Poverty and Human Security in Kenya

and Njoka ENJMHN. "Poverty and Human Security in Kenya." Regional Development Dialogue. 2003;24(2):179-192.


Kenya attained its independence in 1963 after six decades of British colonial rule. The
colonial legacy has been instrumental in shaping the policy regime in the country, in
addition to influencing sectoral operations and reforms. The latter affect the various ways
in which citizens have been able to access vital services, opportunities, and choices.
Soon after independence, the country's new administration under the late President
lomo Kenyatta articulated its commitment to fighting the three enemies of development,
viz., ignorance, illiteracy, and disease. Poverty and human security were, therefore, at the
top of the agenda of the new post-colonial government. Successive development policies
and initiatives indicate that this commitment, at least at the level of blueprints, has more or
less remained the same, with perhaps some adjustments with regard to specific planning
targets and the strategies used.
Poverty in Kenya has been analysed and variously understood by its many proponents.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),!' for example,
presents poverty in its various dimensions, encompassing deprivations that relate to human
capabilities including consumption and food security, health, education, human rights,
speech, security, dignity, and decent work, noting that poverty should be reduced in the
context of environmental sustainability and reduced gender inequality. The latter is seen
as integral to all dimensions of poverty. Accordingly, the OECD places emphasis on sound
government policies coherently applied to development, focusing on key policy areas with
strong poverty reduction impacts. The areas in question are seen to include debt relief,
trade, investment, agriculture, environment, migration, health research, security, and arms
sales.Y Although there is no agreement on what poverty means, it is widely accepted that
the poverty incidence for Kenya increased from 44.8 per cent in 1992 to 45.0 per cent in
1994 and to 52.3 in 1997:3/ The poor have been unable to access such services as basic
education and health - both critical aspects of human security.
The relationship between poverty and human security has been articulated in the
Global Human Development Report of 1994. As a way of protecting human beings from
abuse of their freedoms, human security has become a crucial component in explaining and
analysing different aspects of vulnerabilities and other dimensions of poverty across time
and space. It is argued that people without socioeconomic and politico-civil freedoms
cannot access the requisite opportunities and choices enabling them to escape the poverty

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