Informal Security - Organized Crime
Nexus: Implications on Security
Presenter: Paul Omondi
December 2010
Presentation Outline
Interstice of informal security and organised crime
Political Expediency Theory
Contextualising informal security growth in Kenya
Interrogating criminal justice approaches
The case of South Africa
Political transition and the case for informal security
in Africa
The 90’s was a turning point in Africa, which saw most countries
enter a new dispensation characterised by transformation in political
It is, however, interesting that the paradoxical outcome of the political
reforms appear to provide impetus for violence and crime.
The escalating insecurity also seem to make a case for increasing
replacement of state security with informal security.
Political transition and the case for informal security
in Africa (Cont…)
Key Question:
“What factors inherent in the political transition process enhance
susceptibility to higher levels of organised crime, and by extension
the growth of informal security?”
Dichotomous views are expressed:
Political transition and the case for informal security
in Africa (Cont…)
View 1:
The rise in informal security structures is linked to gaps in law
enforcement. Thus, informal security have expanded to compensate for
the deteriorating security conditions.
View 2:
“Vigilantism can not merely be explained as a popular response to the
vacuum left by state collapse, failure or instrumentalised disorder"
(Pratten, 2008)
The focus of this presentation
How informal security structures interlace with organised
How the political transition correlates with the experience of
organised crime
The best way to best way to address the proliferation of
vigilantes, gangs, and militia
The main focus of this paper will be on Kenya, but also draw
from SA experience
Interstice of informal security
and organised crime
Defining organised crime
Four aspects define organised crime (Naylor, 1997)
Have a durable hierarchical structure
Employ systemic violence (or the threat of it) and corruption
Obtain abnormally high rates of return relative to other criminal
activities or organizations
Extend their activities into the legal economy
Organised crimes are characteristically 'enterprise' as opposed
to 'predatory'
The concept of informal security
Informal security structures operate across a broad spectrum of
legitimacy and sometimes have direct linkages to or are recognised by
state authorities
Normatively speaking, informal security structures do not
necessarily constitute criminal groups, unless the concerned parties
deliberately engage in wrongdoing
Informal security groups have been shown to progressively
transmute into illegal commercial operations, often emphasizing
punishment and generating an atmosphere of fear to attain their
What are the implications of informal security on
organised crime?
An empirical survey in Kenya showed that most of the informal
security structures are taking advantage of the community policing
project to claim legitimacy as community-based vigilante groups
(South Consult, 2010)
Informal security structures often possess deep fractures, which
question their role, if any, within the criminal justice system.
The case of 'Mungiki’ (Kenya)
It is shown that the gang has well organised hierarchy
Starting on the platform of ‘protection-action’, the group soon
assumed character of a well-armed violent gang. It intimidate and
demand varied payments, and murder those who refused to
The group have taken control of lucrative the ‘matatu’ public
transport businesses demanding 'protection money‘
The group is also engaged in other business activities, including
demanding payments from car repair men
Political Expediency Theory
Principles of Political Expediency Theory
The political expediency rests on the premise that the relationship between
organised crime and politics is intrinsic
The theory’s perspective assumes that organised crime infiltrates the
political sphere by corruption of state officials
Consequently, criminals are protected from the criminal justice by law
enforcement officials
“Commoditization” of violence
Political Expediency Theory has been used to explain relationship between
criminal or in this case informal security groups and violence
It is observed that the option for those criminal groups that are unable to
employ corruption is 'commoditization' of violence
This speaks to the fact that an increasing number of criminal groups rely on
violence as a tradeable commodity
Motivations for violence among informal security /
organised criminal groups
Gangs engaged in
Gangs used to
disrupt opposition
Gang Violence
Gangs defending
themselves from
violence by the state
security forces
Commoditization of
Gangs organised to
support state
politicians afraid of
the opposition
Contextualising informal security
growth in Kenya
Contextualising informal security growth in
With the advent of democracy, violence and crime have increasingly
taken center stage
The post-democracy era in Kenya has seen the expansion of the
criminal economy, this largely occurring within the context of informal
security structures
The level of activity in organised crime is well indicated by the number
of groups in operation. Government report demonstrates that there are
at least 33 vigilante /criminal gang groups in the country
Historical context
Post democracy appeared to create an environment that was favorable
to development, initially, of informal security structures.
Three possibilities appear to have worked the way into this development:
The first factor related to historical ethno-political tensions and
perceived lack of capacity for law and order policing
Consequent inter-ethnic conflicts saw communities resort to self-help
policing, particularly in the form of vigilante activities
Historical context (Cont…)
The second factor related to legislative gap. The negotiation for
political reforms took place in the context of legislative gaps
It can be noted that, since independence, legislation in Kenya have
been changed over time to buttress a strong executive at the
expense of other parts of government
Historical context (Cont…)
The third factor related to political patronage
A major consequence of the democratic transition has been
growing infiltration of the political sphere by informal security
The involvement of these groups during elections suggests a
tendency for them to behave as 'foot soldiers', coming together
when hired to do so and forming groups to take care of the
interests of local politicians
Interrogating criminal
justice approaches
Understanding models of organised crime
Three frameworks have primarily directed the theoretical lenses on
criminal justice approaches. These include:
The enterprise approach
The alien-conspiracy/bureaucracy paradigm
The patrimonial/patron-client relations perspective
a) Enterprise approach
Profit is the key motivation
Cohesion is based on the drive to achieve self-interested goals
Cooperation between the leader (s) and subordinates is maintained
through voluntary subordination of the latter
The leadership structure is flexible and often decentralised
Law enforcement implications:
Groups based on this model are susceptible to law enforcement efforts
The group gets incapacitated when the money trail or financial operation
is curtailed
b) Alien-conspiracy paradigm
Complex hierarchy and extensive division of labor to enhance efficiency
Cohesion is based on firm leadership rather than on contractual
Membership is of a permanent nature
The groups often seek political influence as part of their operations
Law enforcement implications:
Groups based on this model are susceptible to law enforcement efforts
The group would fall apart if the leadership is purged
c) Patrimonial paradigm
Has element of hierarchy
Cohesion is based on emotional connection rather than rules. Emphasis
is on traditions such as oaths
Engage in activities beyond purely economic
Extend influence into the worlds of legitimate government and business
Law enforcement implications:
Groups based on this model are very stubborn to law enforcement efforts
Continuity is ensured even when the leader purged
Anatomy of organised crime in Kenya
There are strong inclinations, at least in Kenya, to cluster along two
models, albeit interlocking:
'patrimonial - enterprise'
‘alien-conspiracy - enterprise‘
As discerned, ‘profit motive’ remains an imperative denominator in
explanation of violent behavior among criminal groups.
