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Kenya in Motion 2000-2020

Marie-Aude Fouéré
Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle
Christian Thibon

Chapter 8

Securing Everyday Nairobi: Challenges and Tactics of Private Security Guards in the Fragmented City

Jean-Baptiste Lanne
Traduction de Sadie J. Mobley

Texte intégral

  • 1 Source: Kenya Security Industry Association (2018). The lack of market regulation explains the ina (...)

1In 2016, private security services made up the largest sector of Kenya’s salaried labor force. In 2015–2016, this fast-growing market generated an average of 265 million EUR in annual turnover and employed 300,000 to 350,000 workers in 2018.1 Roughly 70% of these workers are concentrated in Nairobi. Beyond statistics, the importance of the private security market in Kenya’s capital city stands out immediately in the urban landscape. For locals, seeing an askari—originally meaning “soldier” in Swahili—opening doors and checking visitors at the gates of private compounds or shopping malls is an everyday experience. For an outside observer, the direct experience of military urbanism (high walls, barbed wire, electronic locks, and cameras) gives the impression of encountering an “anxious city” (Bernard & Segaud 2011).

  • 2 Kenya was hit by a series of attacks claimed by the al-Shabaab Islamist group in response to Kenya (...)

2Yet, the scope of urban threats remains difficult to grasp. Police reports are the only documents available to map out a statistical portrait of crime in Nairobi, though they are highly unreliable. On the one hand, many residents choose not to report crimes because of widespread mistrust of the police. On the other, statistics are limited to “cases” filtered by the administration and exclude minor offenses and situations involving police misconduct (Ruteere, Mutahi, Mitchell et al. 2013). Empirical evidence identifies four main types of fear emanating from different social groups: fear of “the poor,” generally associated with juvenile delinquency; mass political violence, such as riots, lynching and murders; police violence; and terrorism, pervasive for over twenty years and which the attacks of Westgate (2013) and Garissa (2015) revived.2

  • 3 See especially Schneier (1999), Pain & Smith (2008), and Barnett (2015).

3Faced with these difficulties, it seems necessary to move beyond questions about effectiveness of security systems. Relying on a recent epistemological renewal,3 this chapter proposes to diverge from Frédéric Gros’ objectivist definition of security as “an objective situation characterised by the absence of danger” (Gros 2012, 74), and rather open onto a more performative approach. Security, then, refers to a performance whose main objective is to stimulate, guide and manage the peace of mind of given population. This approach consequently draws the focus to actors who literally embody security on the ground: guards posted at the gates of private residences or large public facilities. It allows to identify two main axes of research. The first one is about examining the strict disciplinary constraints weighing on the guards: physical education, inculcation of corporate codes, mandatory wearing of the uniform, and GPS tracking of any movement. Over time, the guards nevertheless develop tactical routines to evade the constant supervision and recreate spaces of freedom. The security performance is secondly to be studied as a powerful mechanism of social distinction—creating a sense of belonging at the heart of residential neighbourhoods, that is, a sense of home and community. This last matter has repercussions on the ambiguous role held by guards—while they come to protect an “inside” (the safe place, the microcosm), they are often, in fact, physically and symbolically relegated outside the social space they consecrate.

1. Creating the Immobile Human4

  • 4 “One of our goals is to create immobile human beings… As long as they don’t move, nothing can happ (...)

4For formal neighbourhoods in Nairobi, there are three prominent types of security service supply. The first brings together some thirty national-scale (BM Security, Securex, Lavington, Security) or international security firms (KK Security, G4S). These are structured by a strong chain of command: managers, team officers, supervisors, and senior security guards. These companies are in charge of the most critical infrastructures (airports, embassies, public buildings, shopping centres) as well as of residences in the wealthiest parts of the city. The second type includes around 1900 “small” companies (50 to 500 employees) allotted to lower infrastructures: supermarkets, shops, and service stations, as well as middle class residences. These companies are characterised by working methods borrowing both from the official register (uniforms, vehicles, acronyms, corporate headquarters, and registration with the Capital Markets Authority) and the informal sector (bribes, absence of employment contracts and social contributions). Finally, the third type of supply, by far the largest in terms of clients, is made up entirely of individually contracted untrained guards, directly hired by owners or owners’ associations. It is the one contracted by the vast majority of the middle-class in Nairobi.

  • 5  The figures given are averages, because of the great variability of wages, especially in the infor (...)
  • 6 Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

5When hired, guards are divided into three segments based on two criteria: the level of education and physical skills. Men or women who can substantiate an “O-level” (12 years of schooling) and meet certain size and strength requirements, seek employment with formal or semi-formal enterprises. Those ones provide them significantly higher salaries (~12,000 KES per month, expenses deducted5) and possibly a contribution to the national social security fund (NSSF) or health insurance programs (NHIF). Workers who do not meet these criteria find a job in the informal sector, earning from 6,000 to 8,000 KES per month. Beyond these main distinctions, guard profiles are relatively homogeneous. Among the sixty guards surveyed, most are newcomers to Nairobi with less than five years in the city. Most of them are young, and just starting their family life. The lack of economic opportunities in the countryside, combined with rising financial needs (dependent children, tuition fees), pushes them to leave their home towns to try their luck in Nairobi, often on the advice of a relative. When they left, none of them ever imagined becoming an askari. Mr Safala,6 a marketing manager for Securex Ltd, is conscious of the low motivation of his employees: “You don’t grow up wishing to become a security guard. In Kenya, mothers tell to their children: if you don’t work hard enough, you will finish like those askaris!” (interview 6. April 2016).

  • 7 On the notion of “emotional labour,” see Leidner (1999), Mac Dowell (2009), and Wharton (2009).

6In the formal sector, training askaris is an attempt to compensate for the lack of prestige in the profession. The issue is twofold: avoiding early demotivation, while instilling guards with enough morale to faithfully showcase corporate values. This strategy is characteristic of an “emotional labour”7 where emotions expressed by workers, especially through their body language, are an integral part of the professional performance. Every day at his post, the security guard must visibly express values of seriousness, commitment, courtesy, prestige and professionalism. By doing so, he contributes in augmenting the standing of the place. In practice, training remains short: they last from a week to a month depending on the company. It basically consists of two main components: physical training and an introduction to public relations. The physical component closely resembles paramilitary training; new recruits learn how to march in formation and perform a proper salute (arm along the body, joined ankles, military salute). The development of physical discipline is a core exercise, even more than the teaching of basic defense techniques. Purely protective performance is relegated to the background. As Nandini Gooptu (2013) points out in her study of urban sentinels in India, “public relation” training allows one to learn the full lexicon of subordination. In class, new recruits are taught how to use expressions such as “Good morning, sir/madam, how can I help you? What can I do for you today?,” “Yes, sir,” and “Yes, madam.” They must ask clients how they wish to be addressed in order to satisfy their needs. Although rarely put into practice, the military salute is theoretically required. Finally, communication techniques are taught in order to mitigate and resolve conflicts. Faced with a belligerent or aggressive client, the guard must remain firm yet calm. Guards must not challenge clients, but should rather intensify expressions of politeness: “Sir, I understand your point, but…,” “This is not in my power to allow you to…” As the tone rises, guards are advised not to take initiative, and to leave management of the incident to the proper chain of command.

7According to a manager, the main purpose of training is to create “immobile human beings.” This control over bodies and attitudes requires a two-fold immobility from the askari: a physical one, first—being able to stand for hours at the gate of compounds; a social one, then—i.e. agreeing to stay at his/her place, a social notch below the residents.

2. What Security for Those who Secure?

Holding a Job Somewhere…

8After training, security guards are assigned to a position. Those from the informal sector usually work in their employer’s home. In the two survey districts, Kileleshwa (Nairobi West) and Buruburu (Nairobi East), guards express recurrent concerns Workdays are long (12-hour shifts starting or ending from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M.) and often described as boring due to the monotonous nature of the work: opening and closing the door for incoming or outgoing vehicles. Hunger is also frequently mentioned. Most of the guards have tea in the morning, eating only once a day for dinner. Eating during a shift is indeed difficult, as cooking at the workplace is mostly prohibited (“it makes the place dirty,” a tenant of Kileleshwa says). Respondents also evoke physical suffering: standing fatigue, headache-inducing heat, sickness brought on by the rain and cold, or mosquito bites in the evening or early morning. More specific to night watchmen, feelings of loneliness and fear characterise the watching experience. More, the interactions with customers seem to be at the heart of the work’s difficulty. For residents or customers, guards may even appear as daily obstacles. Customers have an array of names at their disposal, depending on whether they want to be polite or rude. "Soldier!” and “Askari!” are relatively benevolent terms, while “Watchman”! (referring to the passive function of one who only watches), or “Maasai!” (locally and professionally perceived as “primitive” in popular representations) are intentionally humiliating. If an incident upsets a passer-by, he or she can play on the register of social distinction, putting the guardian back in his (lower) place: “You are useless!,” “Open the gate, stupid!,” or “You are so primitive!” Such verbal abuse contributes to weaken the guards’ psychological condition, as most of them felt reached in their dignity. Nelson A., 31, working in a residence in Kileleshwa, describes this interiorised condition: “I open your gate, I wait at your gate… I’m waiting for you like your dog…!” (Interview 11 February 2016). Alfred G., 46, guard in a Kileleshwa compound, explicitly recognises the process of alienation that he is undergoing:

[>Interviewer]: And are you ready if someone attacks you?
[>Alfred]: Yeah. I’m ready because we still have the material. We are just trained to use the material…
[>Int.]: What kind of material are you talking about?
[>Alfred]: Material… I have this one [he shows me his baton], and then myself.
[>Int.]: And then yourself?
[>Alfred]: Mmhhh. I just leave myself to you.
(Interview 3 February 2016.)

9Alfred’s words seem to rehearse the rhetoric assimilated during training. The technical term “material” he uses to refer to his own body is quite significant in that sense. Likewise, the expressed value of total commitment to the customers (“I just leave myself to you”), mirroring the idea of sacrifice in the army, is typical of ideological conditioning. Thus, fear, loneliness, poor self-esteem and a feeling of alienation all by turns create a sense of identity and psychological insecurity among the guards.

… and Being Absent Elsewhere

  • 8 These findings come from a multi-month ethnographic work in Kibera, a large slum in Nairobi West, (...)

10Guards assignments to a fixed position for a dozen hours a day directly explain their weak integration in their neighbourhoods. In a vast majority, they live in informal settlements in Nairobi—the only urban areas where rents are available—but work in better-off neighbourhoods. For example, guards working in Kileleshwa usually live in Kawangware, Kibera, or Kangemi, all slums in the western part of the city. Guards in Buruburu reside in the slums east of the city, like Mathare, Kiambui, Korogocho, or Dandora. In these neighbourhoods, self-preservation is rooted in profound and sustained social interactions.8 Safety is built daily through nods and greetings in passing, offering a cigarette, advancing a small sum of money, in short, maintaining good neighbourhood relations. These relationships may be useful in case of harm (theft, assault, landlord litigation, etc.), especially in urban areas where police intervention is often perceived as ineffective. As newcomers to the city, guards do not benefit from this social capital and struggle to build it. Leaving at 5 A.M. and returning at nearly 7 P.M., they live as strangers in their own places of residence. During interviews, many mention that they do not trust their neighbours. Some fear that because of their daily absences, their landlords will rent their place to other tenants. Others describe the lack of material investment in their place for fear of being stolen during the day. The inside is then reduced to bare necessity (no TV or even radio). Josphat M., 25, a guard in Kileleshwa and resident of Kawangware, talks about his daily absence that makes him a potential target for neighbourhood youth: “When you are not around… obviously they know that you have gone searching for money. So, when you come back… they look at you in a certain way… they think that you are making a lot. When you are not around, and they know you are going for work… they know you are making [money]… the more you are lost, the more you are making [money]… So, you have to look for your security very well” (Interview, 15 February 2016).

  • 9 The guards surveyed did not report any such police aggression.

11The perceived dangers are not limited to the neighbourhood. From a sample of 57 guards surveyed, 32 admit being victims of assault on their way to work, most often for racketeering purposes. Certain factors increase the odds. The first concerns the times of the trips: around 5 A.M. and around 7 P.M. for day guards. These times are higher risk because of the darkness (the night guards are a little favoured because they start at 5 P.M. and return at 7 A.M.). Another factor is the route used for commuting: at least part of the trip is made through the slums on unlit roads. Guards newly-arrived in the city have little knowledge of the hotspots for danger and sometimes unknowingly take routes known for frequent muggings (e.g. Jamhuri estate when leaving Kibera, or Dandora Bridge, on the path to Dandora). Finally, the regularity of the commute constitutes an additional risk factor. Adding to the racket, the potentiality of police aggression is real (brutal interrogation, threats, arrest). A lone man,9 walking from or to a slum at an early or late hour, is automatically suspect. The guards, among others, are the first victims of the criminalisation of the poor in Nairobi. One might ask why the guardians do not simply wear their uniforms in transit. Yet the same attire that might protect them from police violence, makes them a walking target to youth gangs in the slum.

12Could these workers, subjected daily to uncertain and harmful conditions, then be described as an “urban precariat” (Standing 2011)? Guy Standing’s theoretical effort to define a new category of workers—neo-victims of the neoliberal city—seems partly relevant, provided that the term “precariat” is not necessarily to be understood in terms of “class.” Standing defines precariat as a social group characterised by its vulnerability to multiple uncertainties: job-insecurity due to the interchangeable nature of the worker (without bringing valued skills to the table); social insecurity in the absence of trade unions and social protection systems; uncertainty of times and places of work in the name of flexible economic activity; and finally representational insecurity, as dispersed workers have no place for a collective voice to emerge. In the cities of the Global North, representations of the precariat are increasingly embodied by deliverymen, janitors, maintenance workers, and dry cleaners. It is important to remember that such a precariat also exists in Global South cities, operating through the same mechanisms of subjection. In Nairobi, the guards also undergo a form of poly-insecurity, visible at several levels: physical, psychological, social, relational and political.

3. Living in the Place of the Other: What Tactics for which Lifestyle?

13Askaris carry many burdens every day. Those are mostly due to the fact that guards actually live in the place of the other. This last expression describes a generally enclosed place where a person or a group of persons (a tenant, a group of tenants, or a chain of command) have the power to impose their own life rules. As a result, guards are daily subjected to a series of small injunctions specific to their workplace (and life): being told how to stand, what one has the right to do or not do, with whom one has the right to interact, how objects should be arranged, and for what uses, etc. This emblematic type of place finds local variations in Nairobi: the “compound” (enclosed luxury buildings divided in apartments) in wealthy areas like Kileleshwa, Kilimani or Lavington; the “court” (small single houses distributed around a privatised street) in the middle-class neighbourhoods of Buruburu, Ngumo, or South C. These places are by definition familial, leading to a blurring of family and professional relationships, as Staci Strobl illustrated through the example of housemaids in Bahrain (Strobl 2009). Domestic workers are kept in an indistinct status oscillating between temporary family-members (they are given presents for Christmas for example, or second-hand clothes for their kids) and fundamentally undesirable figures (outsiders coming to disturb the family’s privacy). Their work is desired, and yet, they must know how to become invisible when the situation requires it. Faced with this ambiguity, the guards develop “tactical” behaviours (Certeau 1991, 46) consisting of trickery, playing with conventions, diverting the uses of micro-places and objects to pursue their own interests. In this very specific case, a comparison between Kileleshwa’s compounds and Buruburu’s courts makes it possible to grasp the importance of spatial configuration in the development of individualised tactics.

In Kileleshwa, Number as Resource

14In Kileleshwa, a wealthy neighbourhood west of Nairobi, residential buildings are mostly composed by private compounds. The specific type of housing consists of several buildings divided into apartments, usually organised around a car park and often equipped with shared facilities (gardens, games for children, gym, swimming pool) depending on the standing. It is usually surrounded by a wall, most often equipped with an electric fence. Several characteristics emerge here. Firstly, the compound is inhabited by wealthy populations, who typically employ domestic staff. Secondly, the habitat density—due to the apartment complex style—explains the daily proximity of employees. Guards, caretakers, gardeners, garbage collectors and domestic helpers all work together in a relatively small space. Finally, residents most often rely on private security firms from the formal sector. Such firms exercise strict control over the guards—particularly regarding safety protocols—via supervisors or team officers on motorcycles. For the most secure compounds, high technology further reinforces this control (real-time geolocation of guards, push buttons to operate at regular intervals, etc.).

  • 10 While doing my observations, I noticed that domestic workers tend to create a place of their own wi (...)

15In this context, can guards find some spaces of freedom? The number of people working in the compound, combined with the limited space, creates the conditions for a community of mutual aid. It is common, for example, for domestic helpers to bring leftovers from the family dinner to the askaris quarters. Gardeners share the fruits they have harvested in the gardens. In hotels, launderers run laundry for everyone. As for the guards, they are deliberately less careful about the entry and exit of domestic helpers during the day. This community of workers does not end, however, with a series of good deed exchanges. It branches out to provide psychological support as well—especially when facing domestic violence—but also through the simple pleasure of social gathering. The spatial configuration of the compound makes it all possible. With a number of hidden spaces, workers can find respite from tenants’ constant surveillance. Staircases, flat roofs where laundry is suspended, car parks, swimming-pool areas: all these spaces, relatively quiet at certain times of the day, become interstitial life places where people converse, exchange tips, eat together, or braid hair. Day by day, the development of such sociability can be directly understood in regards to the workers’ difficulties in producing social cohesion in their places of residence. Kept away from their neighbourhoods during the day, they recreate neighbourly relationships (mutual favours, daily conversations, invitation to their respective “corners”10) in adapting to the monitoring and local constraints. Finally, contracting with a formal security company seemingly produces, a certain disempowerment of tenants vis-à-vis the security protocol. As the company’s supervisors take care of discipline, it is not up to tenants to worry about the behaviour of any particular askari. As a result, some tenants are more lenient with the small economic businesses of the guards: newspaper sales, car washes, small commissions at the neighbouring store, etc. As they benefit these extra services for themselves, they even defend, if necessary, their employees against the managers.

In Buruburu, Fluidity of Spaces… and Social Positions

16In Buruburu, a middle-class residential neighbourhood east of Nairobi, the socio-spatial structure of the environment offers varied possibilities. The general neighbourhood consists of five estates built successively from the 1960s (Phase I to Phase V), with each subdivided into “courts.” A court is a group of small houses distributed around a cul-de-sac street, enclosed by a gate. The airy setting, detached houses with gardens, semi-private streets and the location a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city centre make it an ideal place for family life. The population is mainly composed of civil servants, business workers, and employees—forming a much wealthier fringe than that of the surrounding neighbourhoods like in Umoja, Kariobangi, Kayole, or Jericho.

17Buruburu’s singular space can be understood as a “continuum of publicity” (Staeheli & Mitchell 2008). In other words, there is a gradient of publicity from the domestic space to the main street, understood as the centre of public life (commercial activities, bars, lively animation, traffic). Between these two poles fit at least two spaces representing varying degrees of enclosure. The common areas of the court, enclosed by a gate, come just after the domestic space: they constitute a relatively private space shared between neighbours, where children are free to play. Beyond this space, intermediate streets connecting several courts to the main street are vitalised by some shops. If these streets are not closed in the literal sense of the term, they remain a semi-exclusive space, insofar as they only give access to private spaces. This continuum of spaces allows a more fluid mobility for the guards. It is not uncommon for instance to see a Buruburu askari leaving his court to talk with a colleague across the way, or to buy a soda at the small grocery on the street. The either public or private character of the streets is ambiguous enough to offer the guards a certain flexibility in their movements. Following the same logic, the gate of the court does not need to be systematically closed, which allows the askari to be absent for a short period of time.

18Buruburu guards mostly come from the informal sector. They are individually recruited by the association of residents managing the court. As a result, the compliance with the security protocol is far much looser. Guards have no training, little to no equipment, few wear uniforms, and they do not fall under the supervision of a team officer. To some extent, this increases their flexibility. An observation in the neighbourhood confirms it. At Buruburu Phase II, two courts face each other: Fatia Court and Lomilio Court. In March 2016, while finishing an interview with Paul S., a Fatia Court guard, one of the guards from Lomilio, Jackson, came to interrupt our conversation. Jackson was employed by a formal company, 247 Security Ltd, unlike Paul. Two years before indeed, the inhabitants of Lomilio Court preferred to use the services of a formal security company following cases of vandalism within the court. Jackson came to Paul to propose him an agreement: if the latter agreed to come to Lomilio Court to wash resident cars, they would share the profits. Jackson could not do it himself, because his uniform forbid him. The inhabitants of Lomilio Court, in opting for a formal company, put a subsequent end to the guard’s poly-activity. At Lomilio Court, they had to focus exclusively on surveillance. But the relative mobility of Jackson allowed him to outsource his extra work to Paul—a guard without uniform and foreign to the court, who would discretely do the job. This example is representative of the different tactics at work in Buruburu. Guards can play on their visibilities (uniforms or absence of uniforms), on their worker status (informal guards or formal guards controlled by team officers), as well as on their differentiated mobility, linked to the relative fluidity between different closed spaces.


  • 11 Security mechanisms in Nairobi’s slums are not covered in this chapter, which focuses exclusively (...)

19In Nairobi, the security performance is not to be only understood as a response to identified threats. It is also, and perhaps even above all, a powerful force for social distinction. Contracting with a security company is a sign of standing, both for real estate developers and residents. Socioeconomic hierarchies are explicitly displayed through the type of security services contracted: international companies using high technologies for the wealthiest; local, sometimes semi-formal enterprises for the upper and middle classes; askari recruited informally for the small middle class; and protection by youth groups for the poorest populations.11 This literally distinctive value, in Bourdieu’s sense of the term “distinction,” does not only apply to spaces and social groups that employ security services. It logically leads to the subjection of security workers themselves, and in particular the guards. The security performance can be read as a system of representations in which the guard is, in a way, reduced to the role of a stooge. For the tenant, he—like all domestic staff—is presented as the subordinate, the inferior, the one who lacks education and whose ways (of speaking, standing, working) call back to a certain “primitiveness” (this term often comes up in interviews). For the visitor, for the customer of the mall, he must rather be a living marker of the prestige of the place. The cleanliness of the uniform, the politeness, the qualities of communication, as well as a quasi-mechanical compliancy in the exercise of the protocol are determinants in the construction of a standing. Therein lies an observable paradox of the everyday security performance: the material and symbolic construction of a peer group leads to the creation of a “zone of indistinctness” (Agamben 1997, 46) at its margins—a space that lets neither inside nor outside those who, by their own bodies, contribute to secure the community.

20Finally, guards are assigned to places—gates, parking lots, entrances areas of shopping malls—that they do not choose, and from which they can be removed at any time. These places are generally located far from their place of residence, out of their fields of action, and inserted into social configurations offering them few opportunities to develop a professional sociability. As a result, some form of social immobility is added to spatial immobility. A current representation of social achievement in urban areas is based on the mobility of the individual: to be able to move, to go to work by car, to access various leisure areas, to leave for the weekend on holidays, etc. In Nairobi, in order for a small – and certainly growing – number to safely access such mobility, a large number finds itself consequently immobilised, assigned to a place or moved arbitrarily. This last remark makes it possible, in essence, to turn away from an objectivist conception of security. Observing the daily challenges and tactics of guards in Nairobi shows that the goal of security—if there is one—is never so much oriented towards a person or a property, but rather towards a “social arrangement”(Dalby 1997, 9): the collective acceptance of a given situation to the detriment of another.


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1 Source: Kenya Security Industry Association (2018). The lack of market regulation explains the inaccuracy of statistics.

2 Kenya was hit by a series of attacks claimed by the al-Shabaab Islamist group in response to Kenya’s military action in southern Somalia. Two large-scale attacks were especially traumatic: the attack on the upscale shopping centre “Westgate” in Nairobi on 24 September 2013, and another at the University of Garissa in the eastern part of the country on 2 April 2015, carried out in a similar manner (terrorist commando storming the building and slaughtering a large number of hostages).

3 See especially Schneier (1999), Pain & Smith (2008), and Barnett (2015).

4 “One of our goals is to create immobile human beings… As long as they don’t move, nothing can happen. They have to report anything they witness.” (Director of operations at Lavington Security Ltd, interview, 9 February 2016).

5  The figures given are averages, because of the great variability of wages, especially in the informal sector. Government recommendations as of June 26, 2015 are respectively 10,954 KES per month and 12,221 KES per month for day and night guards Source: Kenya Gazette Supplement no. 91: 587.

6 Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

7 On the notion of “emotional labour,” see Leidner (1999), Mac Dowell (2009), and Wharton (2009).

8 These findings come from a multi-month ethnographic work in Kibera, a large slum in Nairobi West, conducted between February 2015 and April 2017.

9 The guards surveyed did not report any such police aggression.

10 While doing my observations, I noticed that domestic workers tend to create a place of their own within the compound: a partially limited or withdrawn place, equipped with a few personal belongings, generally corresponding with their different workstations (sentry box, garden, swimming pool facilities, stairwells, rooftop terraces for the cleaning staff). This is how they are able to receive visitors and develop a neighbourhood social life.

11 Security mechanisms in Nairobi’s slums are not covered in this chapter, which focuses exclusively on the figure of the askari posted at the entrance of privatised spaces. Security in slum is nevertheless very subtly organised. For an overview, see Rodriguez-Torres (2014).


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