Kenya: The King’s Shadow Army
- Henrik LaugesenHenrik LaugesenInstitute for Strategy, Royal Danish Defence College
The classical theoretical civil–military relations (CMR) perspective is traditionally concerned with how to obtain civil control of the armed forces. This theme is preeminent in the writings of Samuel Huntington and Morris Janowitz, the two most dominant voices in the debate of this subject field since the 1960s. By 2019, the character of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) was heavily influenced, if not determined, by CMR, as CMR seems to be the only constant factor when trying to understand KDF. During British colonial rule in the East African protectorate, the use of force was primarily dedicated to securing the extraction of natural resources from Kenya and maintaining internal security. It was in this colonial context of exploitation and extraction that the KDF was born in 1902, in the form of the King’s African Rifles (KAR). Therefore, to understand the “genetics” of the present-day KDF, one has to understand the political context in which the KDF was born and raised. The surprising point here is that although Kenya has since undergone far-reaching political changes, the KDF still seems to be caught in King Edward VII’s long shadow of colonial repression. The effective, ethnically driven political system and Britain’s military guaranties have dominated CMR and kept an iron grip on the military for more than 100 years.