Hybrid security governance, post-election violence and the legitimacy of community-based armed groups in urban Kenya
Journal of Eastern African Studies
Many cities in contemporary Africa are characterised by hybrid modes of security governance that are co-produced by a variety of state and non-state actors of violence. While the (il)legitimacy of informal non-state security providers on the local level has featured prominently in discussions on hybrid security governance, there is a paucity of empirical case studies of what actually contributes to their (de)legitimisation, notably in the urban context. In order to fill this gap in knowledge, this article investigates how the legitimacy of community-based armed groups – such as vigilantes, militias and gangs – that are operating in Kenyan cities is influenced by the shifting functions they fulfil on behalf of various stakeholders. Based on field research in the informal settlements of Nairobi and Mombasa, I found that their involvement in organised criminal activities often costs vigilantes the legitimacy they had gained by providing protection and crime control for their community. At the same time, their involvement in repeated cycles of post-election violence leads not only to increasing ethnic segregation of the slums in which they operate, but also to the bifurcation of their legitimacy along ethnic lines. Taken together, the article contributes to our understanding of urban violence and conflict in Eastern Africa by tracing the trajectory of the (de)legitimisation of hybrid security actors in the two main cities in Kenya.