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Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Kenya

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 20 May 2008
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2008 - Kenya, 20 May 2008, available at: [accessed 30 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 34.4 million (17.2 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 24,120
Compulsary Recruitment Age: no conscription
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18 (younger with parental consent)
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 28 January 2002
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ACRWC, ICC

No children were reported to be serving in the armed forces. Children were members of or implicated in the activities of gangs involved in criminal violence.


Hundreds of people died during periodic outbreaks of inter communal violence, often over livestock and grazing land. Long-standing disputes over land in the Mount Elgon district of western Kenya led to violent clashes in December 2006 and continuing violence during 2007. In June 2007 it was reported that the violence had resulted in the displacement of an estimated 60,000 people and the deaths of at least 200. This included some 36 people, mostly children, who died of malnutrition.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

The Children's Act stated that "No child shall take part in hostilities or be recruited in armed conflict, and where armed conflict occurs, respect for and protection and care of children shall be maintained in accordance with the law", and that it was the government's responsibility "to provide protection, rehabilitation care, recovery and re-integration into normal social life of any child who may become a victim of armed conflict".2 In its declaration on the Optional Protocol, the government stated that "the minimum age for recruitment of persons into the armed forces is by law set at eighteen years. Recruitment is entirely and genuinely voluntary and is carried out with the full informed consent of the persons being recruited. There is no conscription in Kenya."3 However, the Armed Forces Act, Chapter 199, allowed for the enlistment of under-18s with the consent of parents, guardians or the district commissioner.4

Recruits had to be in possession of a national identity card, issued only when a citizen was 18, and able to produce a birth certificate.5 Recruits also had to be able to show their school-leaving certificates.6 Although there were no reports of under-18s serving in the armed forces, the lack of an effective system for registering births meant that there was a risk of under-age recruitment.7

Armed Groups:

Children were known to be involved in the activities of armed criminal gangs, including transporting weapons.8 Members of the banned Mungiki gang were reportedly responsible for a range of criminal activities including extortion and killings. In June 2007 police killed more than 30 people in the settlement of Mathare during operations against gang members. The operations followed a number of killings attributed to Mungiki members. The gang had a history of involvement in political violence and in 2007 two former and two current members of parliament were arrested and questioned over their alleged links to the group.9 An alleged gang leader was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in June 2007, and another was arrested in August 2007, reportedly as a move to limit the gang's activities ahead of the elections to be held in December 2007.10


In 2007 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Kenya implement an efficient birth registration system, including by providing free birth registration and registering those individuals who had not been registered at birth.11

As of the end of 2006, Kenya hosted a refugee population of over 270,000, mainly from Somalia.12 The Dadaab group of camps in eastern Kenya held around 175,000 refugees, including some 35,000 children under the age of five.13 In January 2007 Kenya forcibly returned about 400 Somali asylum seekers to Somalia.14 Given the unstable situation in Somalia, humanitarian workers were concerned that refugee children could be at risk of being recruited by warring parties there.15 The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), in its planning figures for 2008-9 indicated that there would be over 277,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya, most from Somalia.16

International standards

Kenya ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on 15 March 2005.17

1 Kenya Red Cross Society, "Kenya: Mount Elgon Clashes", 8 June 2007.

2 Second periodic report of Kenya to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/KEN/2, 4 July 2006.

3 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

4 Second periodic report of Kenya, above note 2.

5 Information provided by Rädda Barnen (Save the Children – Sweden), March 2004.

6 Information provided by the High Commission of the Republic of Kenya, July 2007.

7 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Kenya, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/KEN/CO/2, 2 February 2007.

8 Second periodic report of Kenya, above note 2.

9 Amnesty International, "Kenya: Police operations against Mungiki must comply with Kenya's obligations under international human rights law", AI Index AFR 32/008/2007, 11 June 2007.

10 "Banned Kenya gang leader caught", BBC News, 23 August 2007.

11 Concluding Observations, above note 7.

12 UNHCR, Statistical Yearbook, 2006 (provisional),

13 UNHCR, "Kenya: Malnutrition levels in refugee camps cause alarm", briefing note, 3 July 2007.

14 Refugee International, "Kenya denying asylum to Somali refugees", January 2007,

15 IRIN, "Kenya – Somalia: Which way out of the camps for Somalia's young refugees?", in Youth in Crisis: Coming of Age in the 21st Century, February 2007,

16 UNHCR Global Appeal 2008-2009, Kenya.

17 International Criminal Court, states parties,

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