Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Kenya’s security crisis worsens after Mpeketoni attacks

 By Patrick Mutahi

The Mpeketoni attacks that took place on the 15th and 16th of June have led to a renewal of political divisions in Kenya and concerns over state responses to terrorism. While Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks as retaliation for “the [Kenyan] government’s brutal oppression of Muslims in Kenya,” President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed “local political networks”, insinuating that opposition figures were behind efforts to foment violence.

Wherever the truth may lie, Kenya has been affected by a spate of attacks in recent years. According to analysis by the Nairobi-based Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies, the Mpeketoni attacks were the 61st to take place since Kenya’s military incursion into Somalia (Operation Linda Nchi) began in October 2011. Over half of these attacks have occurred in the country’s northeast, in Mandera, Garissa and Wajir. Police stations and vehicles, nightclubs and bars, churches, and mosques have all been targeted. The frequency of attacks has varied over time, with sharp spikes (such as in April 2012 when seven attacks were reported) punctuating longer periods when there were few attacks, such as in 2013 when only eleven attacks were reported. However, there has been an uptick in attacks in 2014, with five attacks in May alone.

Al Shabaab only claimed responsibility for six attacks 


These attacks would advance its strategy to destabilise Kenya by instilling fear and contributing to a sense of insecurity. However, Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for only six attacks since October 2011, with no one coming forward to claim responsibility for the other attacks. One theory is that Al Shabaab sympathisers are carrying out attacks independently of its command structures. Al Shabaab has many supporters in Kenya and a strong presence in places like Eastleigh, the centre for Nairobi’s Somali community. [1]  Further, Al Shabaab has adapted its recruitment strategy, and increasingly draws in young Kenyans who are not Somali. This has become an achilles heal for the Kenyan government, raising counter-radicalisation of the youth to the top of the its security agenda.

Yet, in spite of the trend of worsening insecurity, there have been few arrests, feeding an impression that the state has lost control over the situation. In April 2014, the government launched Operation Usalama Watch, a crackdown on illegal immigrants. The operation was concentrated in neighbourhoods of Nairobi with large Somali populations, including Eastleigh and South C. The police conducted house to house searches, arresting anyone who did not have a form of Kenyan identification or valid travel document. Those arrested were taken to the city’s Kasarani Gymnasium and some were deported to Somalia, raising the ire of Somali leaders, other Kenyan opposition politicians, human rights advocates, and legal experts.

Draconian measures being adopted are counter-productive and breed resentment


The Kenyan government’s response to worsening security fits a wider pattern of draconian counter-terrorism measures adopted by governments in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere. Governments curtail human rights and basic freedoms in the name of strengthening security and safeguarding poorly defined ‘national interests’. Yet, trampling on human rights and civil liberties is dangerously counter-productive. The smouldering resentment it breeds risks generating terrorist recruits, alienates potential anti-terrorism allies, and weakens efforts to curb terrorist atrocities.  In order to guarantee national security, protecting human rights and continued vigilance are paramount.

Ultimately, Kenya’s faltering responses to recent attacks only serve to feed a dynamic that further destabilises the country. They are also no substitute for serious security sector reforms. The Kenyan police forces are still largely reviled by a public that has long been accustomed to its corrupt, abusive and otherwise unprofessional practices. Other security agencies have been complicit in political repression, eroding public confidence in the state’s abilities to provide secure for all citizens without bias. A lack of adequate resources, poor training, weak leadership and an institutionalized culture of unaccountability in policing and security institutions have grievously undermined public faith and trust. Thus, security sector reforms – and not swoops by security departments that disproportionately target certain communities – will be critical for strengthening security and winning wider public support for the fight against terrorism in all its forms.

[1] Kenya’s Assistant Minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration, Orwa Ojode likened the Al Shabaab to a snake whose head was in Eastleigh, Nairobi and tail in Somalia. Tom Odula, “War Fears: Somalis in Kenya Afraid of Xenophobia”, Associated Press, 11 November 2011.

