicles. They are then repackaged and exported as tea or fish. The report also established that privately owned container freight stations were also being conveniently used by drug traffickers to smuggle in and offload narcotics. “Drug dealers are believed to convert their proceeds into other forms of property to conceal the same. Investigations of personal assets of suspected dealers therefore become relevant to expose the illicit trade,” the report says.[46]

Refugee Militarization

Some of the interviewed police officers contend that refugees have increasingly militarized the society and that they pose significant threats to the stability of the country. Dominant narratives of police officers indicate refugees, especially those from Somalia as key drivers of insecurity in the country due to arms trafficking. The police have thus “securitized’’ the refugees as constituting key security threats. These arms are said to find their way to Eastleigh suburb, a major hub of economic activities largely dominated by the Somali in the capital city of Nairobi.

Analyzing the case study of Somali refugees in Eastleigh suburb of Nairobi, Murunga[47] critiques the dominant view that Somali refugees are to blame for increased insecurity in the capital city, and argues instead that the proliferation of small arms in the country should be understood in a variety of contexts. He posits that in the intricate arms trafficking business there are crucial factors like the complicity of Kenyan law enforcement agencies, collusion with Kenyan businessmen, and inadequate policing of the Kenya-Somalia border stretching to over 1,000 km. He further argues that part of the reason why illicit arms find their way into Eastleigh is because the suburb is largely chaotic and neglected in terms of social services and public infrastructures (especially roads, drainages, and refuse collection) which inhibits accessibility and aids crime of all sorts in which Kenyans are equally complicit. He also faults the government for failure to address the internal security conditions and the demand for the flow of small arms in the country.

Our fieldwork indicates that arms smuggled into Eastleigh easily find their way to other parts of the city and beyond where robbers use them for various types of violent crime. According to one of the interviewed police officers:[48]

[...] Eastleigh is just but a base for the smuggled arms. These guns are used to commit crimes; they find their way into areas such as Jericho [This estate is about 7km east of the capital city of Nairobi]. There are many guns in Jericho which is part of our operation areas. Some of these criminals don’t operate from these areas; the areas become the bases for planning their criminal activities.

Our fieldwork data generally indicate that the state’s monopoly of the legitimate use of force is in doubt for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons is the inability of the state to adequately police its long porous borders, especially the border with the failed state of Somalia. This implies that illicit firearms can easily flow into the country. The capacity deficits in terms of state policing personnel indicate that the state security agencies cannot be effective in policing crimes like arms trafficking. The various armed conflicts in the Horn of Africa have left the region awash with small arms and light weapons. Another reason for the inflow of illegal weapons is the logic of local community-driven demand and supply. In Northwestern Kenya, for example, the demand for weapons among the pastoral communities is high and this is attributable to minimal or no provision of state security at all in this volatile region notorious for inter-communal feuds over farm and grazing lands.[49]

Policing Illegal Immigrants

According to the interviewed respondents, police officers find it challenging to police illegal immigrants, defined as “aliens” under Kenyan law. The majority of illegal immigrants are from the neighbouring failed state of Somali. The major challenge officers’ face is a difficulty of differentiating between the Kenyan “Somali” and the “Somali refugees” both of whom are the same ethnic Somalis. The Somalis have often been described as a “transnational state” and have in the past posed a threat to national sovereignties in the greater Horn of Africa through their irredentist agitations and campaigns. A few years after Kenya’s independence in 1963, the government of Kenya led by President Jomo Kenyatta waged a vicious battle with segments of the Somalis residing in North Eastern Province who wanted self-determination for their region, also known as the Northern Frontier. Their separatist efforts did not succeed but apparently as a result of it, the area was largely neglected in terms of development infrastructure and of social service provisions such as schools, health clinics, roads, etc.[50]

From the fieldwork interviews, the police believe that many “aliens” such as the Somali refugees participate in crimes such as forgery, producing fake identity cards and passports to claim they have “acquired” status of Kenyan citizenship. Contrary to Torpey’s assertion that the state ideally ought to have decisive control and enforcement action over movements in its territories, including issuance of travel documentations, the situation is different in Kenya.[51]

