How can the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic enhance peace in Kenya?

This background paper identifies some of the conflict sensitivity risks in the economic recovery from the pandemic in Kenya in the short, medium and long term.

In the drive towards economic recovery, it is important to remember that conflict and peace dynamics are frequently shaped by the political economy and Kenya has long been prone to incidences of violent conflict, particularly around election cycles. Kenyans will go to the polls for a constitutional referendum in 2021, followed by general elections in 2022.

Economic marginalisation and high levels of inequality are frequently instrumentalised by conflict actors. The COVID-19 pandemic and the response have already exacerbated conflict dynamics; use of excessive force and violence by the police in enforcing containment measures during the initial lockdown was widely documented. Our own programming has observed increased conflicts over cross-border trade and between landlords and tenants in informal settlements.

A conflict-sensitive approach to economic recovery requires understanding about how interventions in economic life impact on the context, and how the interventions themselves are shaped by conflict dynamics. It becomes incumbent upon those working to support the recovery, including policy-makers, donors and civil society, to act to minimise negative impacts on conflict and hopefully to see opportunities for peacebuilding.

This paper draws on our work in the field of conflict-sensitive business practice, peace economies and gender sensitivity, as well as recent research on the economic impact of COVID-19 on Nairobi’s informal settlements. The intended audience for this paper is those engaged in policy-making and development programming that contributes to the wider processes of economic recovery. This includes the Kenyan government (at both national and county levels), donors, businesses and investors (local, national and international) and civil society in their roles as a voice for the marginalised and powerless.

This is not an exhaustive list of strategies and responses, but is intended to provoke discussion and debate on how a peacebuilding lens can be built into economic recovery in Kenya and similar contexts.

Read the paper here