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Refugees in uniform: community policing as a technology of government in Kakuma refugee camp, Kenya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-290
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Eastern African Studies
Issue number2
Early online date5 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2020

King's Authors


Community policing has been a popular paradigm for local anti-crime activities in Africa since the 1990s and spread rapidly across the continent. Humanitarian agencies have increasingly embraced versions of the framework to administer refugee camps and ostensibly foster security, protection and peaceful co-existence among residents. This article demonstrates that the deployment of community policing in Kakuma camp in north-western Kenya has been far more contested. Aid organisations and Kenyan authorities have competed in determining the orientation and implementation of community policing at a time when the government was intensifying both securitisation of refugees and counter-terrorism measures. Kakuma‘s Community Peace and Protection Teams (CPPTs) were therefore torn between humanitarian conceptions of localised refugee protection and more illiberal forms of security work which bound them closer to the Kenyan state. The permanent negotiation between these parallel ‘technologies of government' was reflected in contestations over uniforms, trainings and everyday practices. Powerful institutions attempted to script refugee conduct and thus discipline the camp's pluralistic social networks and forms of counter-organisation embedded in a ‘deep community’. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the article illustrates that governing refugees through community policing blurs the lines between humanitarian protection, domesticating local systems of governance, and expanding the security state.

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