Murunga[52] argues that a number of factors are responsible for the influx of Somali refugees into the country. The first is that the Kenyan government lacks the capacity to police the country’s vast north-eastern borders coupled with the fact that the security forces themselves are unable to adapt to the harsh ecology of the semi-desert environment - a condition that the traditionally nomadic Somalis are naturally adapted to and which criminal elements amongst them easily exploit for cross-border crimes. The second factor is that many of the refugees have Kenyan Somali relatives, which in part contributes to their invisibility once they cross into the Kenyan side of the border. Continuing violent conflict and instances of drought in war-torn Somalia merely exacerbate the outflow of people from the country. Kenya hosts more than one million Somali refugees, a figure that has added a daily influx of more over 1,000 during the first half of 2011 due to the intensified scourge of drought, famine, and war.[53]

Our fieldwork investigations illustrate that some officers within the rank and file of the police and immigration departments complicitly facilitate and allow illegal immigrants access into the country without adhering to the due process of law. This is an affront to Kenya’s sovereignty and it has serious consequences for the country’s security as the majority of interviewed police officers in the two fieldwork locations link illegal immigrants with such crimes as human trafficking and money laundering. As one of the interviewed police officers summarizes it: “the Somali refugees are involved in the smuggling of small arms, the printing of fake money, passports and fake documents, forgeries and assembling of materials used in terror attacks.”[54] It is difficult to obtain any independent empirical confirmation of these allegations.

Kenya's Criminal Justice System

The Kenyan police are a critical component in the larger criminal justice system that also includes the courts that are in charge of the judicial process, and correctional facilities such as prisons. The police’s role in the criminal justice system is to investigate and present suspects to the court with supporting evidence for prosecution. Interviewed police officers reported that the criminal justice system is faced with significant challenges. One of the challenges has to do with aspects of the new constitution promulgated on August 27th 2010 and specifically on Article 49 subsection f (i) on the chapter on the Bill of Rights. This clause enumerates and guarantees the rights of an arrested person. Under the constitutional dispensation, a police officer is required to take a suspect to court within 24 hours of being arrested. Officers argue that 24 hours is insufficient to prepare and produce evidence for court prosecution. The implication of this is that, at times, suspects hurriedly charged to court can be set free by a lack of evidence.

The second challenge the interviewed police officers pointed out is the issue of corruption and inefficiency both by segments of the police and officials in the judicial and correctional facilities. Inefficiency in the criminal justice system is also partly attributed to poor investigative skills and facilities within the police force. Narratives from our fieldwork indicate that crime suspects frequently offer huge sums of money to bribe police officers, thereby influencing them to compromise investigation and have the suspects set free before the time they are expected to be charged to court. Even after conviction by a court of law, suspects or their relatives could bribe the police to have convicted offenders released. By this malpractice, criminal elements are unduly released back to the streets and community to continue their deviant acts. This observation is corroborated by Gimode[55] who argues that the apparent failure of the police and the courts to guarantee justice has in turn led to the culture of mob justice among the citizenry. The public prefer to hand out “justice” by either stoning suspects or burning them to death. “The criminal justice system,” argued a female officer, “is not fully efficient because at times they frustrate efforts by the police to have suspects prosecuted in court; the system is compromised by corrupt individuals who use their power and wealth to pay their way out.”[56]

The Kenyan police have been repeatedly charged with extra-judicial killings ostensibly perpetrated or aggravated by officers’ frustrations with the ineptitude of the criminal justice system in reining in hardcore violent criminals. Significantly, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Prof Philip Alston, in his address to the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 on extra-judicial killings in the country, noted that the Kenyan police were culpable in these respects and recommended that action be taken by those that were responsible to safeguard the human rights of all.[57] Prof Alston’s account is corroborated by a report released in 2008 by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR) entitled The Cry of Blood: Report on Extra-Judicial Killings and Disappearance. The report details evidence of alleged execution of civilians by squads within the Kenyan police force. The report alleges that these killings were sanctioned by both the political leadership and top police leadership. This report was compiled between 2007 and 2008, when the human rights body began investigations into complaints of alleged executions and disappearances of civilians – crimes that were attributed to the Kenyan police. In 2007, the KNHCR had released a preliminary report indicating that the Kenyan police could have been complicit in extra-judicial killings of close to 500 people between June and October 2007 and their bodies deposited in various mortuaries or dumped in forests among other locations.[58] These allegations suggest that contemporary policing philosophy has hardly changed. The alleged human rights violations were sanctioned for purposes of regime security.

