Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Kenya

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Kenya, 2004, available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
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.

Republic of Kenya

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 31.5 million (15.8 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 24,120
Compulsory recruitment age: no conscription
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 28 January 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ILO 138, ILO 182; ACRWC

No children were reported to be serving in the armed forces. Youths, including under-18s, were members of gangs involved in political and criminal violence. Many of the estimated 250,000 refugees in Kenya had fled conflicts in Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan where child soldiers had been used.


The December 2002 presidential elections were preceded by politically motivated violence in which private militias and youth gangs were implicated, although in Kenya the term "youth" also applied to adult party members and unemployed adults who were involved.

In 2002 the government released the report of an investigation by the Akiwumi commission of inquiry into ethnic clashes between 1991 and 1998 that resulted in more than 1,000 deaths, drove thousands of people from their homes and disrupted two general elections. The report held that public officials were responsible and cited political factors as the primary cause of the violence.1 More than 2,500 internally displaced children and hundreds of families were still living in camps in Nakuru district in 2001.2

There was rapid growth in the numbers of street children, with tens of thousands living homeless in urban slum areas. Violence between ethnic groups led to 50 to 75 deaths a month in 2004.3

Kenya continued to host a population of 250,00 refugees.4 Many of them had fled conflicts in Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan in which child soldiers had been used.5 Arms trafficking and the use of bullets and guns as currency were reported in and around the refugee camps,6 although most refugees were not involved.7 Cross-border skirmishes continued along Kenya's northern and western borders.


National recruitment legislation

At the time of Kenya's ratification of the Optional Protocol in January 2002, its accompanying declaration upheld a "straight-18" position and 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"8.

Recruitment into the armed forces is regulated by the Armed Forces Act. The recruit must be a Kenyan citizen and have a national identity card, which may be issued only when the applicant is 18 and is able to produce a birth certificate.9

The Children's Act, the first comprehensive law on children in Kenya, was passed by Parliament in 2001 and came into effect on 1 March 2002.10 It provides that "no child (under 18 years) shall take part in hostilities or be recruited in armed conflicts" and that it is 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" (Article 10). A Child Labour Division, established within the Ministry of Labour and Human Resources Development, assisted in completing a National Child Labour Policy Paper and in domestic implementation of the provisions of ILO Convention 182.11

There were no reports of under-18s serving in the armed forces. The risk of underage recruitment remained, however, owing to the lack of an effective system for registering births.12

Armed groups

Armed criminal gangs, some with a history of involvement in political violence, often had child members. A study on youth and violence found that children most affected by violence were those living in poor communities. Groups of youths in impoverished areas carried out gang warfare and crime.13

Such youth gangs sometimes aligned themselves to political parties and, under the guise of offering security, terrorized local people.14 The police said that between January and March 2004 at least 50 young people had joined the Mungiki, a death squad in Nairobi.15 The Mungiki is a vigilante group that has reportedly carried out thefts and killings, including on behalf of the former ruling Kenya African National Union in the run-up to the 1992 elections.

Although the majority of young members in such gangs were thought to be 18 or over, some were under-18s and a significant number were former street children. The government sent some street children for rehabilitation within the National Youth Service.16 Other programs were initiated by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The Nairobi Youth Network for Peace was created in 2002 to address social and political youth violence instigated by politicians during the 1992 and 1997 elections. It provided training in peace building for young people and contributed to the formulation of a National Youth Policy.17 The Kibera Youth Programme for Peace and Development addressed the causes and effects of youth violence, including by establishing a country-wide youth movement and linking up with children affected by conflict in other countries, such as child soldiers in Uganda.18

* see glossary for information about internet sources

1 US Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2003, February 2004,

2 Initial report of Kenya to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Doc. CRC/C/3/Add.62, 16 February 2001,

3 US Department of State, op. cit.

4 UNHCR, "UNHCR briefing notes: Northern Caucasus, Somalia/Kenya, Liberia/Guinea", 14 June 2002, According to some sources, the number of refugees was greater than 250,000.

5 PANA, "Starvation stares at quarter million refugees in Kenya", 25 February 2004.

6 Robert Muggah with Martin Griffiths, Reconsidering the tools of war: small arms and humanitarian action, Humanitarian Practice Network, Paper 39, Overseas Development Institute, July 2002.

7 Confidential source, 21 May 2004.

8 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

9 Information from Rädda Barnen (Save the Children – Sweden), March 2004.

10 Republic of Kenya, Kenya Gazette Supplement, Acts 2001, Nairobi, 4 January 2002.

11 US Department of State, op. cit.

12 Information from member of Child Soldiers Coalition in Kenya, March 2004.

13 Communication from African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN), 15 April 2004.

14 Jim Cole and Henry Smith, Action Against Small Arms: A resource and training handbook, International Alert, Oxfam and Saferworld, 2003.

15 Evelyn Kwamboka, "How Mungiki trains killers", East African Standard, 8 March 2004,

16 Communication from ANPPCAN, op. cit.

17 Nairobi Youth Network for Peace, Shattered future, briefing for Child Soldiers Coalition, April 2004.

18 Jim Cole and Henry Smith, Action Against Small Arms, op. cit.

Search Refworld