Statelessness, space, security: Somalis in Kenya

Published: 5/Sep/2017
Source: Discover Society (US)

By Oscar Gakuo Mwangi

In this article, I argue that statelessness in the Kenyan context needs to be seen as simultaneously a psychological and a physical condition determined by spatial-political boundaries rather than legal ones. This challenges the traditional approach to statelessness which sees it as primarily a legal matter of citizenship. In particular, I use the example of Somalis experiencing statelessness in Kenya in order to consider statelessness as a result of, and contributing to, ungoverned spaces, I also examine the implications of this for understandings of security. Kenya is a unique case study because of its proximity to Somalia, which is often referred to as a ‘collapsed state’.

Spatial-political understandings of statelessness
The importance of analyzing statelessness from a spatial-political approach rather than a legal one, is that it contributes to a much broader understanding of statelessness in the context of the relationship among politics, security and physical space. According to this approach, statelessness is determined by the interplay of politics and security in the space where one lives not by citizenship.

The space referred to in this case is ungoverned. This is a physical space or territory within a political entity, namely the state, but where the state is virtually absent. Violent armed non-state actors thrive in such spaces because of the absence of law and order. To this extent individuals, groups of individuals, norms, and so forth, in such spaces are not defined and determined by formal-legal institutions but rather by the intersection between politics and security.

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Themes: Discrimination, Ethnic/Racial/Religious, Statelessness
Regions: Kenya
Year: 2017