[2] Roth Kenneth, ‘Human Rights, the Bush Administration, and the Fight Against Terrorism: The Need for a Positive Vision’ in

Patrick Mutahi is a researcher at the Centre for Human Rights and Policy Studies in Nairobi. Patrick has worked with the IDS Addressing and Mitigating Violence programme, and co-authored the report: Missing the Point: Violence Reduction and Policy Misadventures in Nairobi's Poor Neighbourhoods.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Towards Future Child Friendly Cities in Asia

Last week, researchers and practitioners, from think-tanks, academia, civil society organisations and various South Asian offices of UNICEF came together at a jointly hosted event by Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and UNICEF to think through the challenges of a rapidly pacing urbanisation in Asia, its impact on children and what can be done to make it happen better. 

The avenues of urbanisation

Since 2007, more than half of the World’s population live in cities. In 1960, according to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators, it was one third. In South Asia, the growth has almost doubled from low 17% to 31%, in half a century. The average growth rate of the South Asian urban population has consistently outpaced the World’s suggesting that the 50% milestone will be reached in much less time. Noticeably, it was already reached by China in 2010.

According to estimates 60% of the area to be urban in 2030 has still not been built. We are, therefore in a juncture where there is an opportunity to think about how to build these new urban territories in a sustainable and more equitable way. To do it, we need to understand why and how cities are growing.

Urban – the “close unknown”

In the conference we faced a hard to admit truth. Some of our research instruments, tailored to work so well in the structured spaces of formal urban neighbourhoods or in the relatively stable rural spaces, fail in the organic space of fluid, hidden and many times deemed as illegal residence of urban slums. Politicians themselves fail to acknowledge this reality. After all, rural areas are far, urban areas, namely the ones in the capital are just there, close!

However, we heard how easy it is for poor urban children to be unseen. We heard about street children, deemed as outlaws to be controlled by police forces. We heard about working children, also outlawed themselves, hidden and underserved, for the policy cannot risk to ease the life of those whose cares chose to engage in a banned activity. Finally, we heard about slum children, unreached and therefore “invisible”. Yet, probably, children are the measure of a capacity of a city to sustain a dignified and aspirational human existence.

Urban children – the measure of human friendly cities

In the context of a UNICEF conference, nothing would make more sense than to place the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) as the benchmark of what a city has to meet to be, not only a child friendly city but one that properly responds to all of those most vulnerable. Andrea Rossi, UNICEF Social Policy Adviser, encouraged us to build cities as if it were for our daughter, son, nephew or  niece… (someone we care) and think: as s/he is living here, what does the city need to allow or provide so that s/he has the wellbeing s/he deserves?

In identifying the answer to these needs, we would build not only a child-friendly city, but an accessible city for all. It would be a city that would require us to address and look into the power structures surrounding the cities in all their territories and components. 

Power to exclude, power to transform

So how can we provide for the children of these growing cities? Well, the resources exist. If cities are spaces of opportunities, it became clear throughout the conference, that proximity isn’t a direct precursor of access. The decision of planners (or the lack of planning, a political decision in itself), the power of local authorities, the powers inside the slums (sometime illegal powers, such as drug-lords capable of command the organic map of a slum so as to assure that only one entry exists to it), mediate and (sometimes purposefully) exclude the access to otherwise close services.

Those same powers hold, however, the key of transformation. We were reminded of how in the first municipality the Brazilian Worker’s Party was elected to administer, a radical project endowed the residents of a favela (the common name for a slum in Brazil) the property of the tiny plots of land where they each had their residence. It then called and mobilised them to, collectively, renew not only the public spaces but their own private spaces so that electricity, water and sanitation became accessible to each of them.

Another power was fought and probably conquered, at that moment: the power of an idea that constructed those living in the favela as outlaws or irrational, as “lesser people” in need to be convinced or forced to leave those spaces. The moment they were acknowledged as equals, with personal aspirations and desire to contribute to a better living space, both private and public, some good change happened.

In the conference we were called to look at the legitimate aspirations we, off almost all the countries in the world (safe the USA and Somalia), bestow in our children through the CRC. In the Asian cities of today and the urban territories to plan in the future, these can be the benchmarks for better cities. The resources, the powers, the opportunities and perhaps the capabilities to plan, with those that live there, already exist in the urban settings. It is time to learn how to tap into these and transform the cities. As they say: “the future starts now”. So I can only repeat the question posed by Andrea at the start of conference – what’s our idea for Asian cities?

By Ricardo Santos (IDS PhD student and conference rapporteur)

Friday, 6 June 2014

Nutrition for Growth - One Year on

One year ago, on 8 June 2013, the global community gathered in London at the Nutrition for Growth event (N4G) to pledge, US$4.1 (£2.9) billion in efforts to improve nutrition worldwide. At the event 94 stakeholders from governments, civil society organisations (CSOs), and businesses came together to make ambitious commitments to improving nutrition globally, with the specific goal of preventing 20 million cases of stunting and saving 1.7 million lives.

Why is nutrition important?

Despite having enough food to feed the world, malnutrition, which includes both undernutrition and over-nutrition remains a challenge worldwide.  Undernutrition, where individuals are not able to consume adequate energy or nutrients to live a healthy and active lifestyle remains a serious challenge, and is responsible for 45 per cent of all under-5 deaths. Undernourished children who do survive often remain stunted, or too short for their age. The 165 million children worldwide who are stunted are likely to complete fewer years of schooling, earn less as adults, have increased susceptibility to non-communicable diseases, and are less likely to escape poverty. At the same time, overweight and obesity, where individuals consume too much energy and expend too little increasing risks of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are also increasing especially in low and middle income countries, where an estimated 80% of the cases of non-communicable diseases occur.  

What has happened in the last year?

On 2 June 2014 representatives  from a number of key organisations and governments who made pledges at N4G, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the UK Department for International Development, came together in London to discuss progress over the last year and see what remains to be done.

Last summer, DFID in consultation with a number of CSOs, developed an accountability framework which details how pledges made at the N4G event will be tracked and accountability for nutrition improved. One of the key points of the framework was the establishment of the Global Nutrition Report, the first of which will be launched in November of this year.  At the event we heard from Professor Lawrence Haddad, co-chair of the report’s Stakeholder Group about the report, that the report will detail the state of nutrition around the world, looking at both under and over-nutrition, in an effort to draw attention to the greatest problems that remain as well highlight success. The report will also include a chapter on progress towards all N4G pledges.

CSOs and businesses who made pledges have been working on a framework for reporting their own progress. The donors who made pledges have developed developing a new methodology for how to track money spent on nutrition specific and sensitive projects.

What needs to happen next?

The development of an accountability framework identified areas where gaps remain. Speakers at the event in London specifically highlighted the following:
  • The need for a data revolution. The process of collecting data for the Global Nutrition Report highlighted how many gaps exist in the current nutrition data. More funding needs to be diverted into collecting rigorous nutrition data.
  • Ensure nutrition is prominent in the post 2015 framework. Based on the idea that what is measured is what gets done, it is vital that nutrition is prominent in the post-2015 framework.
  • Improved integration and coordination. Much of the dialogue and funding has been focused on innovative solutions, but more needs to be done to look at how to better use existing deliver platforms or simply get down to doing things.
  • Increased funding. Nutrition is still seen in many countries as a donor issue. We need to see increased domestic resources allocated for nutrition globally.

Keeping the momentum

We need to make sure that the momentum and interest in nutrition is not lost. Nutrition has been a neglected issue for far too long but we have the opportunity to change that. The money pledged at N4G is not insignificant, but it is only a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. The 2013 Lancet series estimated that $9.6 billion is need each year to scale up a set of 10 interventions with a strong evidence base in the 34 countries which represent 80% of the stunting burden to 90% coverage.  We need to make sure that the $4.1 billion is used in the most effective ways possible.

Finally, as His Excellency Roberto Jaguaribe, Brazilian Ambassador to the UK said: “we need to recognise that nutrition is essentially a political issue, not a technical one”.  We have the evidence base of what works, now we need to harness the political will to ensure we have the resources and will to implement effective nutrition programmes globally and high quality and accessible data available to all citizens so they are able to hold their governments to account.

By Kat Pittore, IDS nutrition convenor 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Practice of a New Paradigm: Development Cooperation among Fragile States

Time and time again, the debate on aid and cooperation receives the news of paradigms being changed, of new actors entering the field, threatening or heralding the breaking of the old rules and the instatement of new ones. “Traditional” donors, especially those that seek to place (or keep) themselves in the leadership of either financial donations (such as the World Bank, OECD-DAC,…) or development thought (here again the World Bank and OECD-DAC but also countries like the US and the UK) have recently devoted resources into academic research to better understand the role of the Rising Powers in Development.

