Understanding the impact of post-conflict political settlements on security reforms in Kenya


Kenyan security questions linger

Somalilandsun-What role do political actors and politics play in shaping development outcomes? The concept of the ‘political settlement’ is increasingly prominent in peacebuilding discussions. This report focuses on Kenya:  an important case study for understanding the of role political dynamics in determining the pace and nature of security sector reform.

Kenya’s post-election violence in late 2007 and early 2008 – where police were found to have committed human rights abuses – triggered the development of an ambitious blueprint for security reform, including the professionalisation and transformation of the national police service.

Kenya’s political elite committed to delivering changes in police structure and behaviour through the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008 (NARA), as well as the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Reforms and changes were subsequently detailed in a significant number of new policing laws such as National Police Service Commission Act 2011, National Police Service Act 2011 and Independent Police Oversight Authority 2011.

But how did the political elite, national police institutions and pro-reform actors interact to make police reform a reality? And what impact did that process have on security transformation in practice?

This report highlights how control over the police service emerged as one of several key battlegrounds on which a power struggle took place within the Kenyan political elite reshaped by NARA. And after 2013, when the Act came to an end, new political coalitions sought to influence reform measures challenging centralised control over senior police appointments and strategy. The September 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi – and increasing fears around violent extremism – were context for legitimising the reassertion of central control over the police.

This report provides a context-specific and policy-relevant application of the ‘political settlements’ concept in Kenya. Findings have implications for a number of people and institutions engaged in the security sector reform process; suggesting a need for realistic and politically aware programming based on analysis of the policing context and the conditions in which transformation is likely to take place.

Read Politics and Policing: Understanding the impact of post-conflict political settlements on security reforms in Kenya

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