Approaches to Crime Control and Order Maintenance in Transitional Societies: The Role of Village Headmen, Chiefs, Sub-Chiefs and Administration Police in Rural Kenya

By Mbuba, Jospeter M.; Mugambi, Florence N. | African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Approaches to Crime Control and Order Maintenance in Transitional Societies: The Role of Village Headmen, Chiefs, Sub-Chiefs and Administration Police in Rural Kenya


Mbuba, Jospeter M., Mugambi, Florence N., African Journal of Criminology and Justice Studies : AJCJS


Abstract

The need to illuminate and contextualize approaches to crime control and order maintenance in transitional societies has become increasingly necessary, thanks to the pervasiveness of social disorder and the elusive nature of crime in general. This study focuses on the functions of the Provincial Administration and the Administration Police in Kenya in order to reveal the little known but overarching powers of Chiefs and Sub-Chiefs as the official agents of crime control and order maintenance in the rural parts of the country. The study, which is a culmination of an in-depth review of Kenya's legal framework and other germane literature, uses the country to cast a thoughtful appraisal of the African experience and, as a result, to provide a strong and reliable data point that could be used in cross-cultural and comparative crime control studies.

Key terms: Crime prevention; crime control; order maintenance; transitional societies.

Introduction

Although there has been a concerted Anglo-American effort to train and offer other forms of assistance to police forces abroad with the aim of supporting democracy and protecting against international crime (Bayley, 2001), little is known about the indigenous mechanisms of controlling crime and disorder at the village level in transitional societies especially in Africa. In this study, the term "transitional" refers to the somewhat inevitable developmental stage of society that intervenes between fully functional social relations characterized by the rule of law, on one hand, and the informal traditional arrangements in which the official application of law is both erratic and eclectic, on the other. Although police patrols are the principal method of containing crime, different communities use many other corollary approaches to abate crime and disorder. This study involves an in-depth review of the Kenyan legislation and other relevant literature in order to discern and document how the country handles the problem of crime in the rural areas where police patrols are not available and where the authority of the Chief and the Assistant-Chief is more dynamic.

Geographic and Historical Background

Kenya is a sovereign country located in East Africa and has a total area of 224,962 square miles (Encyclopedia of the Nations, 2010). The country borders the Indian Ocean to the east, Somalia to the northeast, Ethiopia to the north, Sudan to the northwest, Uganda to the west, and Tanzania to the south (ibid.). The legislative branch of the Kenyan government has, since independence, consisted of a unicameral National Assembly, whose representatives are elected by popular vote to serve 5-year terms and the legal system is a complex hybrid of English common law, customary law, and Islamic law that recognizes Khadis' courts, which enforce certain rights of inheritance, family relations, and succession for Muslims (ibid.). The 2010 constitutional referendum and subsequent promulgation of a new constitution, however, ushered in a two-chamber parliament with a National Assembly and a Senate (Constitution of Kenya 2010, Chapter 8).

For several decades, Kenya was under the British colonial rule until the declaration of independence in 1963. The enactment of the Village Headman Ordinance of 1902 when the country was under the colonial governance introduced the concept of village headman. The initial purpose of the ordinance was to bring Kenyan natives into the money economy, enforce tax payment, control livestock movement, regulate agriculture and movement of people and various other social and economic regulations (Administration Police, 2009; Clayton & Savage, 1974). At that time, the village headman relied on village bullies to enforce the often unpopular policies of the colonial government and to put in place arbitration and other enforceable mechanisms (Provincial Administration Strategic Plan, 2005/06-2009/10.) The position of the village headman has since evolved to the modern day Chief, but the term still remains in informal use in rural Kenya, where it refers to the Chief, Assistant Chief, or the contemporary "headperson" who is appointed by the Chief to help with village governance. …

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