Civilian Oversight and Accountability of the Intelligence and Military

In public and policy debates, the reform of the security sector in Kenya has been seen as integral to enhancing security, democratization and socio-economic transformation in Kenya. Laws have provided a stronger framework for oversight and accountability, including the Constitution, the National Police Service (NPS) Act, the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) Act, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) Act and strengthening of the legal framework of the Internal Affairs Unit. These laws have resulted in a scale up of accountability measures for the police.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) and Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) have been less visible and with a lower level of civilian oversight. NIS and military are now increasingly involved in internal security matters which creates greater focus on accountability for their actions among civilians.  There have been a growing number of complaints and concerns about KDF excesses in actions aimed at countering violent extremism and in combats with Al Shabaab militia. In December 2011, the media reported that KDF responded to two attacks by suspected militants targeting Kenyan security officials in Dadaab by brutally beating scores of refugees. On 14 November 2014, West Pokot Governor Simon Kachapin and MPs from the region dispatched a team of human rights experts to probe alleged rights violations by the KDF during an operation in Kapendo, Turkana county, that aimed at recovering illegal firearms. According to media reports, residents had complained of being harassed by security personnel and more than 50 people are said to have been injured since the operation began.

The terrain of engagement between KDF officers and NIS officers on the one hand and civilians on the other hand is shifting significantly particularly in Kenya’s effort to respond to and curb violent extremism and terrorist attacks.


The CHRIPS Project

Between June 2015 and June 2016, the CHRIPS project on accountability and oversight of the military and intelligence services undertakes an exploratory and explanatory study as well as engagement with diverse military, intelligence and other state actors to determine the measures that will enhance the level of accountability to civilians exercised by these agencies. The study will consider the legal, technical and practical aspects of accountability of the security sector to civilians.  With funds provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, CHRIPS is undertakes the initiative with the goal of contributing to greater accountability in the security sector, and particularly the NIS and KDF.


Specific Objectives

  1. To undertake a primary study that will inform policy development on civilian oversight mechanisms for NIS and KDF
  2. To engage policy makers on instituting civilian oversight mechanisms on NIS and KDF
  3. To enhance capacity of non-state actors to advocate for accountability of NIS and KDF for their activities among civlians

Key actions of the project are:

  1. Field study in Mombasa, Garissa, Wajir and Nairobi Counties on interactions between NIS and KDF and civilians, where the two agencies have been most visible and present.
  2. Engagement with the Parliamentary Committee on Security and Administration of Justice and the various accountability institutions, with a focus on the pragmatics of accountability and oversight at the institutional levels. The institutions include the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), the Ombudsman, National Police Service Commission (NPSC), the Kenyan National Commission of Human Rights (KNCHR), and the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC)
  3. Forum with civil society organizations on accountability and oversight
  4. A national consultative workshop with government officials, academics, policy makers, religious leaders and civil society practitioners to debate the findings of the study and the implications for policies and practices.
  5. A policy brief on civilian accountability based on the study and the engagement with various state and non-state agencies.


Policy Relevance

The project is focused on practical solutions that take into account the existing structures and practices of accountability among the military and intelligence services, the gaps and violations that may go without redress and how the discourse as well as the practice of accountability can be strengthened at several levels. Military and intelligence accountability have seldom the subject of security sector studies in Kenya, and the nature of the agencies roles and mandates makes secrecy and classification of information a regular approach to managing security issues and operations of the agencies. This may create the false image of lack of accountability and also the false perspective that accountability is not needed. This project seeks to engage the various actors and enhance knowledge on accountability and possible practical solutions.