Last Updated: Monday, 31 August 2015, 07:39 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Kenya

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2001
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2001 - Kenya, 2001, available at: [accessed 1 September 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.


Mainly covers the period June 1998 to April 2001 as well as including some earlier information.

  • Population:
    – total: 29,549,000
    – under-18s: 15,127,000
  • Government armed forces:
    – active: 22,200
    – paramilitary: 5,000
  • Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
  • Voluntary recruitment age: apparent age of 18, or consent of guardian
  • Voting age (government elections): 18
  • Child soldiers: unknown
  • CRC-OP-CAC: signed on 8 September 2000; supports "straight-18" position.
  • Other treaties ratified: CRC; GC/APIⅈ ILO 138
  • There have been no reports of under-18s in government armed forces, but according to legislation recruits need only have the 'apparent' age of 18, while even younger recruits may enlist with the consent of a guardian. Recruitment of Kenyan street children by armed opposition groups from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been reported.


Kenya faces low intensity internal disturbances linked to economic and ethnic issues. Since 1991 an estimated 4,500 people have been killed in ethnic clashes, which have reportedly sharpened since 1997. Government security forces have been known to support various ethnic groups with training, transport and sometimes payment, or to turn a blind eye to the violence.1031

Cross-border guerrilla activity and cattle rustling have also posed a problem for Kenya. In October 1998 at least 142 people were killed and 50 were abducted in armed raids which the Kenyan government said were mainly by fighters from the Oromo Liberation Front in Ethiopia. In January 1999 Kenya lodged a formal protest with the Ethiopian government claiming that Ethiopian troops had entered the country in search of OLF fighters.1032


National Recruitment Legislation and Practice

There is no conscription in Kenya.1033 Recruitment into the Kenyan armed forces is regulated by the Armed Forces Act, Chapter 199 of the Laws of Kenya. Section 173 (1) states that "a person offering to enlist in the armed forces shall be given a notice in the prescribed form setting out the questions to be answered on attestation and stating the general conditions of the enlistment". An officer may recruit a person only after such notice has been given and is understood. The recruit must be a Kenyan citizen (Section 173(3)) and must have the apparent age of 18 "unless written consent to the enlistment has been given by his parents or guardian or, where his parents or guardian are dead or unknown, by the District Commissioner of the district in which the person resides." (Section 173(2)). According to Rädda Barnen, a further requirement to join the armed

forces in Kenya is a national identity card which can only be issued when the applicant is over 18 and able to produce a birth certificate.


Armed opposition groups including the Kenya National Patriotic Front and the February 18 Popular Resistance Army Front have been inactive for several years.1034 There is no evidence of children fighting among these opposition groups in the past or in ethnic clashes currently occurring in many parts of the country.1035


Kenyan street boys have reportedly been lured into opposition groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. These armed groups, thought to be associated with exiled Rwandan Interahamwe Hutu militia, lure the boys into the DRC with the assistance of Kenyan agents. Sources say that more than $500 is paid for every batch of 150 street boys delivered. The children are typically offered money, well-paid jobs and good living conditions in Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. The Interhamwe began recruiting Kenyan children in February 1999, with highest recruitment levels recorded between May and August. At the time Kenyan authorities had begun arresting and clearing Nairobi of street children in preparation for the Common Market for East and Southern Africa meeting, making street children particularly vulnerable to such offers.1036 An NGO set up as a street children's feeding programme headed by a Burundian Hutu bishop was implicated in the scandal, reportedly dispatching some 700 children to armed groups and funding Hutu armed groups in Burundi and Kenya.1037


International Standards

Kenya signed the CRC-OP-CAC on 8 September 2000 and supports a "straight-18" position.

1031 European Platform for Conflict Prevention and Transformation, Country Survey: Kenya, 11/00.

1032 Ibid.

1033 Report of the Secretary-General, UN Doc. op. cit.

1034 Balencie and de La Grange, op. cit.

1035 Project Ploughshares, Armed Conflict Report 2000: Nigeria.

1036 East African Standard, "Kenyan street boys join war in Congo", 19/3/00.

1037 East African Standard, "Burundi bishop in child soldier saga", 20/3/00.

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