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Serving the regime: The state police and Kenya's electoral authoritarianism

Wairuri, Kamau


Kamau Wairuri


Jean-Nicolas Bach


This chapter seeks to understand the designation of Kenya as a competitive authoritarian state through an examination of the use of the state police to, as it were, police politics. The use of state security apparatuses to enhance the capacity of the incumbents to crack down on opposition protests has received limited attention in the literature on electoral authoritarianism.

In this chapter, I present Kenya as an exemplar of this by showing how successive regimes have tactfully deployed the state police, through harassment and violent crackdown of the opposition and their supporters, in order to remain in power. I also show that the police reform agenda, often touted as the solution to repressive state policing, has served to enhance the state’s coercive capacity by enhancing the technical capacity of the police. In the chapter, I present an overview of the state police interventions in Kenyan elections over three decades from the early 1990s, after Kenya’s return to multipartyism in 1991.

The chapter is organised chronologically examining the regimes of Daniel Arap Moi (1992–2000), Mwai Kibaki (2002–2013) and Uhuru Kenyatta (2013–to date). My analysis here calls for a broadening of the analysis of democratisation in Africa to include through examination of the role of the state security apparatus in politics.

Online Publication Date Mar 31, 2022
Publication Date Mar 15, 2022
Deposit Date Dec 13, 2022
Publisher Routledge
Pages 354-366
Book Title Routledge Handbook of the Horn of Africa
Public URL