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Kenya’s changing counterterrorism policy: From the unsecuritization to the securitization of terrorism

Alusa, Doreen (2019) Kenya’s changing counterterrorism policy: From the unsecuritization to the securitization of terrorism. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study investigates why Kenya, unlike other states around the world, did not enact anti-terrorism legislation that would have enabled it to have counterterrorism measures in the aftermath of 9/11 and only did so in 2012. Previous studies argue that concerns about the negative effects of anti-terrorism laws on Kenya’s nascent democratic system and its civil liberties were the main reasons why Kenya’s government could not enact proposed anti-terrorism legislation in 2003 and 2006. However, these studies do not explain why those who had previously opposed anti-terrorism legislation supported the enactment of an anti-terrorism law in 2012 even though their views about the importance of civil liberties and democracy had not changed.

Similarly, previous studies which suggest that Kenya enacted anti-terrorism legislation in 2012 because of the detrimental effects of terrorism on the country’s security and economic interests do not explain why these factors did not elicit the same response in 2003 and 2006. Departing from previous studies, this research hypothesises that Kenya’s enactment of counterterrorism measures was dependent on consensus building among the country’s executive and legislative arms of government. To test this hypothesis, this thesis proposed six contextual factors that were used to explain how and why perceptions about the terrorism threat in Kenya developed and changed.

Two methods, discourse analysis and process tracing, were used to establish the relationships between the variables in this study. In this regard, discourse analysis provided rich descriptions of the construction and evolution of the terrorist threat in Kenya. The rich descriptions were initially derived from written texts including the Kenya National Assembly Hansard, policy documents, court documents and public testimonies. The data was then triangulated with descriptions obtained from spoken texts including semi-structured interviews, archival press conferences and media recordings. The recurring linguistic patterns obtained from these descriptions formed the narratives that explained how Kenya’s government framed terrorism and the impact that this had on the enactment of anti-terrorism legislation. Process tracing supplemented discourse analysis by pinpointing the conditions under which the securitization of terrorism occurred.

In addition to unravelling Kenya’s puzzling counterterrorism behaviour, this thesis contributes to knowledge in two ways. First, it identifies and expounds on new variables that explain Kenya’s puzzling counterterrorism behaviour. Second, this thesis extends literature in securitization studies by explaining how contextual factors can be used to understand both unsecuritization and securitization processes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Global Studies
United Nations SDGs: Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
Supervisor(s): Makinda, Samuel and Ganguly, Rajat
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