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Kenya and International Security: Enabling Globalisation, Stabilising ‘Stateness’, and Deploying Enforcement

Journal article
Authors Jan Bachmann
Published in Globalizations
Volume 9
Issue 1
Pages 125-143
ISSN 1474-7731
Publication year 2012
Published at Gothenburg Centre for Globalization and Development (GCGD)
School of Global Studies
Pages 125-143
Language en
Keywords international security, Kenya, state formation, securitisation, counterterrorism, sovereignty
Subject categories Peace and development research


On the international stage Kenya promotes itself as a regional peacemaker. The country is an important contributor to UN missions, has had an important role in mediating regional conflicts, and is a driving force in the implementation of Africa’s peace and security architecture. However, there is another picture of Kenya’s engagement in regional conflicts which, at first glance, seems to contradict international perception of the country. By discussing Kenya’s historical and current practices in regional security, this article analyses how the Kenyan government balances what seem to be multiple security agendas, ranging from following a responsibility to protect, to pursuing economic self-interest, to executing international counterterrorism agendas. Rather than being a shift in the country’s foreign policy, it will be argued that Kenya’s involvement in rights and norm-violating practices— more specifically in arms deliveries to Southern Sudan and the illegal military training of youths in defence of the Somali transitional government, as well as repressive ‘counterterrorism’ practices against its own population—illustrates how the conditions of globalisation not only limit but also enable new opportunities for the positioning of postcolonial states in the international arena. It confirms patterns in Kenya’s political history in which the politics of attracting, sustaining, and diversifying international partners and external revenue is part of the regime’s continuing efforts at consolidating ‘stateness’. Actively engaging with international norms to make them comply with one’s own perceptions of security demonstrates how actors in the South shape the terms of reference in regional security.

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