These alleged human rights violations also point to issues of accountability deficits in policing. The policing agencies in Kenya are hardly accountable and easily get away with impunity. The violations further have served to widen the gulf and distrust between the police and the citizens. Similarly, a Human Rights Watch report released in March 2008 observes that the three branches of the police: the General Service Unit, Kenya Police and the Administration Police were culpable in acts of extra-judicial killings and, by extension, use of excessive force in quelling the violence following the December 2007 presidential elections. The police are accused of unwarrantedly using lethal force against unarmed protesters, women and children.[59] The Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence (CIPEV) Report of 2008 avers that the heavy handedness of police response resulted in the death of 405 persons across the country.[60]

The 2008 CIPEV Report also documents witnesses’ accounts of how the security forces engaged in sexual violations of girls and women at the height of the post-election violence. In the course of their investigations, the Commission (CIPEV) received various accounts of how some security officers (notably KPF) deliberately refused to record sexual violence crimes at their work stations.[61]

Political Interferences

Dominant opinions of the interviewed police and civil society officials indicate that in carrying out their duties, the Kenyan police have been subject to interference by the top political leadership in their work. This is in part explained by the wide ranging powers the executive arm of government, especially the President wielded under the old constitution. Previously, the President had the sole authority to appoint and to dismiss the Police Commissioner who served at his pleasure. This meant in practice that previous office holders had to toe the regime’s line or risk being dismissed. Among other things, political interference, which has not been significantly changed by the promulgation of a new constitution, impairs the rule of law and law enforcement. This is particularly so with cases involving drug trafficking and other high profile crimes. The interviewed police officers argued that they had to toe the line of their superiors or risk far-reaching consequences, including dismissal from work.

Images of Corruption and Laxity in the Police Force

Our fieldwork data indicates that the dominant images the public has of the Kenyan police are those of corruption and laxity. As recurrent subjects of public discourse, the police are associated with such abuses as lax disposition to duty, extortion of common citizens and bribery, extra-judicial killings and collusion with criminals, and human rights violations, among others. Evidently, police officers are not in complete denial of the incidence of institutional corruption and serving officers’ wanton abuse of office, as the following narrative by an interviewed police officer illustrates:[62]

[...] We have police officers who are less committed to policing duties. Some of these officers have been brought to the force by senior officers or the ruling elite and they essentially regard police work as their last career alternative. Some of these officers are not genuinely committed to professional work ethics and this is a demotivation to the loyal officers committed to their jobs. It is a scenario that hampers the work of the police and therefore means the public do not get adequate services from the police force.

Members of the public interviewed noted that the police may sometimes require to be bribed to take action or respond to distress calls. As one Mathare resident in Nairobi observed, “at times you have to bribe them (the police) to take action and at times they are reluctant to take action immediately when a crime is reported.”[63]

A majority of the interviewed police officers, however, argued that their slow response to crime incidents should be evaluated in the light of their prevailing logistical and operational shortcomings, notably the lack of sufficient infrastructure, such as vehicles. As one interviewed police officer pointed out: “When it comes to transport, it is a very huge challenge. We have one station vehicle that keeps breaking down so often and which hinders our ability to respond to crime situations in a fast and efficient manner.”[64]

Another form of corruption in the police force is that of alleged police collusion with criminals. According to a crime victimization survey carried out in Nairobi city in 2002, respondents had strong perceptions that criminals were increasingly collaborating with law enforcement agencies, thereby deteriorating the delivery of policing services.[65] Similarly, there are claims that the police form part of the chain of traders and other government officials that facilitate the flow of illegal weapons across the Kenyan’s porous borders.[66] A resident of Huruma, a low income area of Nairobi remarked that “the police being corrupt, they at times collude with criminals by hiring out their firearms.”[67]

According to the findings of the East African bribery index conducted by Transparency International Kenya, Transparency International Uganda, and the Tanzania Transparency Forum, the Kenyan police was ranked the most corrupt institution in East Africa in 2009.[68] Dominant interview narratives from members of the public and the civil society indicate that the police institution in Kenya is perceived to be notoriously corrupt. Many respondents mentioned that they often used bribes to access police services.

