If one browses #kenyadecides on twitter, one soon comes across photographs of military personnel driving fancy looking vehicles across Kenya, or at least Nairobi, accompanied by approving comments from the twitterati. Television coverage has emphasized, repeatedly, that over 90,000 military people have been “deployed” across the country to guarantee “peace.” Were we living in a different time, a less militarized time, a time when militarization was not considered part of everyday life, these images of military personnel deployed across the country might traffic under a different name: military coup, state repression, dictatorship.

Now, we call it “peace,” “security,” “necessary.”

Jomo Kenyatta’s short story, “Gentlemen of the Jungle,” ends with a man trapping repressive animals inside a hut, setting the hut on fire, watching them die, and then uttering, “Peace is costly, but it’s worth the expense.” Now, I can’t read this story without thinking of the men, women, and children set ablaze in a church in Kiambaa in 2008 during the post-election violence. I have to think about this killing act and to ask about the cost of “peace.”

Kenyans have been praised for their “order” and “restraint” and control during this election, but how could it be otherwise with such a heavy military presence? How could it be otherwise when the much-proclaimed “peace” is enabled by militarization? The militarization of everyday life tells us, should tell us, that this is not a peaceful election. This is an election conducted under conditions of ongoing war. That we cannot recognize this, that we dare not recognize this, should surely give us pause.

How have we so normalized militarization that we consider it essential to everyday life?

Here is what I wrote in 2011, when I was in Nairobi:

I remain interested in how the fact of being at war lodges itself in the quotidian: in the forms of freedom and practices of bodily integrity we have given up so readily and in the forms of surveillance that we now practice on each other.

Indeed, for all our declarations of “never again” after the PEV, we continue to inhabit its logic and practices of violence.

I asked,

What might it mean to share the banality of war as the basis for sociality?

And I noted,

I blunder into cobweb filaments, the sticky demands of then folded into emerging cavities of now. Time looms. Other intimacies suffuse once-familiar spaces.

Now, NTV is screening footage of a slightly rowdy voting crowd, understandable given long lines. I hear guns going off to “maintain order.” The guns going off elicit no comment. Because they are to maintain order.

How is the militarization of everyday life not a form of quotidian violence?

Can we distinguish between the militarization “required” to maintain peace during elections and that required to “maintain peace” in non-election years?

In 2011, I noticed the militarization of everyday life because of the war with Somalia—presumably, the war against Al-Shabaab. Because of my time in the U.S., because I had witnessed militarization become banal under ongoing war regimes, I worried that the same thing would happen in Kenya. I worried that militarization would be considered necessary. Now, it has been named as the condition of peace. Indeed, it has been named as “peace.”

There is NO commentary on any Kenyan site I have seen that discusses the militarization of this election. I have been corrected on twitter that Kenya has deployed “security,” not “military,” personnel. I’m honestly not smart enough to tell the difference. I heard gunshots on an NTV report. I have seen men in uniform controlling voters. I have seen a nation or at least a national media celebrate the militarization of the election. It would be a mistake to believe that the militarization of peace can be restricted to this election period. And the consequences of that understanding for Kenya should give us pause.

They frighten me.

22 thoughts on “peace:militarization

  1. This feels a lot like the armed SROs at our elementary schools.


    I’m not sure these two military presences are of similar origins, and I believe the SROs are less scary because they feel isolated, unpublished, and petulant.

    But they seem to be rooted in something that is the same–something large and nearly translucent, and ratcheted just to the side of what I recognize as safe or peaceful–frightening yes.

  2. I worried that militarization would be considered necessary. Now, it has been named as the condition of peace. Indeed, it has been named as “peace.” <—-This is frightening! I don't understand how militarization is a condition of peace. That seems like an oxymoron to me and a justification for something that shouldn't be justified.

  3. This is disgusting. Africa was destroyed by the Western World and now they are enforcing their idea of “peace” and “western influence” on Kenya just as there are discoveries of untapped resources in the Narok and Rongo counties. Just look at all the peace that has come about because of military presence. Now the media will play on the aspect that although they approve of Kenyans voting, they don’t approve of the winner because he will have ties to some kind of violence as is quoted here.
    So they will want to fix that by pushing him out. If he refuses to do their bidding he will be deemed a dictator and the whole world will ask “how could they vote for somebody like that?” The answer would be that it is extremely difficult to “not” vote if there’s an machine gun pointed at you in the name of peace. But then people don’t ask questions any more, its time to start.

    “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good it does is only temporary, the evil it does is permanent.” – Gandhi

    1. You’re right that the West is still destroying and destabilizing Africa for its resources and profit. Great Ghandi quote.

