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‘A city under siege’ Formalised banditry and deconstruction of modes of accumulation in Nairobi, 1991–2004 Musambayi Katumanga A combination of internal and external pressures exerted on the Kenyan regime by various actors had a profound impact on modes of socioeconomic engagements and accumulations in Nairobi. This was with a view to compelling the regime to institute political and economic liberalisation. At one level, they engendered a diminished State-provisioning capacity and its willingness to protect public interests. At another, conditionalities spawned anomic tendencies among social groups, individuals and the regime. This study examines factors under-girding the foregoing. It examines the various modes of mobilisations and engagements undertaken by various groups in defence of their economies against each other at one level, and against the State and the local city council at another. The paper also analyses the political economy underlying the resultant urban banditry and mutations in the modes of these engagements. It seeks to demonstrate how a besieged regime facilitates the criminalisation of urban existence in a bid to ensure its survival. The argument here is that beleaguered regimes survive through a twin strategy which revolves around the privatisation of public violence and appropriation of private violence. The net effect is a perversion of social order. Regime longevity in this sense is a function not only of the absence of an alternative leadership and organising ideology but also of the perceived       ?  élite initiated liberalisation and privatisation processes do not midwife a democracy-friendly state. On the contrary, they provide a captured State with space within which it initiates actions inimical to democratisation, security and social harmony. The ruling élite respond to possibilities of losing power by subverting social order using patrimonial structures to selectively allocate public spaces to their ‘toad’ cronies. This in turn spawns urban banditry. Urban banditry here denotes the deployment of instruments of coercion on other city dwellers in a bid to facilitate acquisition of economic and political values. OF STATE WITHERING AND THE LOGIC OF URBAN BANDITRY The nature, role and survival of the state as an entity remain at the core 328 NAIROBI TODAY of social discourse. Realists, system theorists, political economists as well as Marxists have at various times predicted its demise. While liberal reformers expected industrialisation-driven necessities to diminish the State’s national and international roles, Marxists foretold not only the disutility of its violence once exploitation was ended, but also its disappearance. As an entity, a state is entrusted with certain responsibilities such as security, the management of economic reproduction, the balancing of input and output roles and the conferring of identity on its citizens. Conversely, it is the increasing inability to deliver on these functions that diminishes the essence of ‘Stateness’.1 Indeed the contemporary predictions of the state’s demise are anchored in what is perceived as its increasing irrelevance given its diminishing capacity to rule and control the society. States are rooted in a trinity of variables: the idea of state, their institutional framework and physical base. Not withstanding its abstractness, the idea of State is core to its legitimacy. Underlying its legitimacy are questions such as; what does the State intend or exist to do; what constitutes its political identity. For States grappling with deep-seated identity crisis, the transformation of variegated nationalities into a state–nation is incumbent upon the evolution of a dominant ideology around which politics can be organised. Facilitating and reinforcing the idea of state is the ability of an institution-friendly leadership to evolve relevant programmes critical for socio-economic reproduction. Institutions are core to this process. They include the executive, administrative and participative infrastructures. A weak idea of state engenders the recourse to coercion and patronage by the ruling élite in a bid to maintain order in the process that results in state withering. As a process of long duration that diminishes the state’s institutional capacity to provide the society with core values (such as security), withering is characterised by paralysis in decision-making realms and social polarisation. If unchecked, the withering process engenders state collapse.2 State withering is not a monopoly of predatory leadership. It can also emerge consequent to a regime blessed ‘populist nimpling process.’ This refers to situations where variegated social forces intersect their predation activities on common public goods sites. While state capacity diminishes in a wide           increases. Essentially, State disengagement from certain social functions while weakening its formal roles also increases its power. Underlying this is the instrumentalisation of violence and...


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