Accessibility links

Missing the point: violence reduction and policy misadventures in Nairobi’s poor neighbourhoods

Violence and crime are part of everyday life in many of Nairobi’s poor urban neighbourhoods. While wealthier enclaves of the city are heavily guarded by private security firms, violence and protection provided through criminal organisations and vigilante groups has become commonplace in the poor neighbourhoods.

The governments of both President Daniel arap Moi and his successor, Mwai Kibaki, over the years failed to measurably improve security for the urban poor. Rather, they reflected a narrow understanding of the problem as one of ordinary crime that can be stamped out with more robust policing measures.

Given the complex drivers of violence in Nairobi, and the close associations between politics and violence in Kenya, a different approach is needed that addresses the underlying factors making the poor more vulnerable to violence, including their lack of access to basic services and economic opportunities.

This report is organised as follows. The first section reviews existing data on welfare and violence in Nairobi’s poor neighbourhoods and identifies key gaps in understanding. The second section unpacks official understandings of violence and crime, while the third examines various policy interventions to address violence in poor urban neighbourhoods and the limitations of these. The report concludes with practical proposals for a different approach to address and mitigate violence in Nairobi’s poor neighbourhoods.