The interviewed police officers link their bribe taking to a number of factors. The first is inadequate remuneration, which officers said predisposed them to sometimes demand and collect bribes to augment their meagre income. Consequently, the institutionality of corruption often requires that junior police officers on external duties make significant returns from bribes they have collected to their senior line manager and commanding officers. Without such regular returns, a junior officer could be redeployed to a perceptibly unlucrative or remote duty post. The budgetary constraints under which the Kenyan police force operates cannot be over-emphasized. Commenting on the issue, a Nakuru-based civil society official made the following revelation:[69]

The police have problems with transport. A police officer once told me that due to inadequate fuel allocations, they had instances where they would mount roadblocks to extort money for fuel. This case illustrates the infrastructural challenges they operate under.

Bribe taking and extortion by the police is not unique to Kenya. It is a phenomenon that is known to be widespread in the developing world. Elsewhere in Nigeria, for instance, the police often mount illegal toll gates along the highways to extort money from motorists. The modes of extortion used are threats of violence, torture or actual arrests. The approach adopted is the use of junior officers who often have to take part of their proceeds to their seniors, an approach similar to what is reportedly practiced in Kenya. Even the few cases of officers arrested for mounting illegal roadblocks in Nigeria remain largely suppressed and uninvestigated by the police authorities and government.[70] 

Difficulties in Managing Ethnice Relations and Violence

The Kenyan police are significantly challenged when it comes to managing ethnic relations and violence. This is in part explained by the nature of divisive politics practised in the country. Ethnic-related violence is more prevalent during election periods (prior to and after elections). This is what Ajulu (terms as “political ethnicity,” which he defines as a “tendency among political elites to mobilize ethnicity for political ends.”[71] Election-related violence is not a new phenomenon in Kenya, as it has been recurrent in the modern history of the nation. The reintroduction of multi-party democracy in 1991 saw the return of ethnic conflicts in the Rift Valley Province. The high level of organization of the clashes, which the state security agencies appeared incapable of surmounting, heightened the speculation about the involvement of the state and some top politicians in the clashes.[72] The 2007/2008 election violence was particularly overwhelming to the police who appeared unable to contain it.[73]

Ethnic conflict in Kenya tends to be exacerbated by the proliferation of militia gangs and vigilantes in the country such as the Taliban, Baghad Boys, Jeshi la Mzee, Mungiki, and Jeshi la Embakasi which some analysts see as a response to youth marginalization by the state.[74] These militia groups, exponents argue, are formed for economic survival and are mobilized around ethnic identities. The other motivation for the rise and mutation of these militia groups has to do with the growing incapacity of the state to provide security. They thus emerge to help fill the security vacuum created by the state’s abdication of its responsibility in security provisioning. These militias operate as ‘shadow states’ in urban slums.[75] As part of their strategies for survival, these militias extort a protection levy from residents of informal settlements in addition to charging for use of illegal water and electricity connections.[76]


It is evident from this study that the KPF faces far-reaching problems and challenges that fundamentally affect the performance capacity of the force. The problems and challenges analyzed in the study are, for the most part, institutional and operational capacity deficits and they altogether encumber the police force in their responsibility of law enforcement and crime control.