“Patrimonial – Enterprise” paradigm
Notable features that deserve attention include:
Ethno-cultural identity
Infiltration into the political and law enforcement spheres
Extension into legitimate business
Defiance to law enforcement measures
Instructive cases include: 'Mungiki, Chinkororo, Taliban, and Kaya Bombo
“Alien-conspiracy – Enterprise” paradigm
Notable features that deserve attention include:
Hierarchical attributes akin to those found in the military
Appear to have political aspirations and an interest in changing the
social status quo
Quite susceptible to law enforcement measures
Instructive cases include: ’Sabaot Land Defense Force’ and ‘Angola Msumbiji’
A closer look at criminal justice approach in
The transition era policing reforms involved refocus of the functions of
the hitherto 'political police unit' (known as Special Branch) to national
security surveillance
The mainstream police failed to radically change with the new
The nature of police response to the threat of organised crime have
largely remained within the 'old school' law enforcement paradigm,
which entail vigorous law enforcement interventions involving use of
'raw' force
A closer look at criminal justice approach in
Kenya (Cont…)
Previous police initiatives to impede organised crime became subject to
The mainstream police failed to radically change with the new dispensation
For example:
In responding to the menace of 'Mungiki', the Kenya Police task force known
as 'Kwe - Kwe squad' was formed
The task force was largely associated with extra-judicial killings
A closer look at criminal justice approach in
Kenya (Cont…)
At another level, the scope and nature of police complicity and modus
operandi has seriously put to question the capability of criminal justice
Three areas are isolated as essential and in need of address: accountability,
professionalism, and efficiency
The Case of South Africa
The context of informal security structures in SA
Private policing has become a prevalent feature of the SA security
But while private policing is increasingly asserting its position in
the country, the unfortunate reality is that they "provide a ready
base from which violent vigilante actions can grow"
Precipitating factors for growth of informal security
Development of private policing can mainly be located within the
Apartheid era security governance system
From security governance perspective, skewed law enforcement saw a
large number of autonomous groups that arose to deal with township
crime, frustrated that the state police did so little to protect their
residents or investigate crime
From socio-political perspective, the focus is on profound experience
of factional violence that characterised the transition era
From law enforcement perspective, the focus is on infiltration of the
law enforcement sector - the issue of corruption sticking out
Precipitating factors for growth of informal security
structures (Cont…)
To a great extent, the continual growth of private policing is based on
lower confidence on the state policing system
On the other hand, community policing although considered a crucial
platform for police – community partnerships, appeared to have
started on a wrong footing
Hence, the application of community policing also seems to have set
ground for 'traps' that have precipitated the growth of ‘state
sanctioned’ vigilantism
In summary …
This discussion shows that there are tendencies for the practice of
organised crime to revolve around informal security structures
It is apparent that the governance system - comprising political and
law enforcement structures, constitute a key dynamic in the
propagation of organised criminal groups
Initiatives on security sector reforms and legislations are an
affirmation of recognition of these dynamics. The focus of these
measures, however, seems to be on insulating the law enforcement but
paying scant attention to the political relations
Action points
1. Enhancing capability of law enforcement agencies in security
intelligence is a critical factor to understand the patterns of existing
criminal groups and to prevent formation of new ones
2. Accountability in political system: The increasing infiltration of
political sphere by illicit groups has facilitated of organised crime.
Vetting of individuals seeking political positions is essential
3. Accountability in Criminal justice system: Public trust underlines
the credibility of criminal justice institutions. There must be measures
to ensure high levels of integrity.
Action points (Cont…)
4. Community-based policing: Community-based policing is broadly
recognised as essential to partnership between law enforcement
agencies and communities to address community concerns, and in
establishing police accountability. It is however also recognised that
most informal security structures have started on this platform. Their
accountability rests on how well they are regulated
5. Anti-corruption measures: Tough anti-corrupt measures are
necessary for two purposes: First, to incapacitate the money trails
which sustain their operations, and second, to enable the law
enforcement agencies to effectively detect, investigate and prosecute
crime cases.
Action points (Cont…)
6. Independent police oversight: One important recommendation
was the need to establish impartial and independent police oversight.
The oversight body should not only be able to investigate complaints,
but also be empowered to follow up recommendations.
7. Alternative livelihood: Security governance solutions have to take
cognizance of the reality of existence of the criminal groups, complex
as it may be. Reaching out to the militia with the aim of reintegrating
them into the community may therefore not be an option.

Political transition and the case for informal security in Africa (Cont…)