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Policy and Research Papers

Security Sector Reform and Transitional Justice in Kenya

SSR refers to the variety of constitutional, legal, and policy changes that may be required to infuse the  principles of accountability, professionalism, and efficiency into a security sector which has  had a history of operating beyond the rule of law. Experiences from post-conflict and transitional societies such as Sierra Leone and South Africa show that improving security governance helps create peace and other suitable conditions for meaningful social reconstruction and development to take place. Security agencies must work in the interests of citizens hence the need to transform the framework for security governance.

SSR involves bringing security agencies under civilian control and aligning their operations  to international best practices. SSR also involves transforming the underlying values, norms, and politics that frame the operations of security agencies. Successful SSR implementation will therefore partly depend on whether the state actually punishes human rights violations and corrupt acts committed by security personnel. So far, however, the rather slow pace of reforms in Kenya’s criminal justice system continues to shield abusive security personnel. In light of this background, ICTJ brought together eight experts with backgrounds in civil society, academia, and the security sector to share perspectives at a two-day meeting which sought to build new understanding on SSR.
The first presentation contextualized the idea of SSR within the broader issue of transitional justice. The second presentation examined international best practice for SSR as it relates to Kenya. The third presentation focused on the state and performance of Kenya’s security agencies, drawing its analysis from three official reports: the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Post-Election Violence, the Report of the National Task Force on Police Reforms, and the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. The fourth presentation examined how the practice of vetting might be used to transform Kenya’s security agencies, while the fifth and sixth ones discussed the possibilities for a police oversight body and penal reform, respectively. The seventh presentation explored SSR as it relates to the problem of the proliferation of vigilantes, gangs, and militia in Kenya. Finally, the eighth presentation argued for the need to regulate the Kenyan private security sector.

This briefing paper is a synthesis and analysis of the eight presentations and the ensuing debate which took place among the broader group of 25 participants. It explores several questions among them: What is the state of security and the security sector in Kenya? What have been the outcomes of SSR measures undertaken so far? What approaches for security sector transformation are desirable for Kenya and how might they be pursued? What kind of linkages are policy-makers making between SSR and other issues in the governance realm?

Follow this link to view the publication on the ICTJ's website.

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