Between illegality and legality: (In)security, crime and gangs in Nairobi informal settlements

Patrick Mutahi


This article analyses the informal security market in the Nairobi slums of Kibera and Mathare. It assesses how gangs manoeuvre between legality and illegality in the provision of security. This article argues that there is a need to move away from a traditional interpretation of crime and criminal groups so as to understand the deeper reasons for their existence, why they continue to exist, and how they operate as they tactically shift their nature to survive. This article thus advocates for a multilayered approach to security in order to identify how best Kenyans can meet their human security needs.


Nairobi; security; crime; criminal groups; organized crime; gangs; informal security market

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