Tangled Ties: Al-Shabaab and Political Volatility in Kenya
IDS Evidence Report 130
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In recent years, a spate of attacks has destabilised a swathe of Kenya’s peripheral counties as well as bringing terror to its capital, Nairobi. As violent insecurity spreads, it has fomented fear and stoked ethnic and regional divisions, precipitating security crackdowns and roiling the country’s infamously tumultuous politics.
These developments belie sweeping constitutional reforms that have taken place to address and prevent violence in Kenya. Since Kenya stepped up its military involvement in Somalia in 2011, ostensibly to buffer the country from violence wrought by Al-Shabaab – the Somalia-based jihadi organisation – attacks have multiplied, ranging from the September 2013 siege of Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre, to village massacres, to the targeted killings of police and religious figures. Yet Kenya’s government, while widening its military engagement in Somalia, was at first slow to recognise and respond to the hand of Al-Shabaab in the country’s widening violent insecurity since the start of its Somalia military operations.
This study adds to existing analyses of Kenya’s shifting political and security dynamics by examining the role of external influences on its system of violence.