Counter-terrorism and the Politics of Aid: Civil Society Responses in Kenya


  • Jeremy Lind,

    1. is a Fellow on the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RE, UK. He has written widely on civil society, development and counter-terrorism; civil society and conflict; pastoralist livelihoods and conflict in the Horn of Africa; and post-conflict natural resource management.
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  • Jude Howell

    1. is Professor and Director of the Centre for Civil Society, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK. She has published extensively on issues of civil society, security and aid; civil society, governance and international development; gender and civil society; civil society and governance in China; labour organizations and trades unions in China.
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  • The research on which this article is based was carried out for a project on ‘The “Global War on Terror”, Non-Governmental Public Action, and Aid’. We are grateful to the ESRC Non-Governmental Public Action Programme for funding. We also thank Elvin Nyukuri for providing excellent research assistance. The Legal Resources Foundation, a Kenyan NGO, helped to organize a roundtable discussion on the research in Nairobi and we are grateful for their support. Finally, the helpful comments of the journal's anonymous referee are acknowledged with thanks.


Against the backdrop of terrorist attacks in 1998 and 2002, Kenya has come under pressure from aid donors and diplomatic circles to co-operate in achieving the political and military objectives of the War on Terror. The Kenyan government has received legal, technical and financial support to implement new counter-terrorism structures. However, while these have raised concerns around human rights and the ability of people to come together and organize on shared interests, the response of civil society in Kenya has been muted. It is mainly human rights campaigners, lawyers, Muslim organizations and leaders, and some politicians that have opposed proposed anti-terrorism legislation. Even fewer groups have spoken out against the government's participation in a regional rendition programme in the Horn of Africa supported by the United States. This weak response reflects the significant ethnic and regional fragmentation that prevails in the country. This article critically examines the impacts of counter-terrorism in Kenya and civil society responses to these in a shifting political landscape.