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Accepted Paper:

Low Intensity Operations: Enforced Disappearances and the Continuity of Colonial State Practices within Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, Kenya.  
Stefan Millar (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

In Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, refugee political activists who engage in ‘home’ countries’ politics risk enforced disappearance. The tactic of enforced disappearances is of colonial origin but continues to be used to control and manage displaced populations within Kenya.

Paper long abstract:

In Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, refugees are prohibited from participating in their ‘home’ countries’ politics by the camp's managerial bodies, the UNHCR and the Kenyan Refugee Affairs Secretariat. Refugees that engage in politics risk enforced disappearance by the Kenyan Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The tactic of enforced disappearances was introduced to Kenya during the Mau Mau Uprising (1952-60) by the British Army officer Frank Kitson. While serving in the Colonial Kenyan CID, Kitson developed the concept of ‘Low Intensity Operations’ (1971), where counter-insurgency units utilised enforced disappearances to quell dissent. Combined with the villagization and biometric registration of colonial subjects, the potent impact of enforced disappearances was amplified. Based on twelve months of ethnographic research in Kakuma and Kalobeyei, this paper examines the continuity and transformations of colonial state practices used to control and manage encamped refugees. By tracing the colonial tactics which enable enforced disappearances within Kenya, I critically examine the effect disappearances have on refugee political communities (Huttunen, 2016) and their understandings of the state (Krupa & Nugent, 2015). I argue that enforced disappearances of political actors produce an effect that shapes an understanding of the state, while simultaneously changing the organisation of political communities. Political activists and agitators resist the effect of enforced disappearances by operating in spaces not considered political by the camp authorities, such as churches and Sufi lodges. Within these religious spaces, political actors reconstruct understandings of the Kenyan state, but also their respective ‘home’ countries’ states.

Panel P102a
Uncanny Colonial Reanimations: Ethnographies of post-colonial population control and resilient alternatives
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -