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Borders for peace: controls within a Kenyan informal settlement during political conflict.

Vertigans, Stephen; Gibson, Neil; Mueller-Hirth, Natascha



Quazi Mahtab Zaman

Greg G. Hall


During periods of heavily contested elections, accompanying political tensions are often most prevalent within informal settlements. Consequently, the prolonged political tensions experienced in Kenya during 2017 were expected to have the most adverse impact in Kibera, Nairobi, the largest informal settlement in East Africa. Fears about what could happen in Kibera were also informed by recent history, most notably in 2008, when many people were killed in the post-election conflict. Moreover, the marginalisation residents experienced in 2008 largely remain today. Differences between this urban area and the surrounding golf course and middle-class residential-gated enclaves are immediately apparent. Nevertheless, despite these deep-rooted issues and differences, the extent of the violence was considerably less than in 2008. The primary focus is understanding why relative peace prevailed in very challenging conditions. The analysis is based on research incorporating photovoice, focus groups and interviews with residents in early 2018. Photographs taken by participants framed the themes explored in greater depth through focus groups and interviews. A preliminary study of resilience also informed fieldwork in 2017. The research discovered that residents' attachment to Kibera and collective sense of identification and cohesion contributed to weaker, more permeable barriers between potentially competing political supporters. A range of community-based initiatives, such as pacification messages and peace activities, partly created this greater sense of interconnections. Together, they contributed to deeper senses of self-control and broader forms of social control that restricted the potential for political tensions to descend into inter-ethnic violence.


VERTIGANS, S., GIBSON, N. and MUELLER-HIRTH, N. 2023. Borders for peace: controls within a Kenyan informal settlement during political conflict. In Zaman, Q.M. and Hall, G.G. (eds.) Border urbanism: transdisciplinary perspectives. Cham: Springer [online], chapter 8, pages 151-164. Available from:

Online Publication Date Mar 7, 2023
Publication Date Dec 31, 2023
Deposit Date Mar 22, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 8, 2025
Publisher Springer
Pages 151-164
Series Title The urban book series
Series ISSN 2365-757X; 2365-7588
Book Title Border urbanism: transdisciplinary perspectives
Chapter Number 8
ISBN 9783031066030
Keywords Political violence; Recurring violence; Peacebuilding; Kenya
Public URL