In the shade, however, an indeed revolutionary way of cooperating for development is taking shape. Stemming from the OECD-DAC’s acknowledgement that development aid to “fragile states” was facing unsurmountable challenges and successive failures, given the specific nature of these countries and under the leadership of the fledgling country of Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone and Liberia, a new group was formed. The G7+ group of conflict afflicted countries started from their own acknowledgement of fragility. It started also with the affirmation that such specific status, never experienced by the almost totality of donor countries, made the G7+ countries the “experts” in their own development path. This was a powerful statement! It also made each G7+ country a solidary peer of the others and potentially, given its own capacities, history and learnings, an actor of development cooperation. This, even if eventually borrowing inspiration in the Non-Aligned Movement, is, indeed a different paradigm in development cooperation! In the last months, Guinea-Bissau experienced such cooperation from a fellow G7+ country, Timor-Leste.

G7+ cooperation in practice

In the 12th of April 2012, democratic legitimacy in Guinea-Bissau was disrupted by a military coup. Most of the international community that promptly reacted (including the UN, African Union, US, Brazil, Russia, China and Lusophone Community) did not recognize validity to the exposed arguments for the coup, nor to the “transitional government”. However, ECOWAS did recognize it, creating a diplomatic stand-off. Only in January 2013 and in what was probably the first coordinated act of the Lusophone Community (CPLP), ECOWAS and the “transition regime” were driven to accept former Timorese President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate José Ramos Horta to lead the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Guinea-Bissau. Arguably, the Timorese experience of transition into regular political functioning after a 2006 civil strife that almost victimized Ramos Horta himself, was one of the reasons for his nomination.

Just recently, in the weekend of May 18th 2014, two years after the coup, an intense, peaceful and with record participation period of parliamentary and presidential elections was completed, returning Guinea-Bissau to institutional normalcy, without significant political contestation of the results. Throughout the preparation, most of the public narrative mimicked that of Timor: the need for openness between parties; the right to peaceful campaigning, highlighting contending parties’ rallies that occurred simultaneously, at close distance… and in peace; the need for transparent electoral process but also to an acceptance of the results by all parties and the military. During the same period, a Timorese blog, linked with the Timorese Presidency reflected on the governance aspects of regimes led by military juntas, using Latin American countries as case studies. Timor-Leste was probably reflecting on a process it was trying to assist.

A true diplomacy of solidarity

The process is just in its beginning. Meanwhile, Timor-Leste will lead CPLP from mid-2014 and is already intensifying the diplomatic and cooperation ties with other Portuguese Speaking Nations in Africa and even Portugal, the former colonizer, to which they offered to buy some of its rampant national debt (in a humbling turn of events for the European country). This small country’s diplomacy of solidarity, an expression that Brazilian President Lula da Silva used so many times, is taking shape. It is not a proud display of “successes” to share, like Brazil is doing, be it Bolsa Familia, ProSavana or the new project World Without Poverty, “a joint initiative focused on learning from the implementation of and innovations in poverty reduction programs in Brazil and sharing lessons from Brazil’s experience with the rest of the world”. It is not a “mutual benefit” Chinese model that invests in economic infrastructure such is recovering and widening railway routes linking original sites of raw natural resources to main ports (a model as old as industrial era colonialism). It isn’t conditional, paternalistic, nor seeks to impose the “right process of development” as so many times the “traditional” “Northern” aid model still finds itself being. It stems from shared challenges, the recognition that only positive collaborative relations can strengthen countries “in development” and the willingness to assist when need occurs, as the Timorese Resistance was assisted, namely by the African Portuguese Speaking countries and later Portugal and Brazil in the fight for independence.

At that time, some of the poorer countries in Africa assisted a weak and silenced effort of resistance that ultimately won. That ethos of cooperation and solidarity widens now the bonds between Timor, other CPLP countries and the G7+ countries. Maybe, this is a paradigm worth to learn more about… and foster.

Ricardo Goulão Santos is a PhD candidate working on education and employability in a post-conflict setting within the IDS Conflict, Violence and Development of the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction research team. He is also a visiting researcher at the National University of Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL).