Hustling for Security: Managing plural security in Nairobi's poor urban settlements

Rift Valley Institute

Nairobi’s urban settlements offer unique settings in which to examine the interplay between citizens’ need for security, the state’s inability to fully meet that need, and the opportunities this creates for powerful private actors. In Kenya’s capital, this situation has led to a context of plural security provision, in which an array of actors assert claims on the use of force, operating simultaneously and with varying relationships to the state.

Fieldwork in Mathare, Korogocho and Kangemi provided insights into how settlement residents must rely upon their social networks and personal attributes to ensure access to a combination of protective communities. Unable to call upon the state as the guarantor of public welfare, citizens must ‘hustle for security’, using their wits and their networks to assemble a tenuous patchwork of protection. The research identified not only the risks this creates for individuals and communities, but also how the propensity to resort to individualised security strategies can undermine the notion and the actualisation of ‘the public good’.


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