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Date(s) - 01/12/2016
12:00 am

International Conference

December 2016

International Conference


Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies

Conference on Security in Decentralized Contexts


Following the 2013 general elections, and in line with its new constitution, Kenya now has a devolved system of governance, with 47 county governments and one national government. Under the constitution, service delivery in areas such as agriculture, water, and health has been devolved to the county governments. However, security the responsibility and mandate of the national government and an area of difficulty in coordination between the national and county governments.

Three years after devolution, an interesting, if confusing, picture of the governance of security in Kenya is emerging. That picture suggests that security is shaping up as an area of mutual, albeit unstructured, cooperation and engagement between the two levels of government. Counties have found themselves compelled to address the problems of insecurity and violence principally through support to the National Police Service in the form of cars and financial allocations for the fueling of police cars. Some counties have also created the office of a security advisor to provide technical support to the governor and the county governments on security issues. On the other hand, the National Government has enacted legislation establishing County Policing Authorities (CPAs) that have the mandate of providing strategic leadership and advice on policing in each county. The CPAs are chaired by the governor and bring together community leaders as well as the police. However, in many counties, the CPAs are yet to be established and where they, have they are yet to be operationalised.

In addition, some county governments have chosen to invest in county security guards (askaris) to supplement security and to support the enforcement of county regulations. Overall, however, both the national government and counties are facing challenges in designing effective structures and frameworks for cooperation in improving security at local levels. Mutual suspicion continues to define the relationship between the county government leadership and the National Police Service leadership and other national administration leadership. The view of security as principally about formal policing continues to limit the imagination of the key actors in designing new structures and mechanisms for governance of security at local levels. County governments that have devoted resources such as cars to the National Police Service have on occasion been hard pressed by their legislatures to justify the allocation of county resources to what is legally a national mandate.

In many counties, this ad hoc partnership has also ran into operational confusion with county governments and the National Police Service in disagreement on the level of control that counties can exercise over the assets donated- such as cars. Moreover, the potentials for local security improvement through development interventions by county governments remain largely unexamined and unexploited. Overall, many questions remain unanswered on how the two levels of government can collaborate and harness their capacities and allocate their resources in a more optimal manner that improves the security of the public. Yet, is evident that the work of improving security in the 21 st century calls for better national- local collaboration, partnerships and linkages. Many of the major and urgent problems of security are linked to gaps and deficiencies of development polices and require local level solutions, local knowledge and networks. Academic research and thinking on these forms of collaboration is at its infancy in Kenya and consequently the reservoir of relevant ideas remains fairly shallow.

To further explore these emerging questions and generate insights to inform policy on security governance in Kenya, CHRIPS is convening a conference that will bring together experts and practitioners working on security in decentralized contexts. The conference will seek to highlight the best in ideas on the governance of security as well as emerging relevant practices. The convening will also draw from comparative experiences of other countries with decentralized governance systems.