  4. All I can say is I’m deeply saddened by the transformation of Kenya.

    When you consider the number of high-capacity weapons in many places, including Kenya, I think the only possible conclusion is that the world is already militarized. The security forces are a symptom of the disease–not the disease itself.

  5. The smoker will put forth the arguement that to smoke is their right
    it their choice. One try to explain their arguement protecting rights
    but results from Tobacco Companies in giving / direst propaganda
    thus via cunning deceit but further abuse the foolish smoker whom
    a helpless victim of tobacco & it’s added highly addictive chemicals,

    It but the same with religion / as example christianity in promising a
    entry to an fictional heaven which somewhere far above the clouds
    foolish peole in their millions give $billions in yearly funding unto….
    christian organizations / thus the worlds biggest fraud is continued.

    It a simple formula / you get people to believe they have a problem
    then you come up with an cure thus offer people peace in their life.

    With christianity the problem be SIN that SEX is SIN that all be born
    of the sexual act then all are sinners.. that’s the problem . thus the
    cure be needed.. in christianity the cure be with their leader Jesus
    Jesus they claim was born of a virgin (not of sexual coupling) thus
    it claimed by the christian church that free of SIN then Jesus their leader having the power in removing the SIN of others /where free
    of SIN one then qualifies in gaining a entry unto a fictional heaven
    thus the worlds greatest fraud continuing through many centuries.

    At a period in history all nations jumped on a god bandwaggon
    when t’was realized having the one god rather than Many Gods
    if followed put great wealth power into the hands of a few whom
    then controlled the many thus the one god became the agenda.

    The world did not start with christianity / yet the aim of western
    leaders was give such a appearance /where reality christianity
    was forced on western people via the use of appalling brutality.

    Burning at the stake carried out for centuries as the means to
    remove any whom ever dare raise their voice against Church
    Authority /as used as a means to put fear into the heart of all.

    For centuries such ability to read write was witheld by Church
    Authority they feared with a education the people would then
    challenge Church Authority / they feared with education then
    people would question CENTURIES of christian brainwashing
    thus centuries of brain development through stupidity but lost.

    The greatest victims of the christian era in being the female
    where through halfbaked jewish scripture it falsly taught the
    female through sexual lust tempted man unto SEXUAL SIN’s
    thus God’s punishment man woman evicted from heaven to
    planet Earth where it be woman will be but a servant to man
    and on death of the human frame her spirit / soul / then be
    transported to a place called HELL where it then thrown in
    a fire thus it be a female for her SIN against God & against
    man her fate shall being that which brings eternal suffering.

    Militarization but a means which offers a protection of one’s
    freedom as a nations democratic values. / Yet Militarization
    as ever then becomes a dictatorship / which rather than in
    protection of rights freedom it becomes a instrument that’s
    then used removing one’s freedom one’s democratic rights
    thus seeing militarization one’s heart but dreads the future.

  6. Thank you, I know a good deal about Middle Eastern politics and issues but I remain relatively unknowing yet aware of the conflicts and military control in Africa. I would love to learn more and this was a great start.

  7. I am not as aware of African politics as I would like to be, but your blog encouraged me to read more about it. :)

  8. Great summary of the current election but the general change in Kenya. Its amazing how commonplace heightened “security” and its accompaniments have become!

  9. I think we need to be very careful not to take this local instance of quotidian militarization as exceptional; on the contrary, I think its scope is global. I experience it daily in the U.S. and, as Catherine points out, it’s a feature of very many schools. Local police are now routinely equipped with SWAT teams. So this is not an “African” or “Kenyan” problem. Instead, I see what’s happened in Kenya as one instance of a broader global problem, where militarization has become part of quotidian experience.

  10. More that militarization I would say that this is “securitize” the elections. And when that happen the only solution according to many, is the military force. Thanks for the article…

  11. I like this analysis! We tend to militarize every aspect of our lives here in Kenya which is usually ‘state centric militirization’ leading to little civilian oversight on the security/military agenda. The media has failed in objectivity during covering of the elections the same way the Kenyan media covered the news in the wake of the KDF invasion of Somalia and during the incursion to date and the role of the citizens who decided to be passive on this issue. We all know the journalists were embedded in covering the story which was unfortunate. The narrative was one sided based with the agenda of the media. Same thing happened during this elections when we the citizens choose to remain passive, not questioning the funfamenatilities of our own security. We as the consumers of the media have failed to criticize the media or the states role in the militarization of our politics therefore our socio-economic security remains neglected. We are disenfranchised by our won passivity

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