Prominent among the observed problematic issues are the unacceptably poor conditions of service and operational facilities within the force. The highly unfavourable terms and conditions of service of the police, as we have observed in the study, should be addressed if the country is to have a modern and efficient police service. There is also the need for the police force to adopt democratic credentials and shift their emphasis from policing for the regime in power to policing for the citizens. This will require a gradual social engineering of the current policing strategy to a more responsive, citizen-centered philosophy. The restructuring should of necessity include wide ranging reforms in training curricula for new entrants and retraining of serving officers. This is a strong challenge because the police in Kenya have, since the colonial days, been used as a tool of oppression and guarantors of regime security. It is envisaged, however, that with the adoption of a new constitution in August of 2010 and the enacting of new reforms proposed by both the constitution and the Kenyan Police Strategic Plan 2003-2007 (Draft 2) will help to address most of the identified problems and also transform the Kenyan police to a modern, professional, and accountable force – a force for public good. Constructive reforms will also help to improve the police-policed relations in the country. Police reforms are presently taking place, albeit at an incredibly slow pace.

Apart from the internal factors and conditions, the protracted conflicts in Somalia have an aggravating impact on Kenya’s security nightmare and the challenges facing the KPF. The proliferation of small arms and light weapons in Kenya is partly as result of the country’s largely unpoliced borders with war-torn Somalia. There is also the correlated dimension of refugee influx and all the associated crimes. This Somali imbroglio calls for a concerted regional and an international effort that should, among other things, help to terminate the continuing carnage by warring factions in Somalia, establish a coherent state structure, and prioritize the peaceful repatriation, resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees.

The actions and inactions of the state, as this study observes, are partly to blame for the challenges of state policing. The case of the rise and mutation of militias and vigilantes and which constitute a key security menace is indicative. As our findings indicate the Kenyan state and, by extension, the political elite encouraged the formation of militias in the past to meet partisan political objectives. With time, these militias have acquired a life of their own and operate as ‘shadow states’. The militias have illegally taken over some urban slums in the national capital Nairobi and elsewhere in other peri-urban areas. They run extortion rings where they charge levies for provision of security, as well as for water and electricity that are connected illegally. One of the fundamental reasons for the thriving of these militia groups is the inability of the state to provide comprehensive security and hence their rise as alternative security providers.

This study observes that the high levels of structural violence in the Kenyan society further complicate the security situation in the country. It is imperative for the state to address human security concerns, such as poverty and the equitable distribution of national resources to ensure a more stable polity. Addressing these concerns would, among other things, minimize the prevalence of militia and vigilante groups that presently constitute key security challenges.

The study also observes a crisis of public confidence in the KPF related to allegations of police engagement in a variety of violations including extortion, torture and extra-judicial killings. The KPF has a great need for confidence-building if they are to win the hearts and minds of public. This study thus recommends greater accountability mechanisms on the part of the police, and stronger oversight by parliament or government in general. There is a need for greater vigilance by civil society and other actors to ensure that the KPF is held to account and that they discharge their duties in a professional way.


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  1. Achille Mbembe, On the Postcolony (California: University of California Press, 2001).
  2. Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the legacy of Late Colonialism (London: James Currey, 1996).
  3. Human Rights Watch, “Playing with Fire: Weapons Proliferation, Political Violence and Human Rights in Kenya’’ (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2002).
  4. Katumanga Musambayi and Lionel Cliffe, Nairobi – A City Besieged: The Impact of Armed Violence on Poverty and Development (Bradford: Centre for International Cooperation and Security Department of Peace Studies, 2005).
  5. Elrena Spuy and Ricky Rontsch, Police and Crime in Africa: A Brief Appraisal of Structures, Policies and Practices (Cape Town: Centre of Criminology, 2008).
  6. Njoki Ndung’u, “Kenya: The December 2007 Election Crisis,” Mediterranean Quarterly 1, (2008): 111 – 121.
  7. Susanne, D. Mueller, “The Political Economy of Kenya’s Crisis,’’ Journal of Eastern African Studies 2 no. 2 (2008):185-210.
  8. Kenneth Omeje, “The War on Terror and the Crisis of Postcoloniality in Africa”. African Journal of International Affairs 11, no. 2 Spring, (2008): 89-114.
  9. Bruce Baker, “Beyond the State Police in Urban Uganda and Sierra Leone,’’ Afrika Spectrum 41 no.1 (2006): 55-76.
  10. Susanne, D. Mueller, “The Political Economy of Kenya’s Crisis,’’ 187.
  11. Johan Galtung, ‘Violence and Peace’ in P. Smoker et al (eds.) A Reader in Social Studies. New York: Pergamon Press, 1990: 9-14.
  12. Larry Siegel, Criminology: The Core. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2010.
  13. David Francis, ‘Introduction’ in D. Francis (ed.) Civil Militia: Africa’s Intractable Security Menace? Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2005: 1 - 29.
  14. UNDP, The Human Development Report. Accessed on May 15, 2012 at
  15. David, “Introduction’’ p.16.
  16. Interview with female Police Corporal in Nakuru on 21/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  17. Mary Kimani, “Security for the Highest Bidder: Shoddy Policing for the Many, Costly Private Protection for the Few.’’ Accessed on May 20, 2012 at
  18. Sunday Standard, “Kenya’s most guarded VIPs- using taxpayer’s money and foreign aid to pay the bill, Sunday Standard, 6/6/2009;'s-most%20guarded-vips-using-tax-payers-money-and%20foreign-aid-to-pay-the-bill/ ( accessed March 29,2011).
  19. Edwin, A. Gimode, “ The Role of the Police in Kenya’s Democratization Process’’ in Godwin, R. Murunga and Shadrack, W. Nasong’o (Eds.), Kenya: The Struggle for Democracy (London: Zed Books, 2007: 227-60).
  20. Interview with male Superintendent of Police in Nakuru on 21/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  21. Daily Nation, “Team proposes new syllabus as hiring of police set to resume,’’ Daily Nation, 19/02/11.
  22. Kenya Police Service, “Strategic Plan 2008-2012” (Nairobi: Kenya Police Service, 2008).
  23. Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), “The Police, The People, The Politics: Police Accountability in Kenya” (Nairobi: CHRI and KHRC, 2006).
  24. Capital FM Kenya, (accessed March 31, 2011).
  25. Interview with male Police Constable in Nakuru on 21/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  26. Interview with female Police Corporal in Nakuru on 21/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  27. Interview with male Police Sergeant in Nairobi on 19/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  28. Interview with male Police Corporal in Nakuru on 22/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  29. Albert Mwenda, A Review of the Kenya Police Force Budget and its Effect on Crime Management (New Delhi: Matrix, 2005).
  30. Kenya Police Service, “Kenya Police Service Strategic Plan 2003-2007 Draft 2” (Nairobi: Kenya Police Service, 2003).
  31. Ministry of Finance, “The Medium Term Budget Strategy Paper’’ (Nairobi: Ministry of Finance,2010), (accessed March 11, 2011).
  32. Jeanne Giraldo and Harold Trinkunas, “Transnational Crime,’’ in Contemporary Security Studies, ed. Collins, A. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 346-367.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Ibid., 350.
  35. Carolyne Kamau “Kenya and the War on Terrorism,” Review of African Political Economy 33, no. 107 (2006): 133-141.
  36. Alice Hills, “Trojan Horses? USAID, Counterterrorism and Africa’s Police,” Third World Quarterly 27 no. 4 (2006): 629-643. 25.
  37. Interview with male Police Chief Inspector in Nairobi on 15/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  38. Mark Bradbury and Michael Kleinman, Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship between Aid and Security in Kenya (Boston: Feinstein International Center Tufts University, 2010).
  39. Mark and Michael, “Winning Hearts and Minds?’’ 25.
  40. Alice Hills, “Trojan Horses? USAID, Counterterrorism and Africa’s Police,” 637.
