Research Output
Urban Violence in Nakuru County, Kenya
  Rapid urbanisation has led to an increase in the prevalence of urban violence in many developing countries. This is because of the mushrooming of densely populated informal settlements in cities, which are characterized by deprivation and low quality of basic social services such as healthcare and education. The situation is aggravated by the lack of jobs for most residents of these settlements, who experience inequality, marginalisation and exclusion. Such an environment facilitates the emergence and increase in violence in urban centres.

In Kenya, about 25.6 % of the population is urbanised, most of whom live in large cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Eldoret and Nakuru, of which 56 % live in informal settlements. Violence in these areas has emerged as a serious security and public health challenge which the Kenyan security agencies have largely been unable to address. Violence has been shown to have significant negative consequences including erosion of social cohesion, trauma, broken families, injuries, deaths and loss of property.

This study, commissioned by DIGNITY, is the first of its kind as it focusses on urbanviolence in Nakuru County. It provides new knowledge that will inform the design of a three-year multi-stakeholder urban violence program in selected areas of the county. The study was conducted in five sites across Nakuru County: Bondeni and Kaptembwo, Nakuru Town; Karagita and Kabati, Naivasha Town and Molo Town, where urban violence was previously understudied and, therefore, not well understood. The methodology adopted involved primary research using key informant interviews, focus group discussions and a household survey, with 43 % of respondents from Nakuru Town Municipality, 38 % from Naivasha and 19 % from Molo Town. Most of the respondents were women and young people, of which 69 % were below 34 years and only 10 % above 55 years old. These were complemented by secondary material.

The findings revealed that violence is a major concern for residents of Nakuru County, most of whom felt that violence was becoming more prevalent. The data collected highlights that the most prevalent forms of violence in the County mirrored the patterns of violence in Kenya. Those highlighted in Nakuru include sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), violence against children, violent crime, police violence and political and ethnic violence, which are distributed among the various neighbourhoods. Notably, SGBV and violence against children were highlighted as particularly significant challenges, by more than 70 % and 66 % of respondents, respectively, who noted that these forms of violence mainly occur at the household level. The study highlights that these forms of violence introduce unique challenges to intervention such as when the victims do not want the perpetrator punished for fear of broader repercussions. Violent crime is a significant problem, particularly in Bondeni Area in Nakuru, where 70 % of respondents identified it as most prevalent.

Given the prevalence of SGBV and violence against children, it is unsurprising that most respondents identified the bulk of victims as women, girls and children generally. Undoubtedly, there were few noted cases where men were victimised by their wives as well, especially in Naivasha. Many respondents also indicated the youth as victims of violence, especially with respect to violent crime and police violence. Unsurprisingly, many respondents also identified young people as the major perpetrators of violence, sexual assault and violent crime. This could be related to the presence of gangs perpetrating violence in the County.

On the causes, of violence, about 80 % of respondents highlighted the underlying causes as unemployment and idleness among the youth, poverty and 60 % attributed it to drugs, especially alcohol abuse. This study however adopts a formulation developed by renowned scholars Caroline Moser and Cathy McIlwane (2006) for understanding urban violence. They argue that urban violence is a complex phenomenon that should be viewed through three lenses: structure, identity and agency. As such, we argue that these underlying factors do not in themselves cause violence but rather interact with other social and individual dynamics and triggers to precipitate violence. This is also why the WHO and CDC, four-level social-ecological model (SEM) was adopted, as part of the design of the household questionnaire and in the data analyses. The SEM allows us to address the factors that put people at risk for or protect them from experiencing or perpetrating violence (risk and protective factors) and the prevention strategies that can be used at each level to address these factors.

The study notes that there are several interventions and coping mechanisms at the individual, community and state levels. We noted individual behaviour changes to limit exposure to violence, such as not walking after dark or bodaboda operators accompanying each other while taking customers to neighbourhoods perceived to be more insecure. At the community level, we noted efforts by civil society organisations, community-based organisations and religious institutions to address different types of urban violence through peace initiatives, awareness creation, setting up safe houses for victims of SGBV and the use of technology to alert authorities. At the State level, the respondents noted the Nyumba Kumi initiative, a form of community policing that has-been applied across all areas under study, and other interventions by the County Government such as setting up of SGBV unit at hospitals.

The study however noted gaps in these interventions in their approaches and/or coverage, which presents an opportunity for additional programmatic interventions. We note, however, that the success of any intervention will depend on the extent to which it relies on community level structures that are seen as being trustworthy and effective in addressing these challenges of crime and violence. Notably, any intervention would be well advised to include religious leaders, community elders and local chiefs. About 70 % of respondents in this study found these local level institutions as both trustworthy and effective in dealing with violence.

We conclude by proposing recommendations based on the data with a focus on prevention of violence with limited attention paid to interventions after violence has occurred. Our proposed interventions are largely based on how to prevent violence by improving the awareness and understanding of the dynamics of violence and how they should be handled amongst the community and hence empowering the community to deal with violence. The view is on empowering the community to use existing mechanisms to address violence, with focus on building on the community trust in the existing institutions such as community organisations, police, chiefs, elders and religious leaders.

  • Type:

    Research Report

  • Date:

    01 May 2018

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Historic Funder (pre-Worktribe)


Wairuri, K., Chemlali, A., & Ruteree, M. (2018). Urban Violence in Nakuru County, Kenya. DIGNITY


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