Kenya’s Somali North East: Devolution and Security

There is a worrying loss of faith in the capacity of the state, at the core of the security crisis in the North East – and with Kenya in general, whether in centralized or devolved form, to deliver collective security and find a just solution to local conflicts. There are good arguments for and against the devolution of security, including in the northeastern countries. The initial experience of devolution has showed how clan capture of county government can lead directly to conflict or cause the county government to lack the means to mediate, and thus that a neutral national administrative and security presence is still required. Nevertheless, where cultural divides loom large, especially in the historically poorly integrated regions, locally recruited security forces led by nationally trusted and experienced professionals from the same community are producing results. However, while north-eastern leaders can be commended for a united response to terrorist atrocities, their record on resolving clan-based political conflict is poor. Unlike for Al-Shabaab, they have not produced a coordinated plan to reduce and resolve such conflict. Many have become as corrupt as national counterparts, arguing it is “their turn to eat”, and stoking minority community grievances. Many county elites have joined the opposition in accusing the national government of being anti-devolution, or at least presiding over its failure, without acknowledging the equally concerning failings and excesses of county government. Now that devolution has been implemented, and the rewards of political control of the unprecedented resources it delivers have been fully realized, electoral competition to control counties and especially the governorships will likely be fiercer and more prone to violence in 2017 than it was in 2013.