  41. Interview with male Police Chief Inspector in Nairobi on 15/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  42. US Department of State, “International Narcotics Control Strategy Report Volume II: Money Laundering and Financial Crimes,” (Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, March 2011), (accessed April 7, 2011).
  43. Interview with male Police Sergeant in Nairobi on 19/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  44. Interview with male Police Sergeant in Nairobi on 18/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  45. Daily Nation, “Probe fails to link Kenyan MPs to Drugs,’’ Daily Nation, 30/01/2011.
  46. Ibid.
  47. Godwin R. Murunga, “Conflict in Somalia and Crime in Kenya: Understanding the Trans-Territoriality of Crime,” African and Asian Studies 4, nos. 1-2 (2005):137-161.
  48. Interview with male Police Sergeant in Nairobi on 18/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  49. Kennedy Mkutu, “Small Arms and Light Weapons among the Pastoral Groups on the Kenya- Uganda Border Area. African Affairs, 106 no. 422 (2006): 47-70.
  50. Aki Stavrou, Crime in Nairobi. Results of a Citywide Victim Survey (Nairobi: UN Habitat, Safer Cities Series 4, 2002).
  51. John Torpey, “Coming and Going: On the State Monopolization of the Legitimate “Means of Movement,’’ Sociological Theory, 16 no. 3 (1998):239-259.
  52. Godwin R. Murunga, “Conflict in Somalia and Crime in Kenya.”
  53. Daily Nation, “Kibaki Says Refugee Problem a Concern,” Daily Nation, 9/8/2011; (accessed August 10, 2011).
  54. Interview with female Chief Inspector in Nakuru on 22/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  55. Edwin, A. Gimode, “An Anatomy of Violent Crime and Insecurity in Kenya: The Case of Nairobi in the Last Quarter of the Twentieth Century,” Paper presented to the Conference on the Urban Experience in Eastern Africa (Nairobi, British Institute in Eastern Africa, 2001).
  56. Interview with female Police Officer in Nakuru on 22/10/2010. Interview was conducted by the member of the project team.
  57. Philip Alston, “Statement by Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,” delivered at the United Nations Human Rights Council (Geneva, June 3, 2009), (accessed February 10, 2011).
  58. Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNHCR), “The Cry of Blood: Report on Extrajudicial Killings and Disappearances” (Nairobi: KNHCR, 2008).
  59. Human Rights Watch, “Ballots to Bullets: Organized Political Violence and Kenya’s Crisis of Governance” (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2008).
  60. Government Printer, “Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence Report’’ (Nairobi: Government Printer, 2008).
  61. Ibid.
  62. Interview with female Police Corporal in Nakuru on 21/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  63. Interview with a male resident of Mathare Nairobi on 23/11/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  64. Interview with female Police Constable in Nairobi on 15/10/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  65. Aki, Crime in Nairobi. Results of a Citywide Victim Survey (Nairobi: UN Habitat, Safer Cities Series 4, 2002).
  66. Godwin R. Murunga, “Conflict in Somalia and Crime in Kenya.”
  67. Interview with male resident of Huruma, Nairobi on 23/11/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  68. Transparency International Kenya, (2009) “The East African Bribery Index,” EABI (2009), (accessed October 20, 2010).
  69. Interview with a civil society official in Nakuru on 17/12/2010. Interview was conducted by a member of the project team.
  70. Osumah Oarhe and Aghedo Iro, “The Open Sore of a Nation: Corruption Complex and Internal Security in Nigeria,” African Security 3, (2010):127-147.
  71. Rok Ajulu, “Politicized Ethnicity, Competitive Politics and Conflict in Kenya: A Historical Perspective,” African Studies 61 no.2 (2002):251-268.
  72. Ibid.
  73. Njoki Ndung’u, “Kenya: The December 2007 Election Crisis.”
  74. Katumanga Musambayi “A City under Siege: Banditry and Modes of Accumulations in Nairobi, 1991-2004,’’ Review of African Political Economy 32, no. 106 (2005):505-520.
  75. Suzanne, “The Political Economy of Kenya’s Crisis,’’ 188.
  76. Kennedy, Mkutu., and S. Kizito, “Private Security Companies and Dilemmas for Security, Journal of Contemporary African Studies 25, no. 3 (2007): 391-496.

About the Author

Kenneth Omeje, PhD in Peace Studies from the University of Bradford in England, Professor of International Relations at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya and Coordinator of the UK-government’s Development Partnerships in Higher Education (DelPHE)-funded Capacity-building Project on Conflict and Development Intervention in the African Great Lakes Region.

John Mwangi, MA degree in International Relations from the United States International University (USIU), Nairobi, Kenya.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the United States International University in Nairobi Kenya for funding this empirical research project as part of its 2010 annual faculty research grant competition.

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