Conflict-sensitive devolution

Kenya’s elections in March 2013 officially launched decentralisation. This shift in governance structure from a centralised political system – blamed for vast inequality and deep divisions – to a devolved system of governance, gives the 47 county governments more control over local social, economic and political development. At best, devolution empowers Kenyans to play a more active role in local governance and peace issues. Yet with decision-making now closer to the people, devolution also threatens to exacerbate local conflicts and aggravate a political culture of ethnic competition for resources and power.

Tensions over land and access to resources continually incite violence. Justice for past political violence remains unresolved, hindering reconciliation between ethnic communities and trust in the security services.  Insecurity has also risen in recent years to include regular attacks by the armed group al-Shabaab.

Saferworld and partners work to bridge the gap between the public and government structures at county level. Through training and dialogue we foster community and conflict-sensitive approaches to decision-making, and we strengthen communication between communities and the authorities implementing devolution. We also support communities in their role of holding county institutions to account and investigating abuses of power, and in their ability to organise themselves and build a collective voice. We have delivered training to assist communities identify their priority issues and their capacity to monitor these issues.