Referring to examples from Africa, discuss the main challenges posed by policing in post-conflict situations

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Referring to examples from Africa, discuss the main challenges posed by policing in post-conflict situations

The nature of policing varies between counties. The issue of policing however has not been left to the police themselves but to communities as a whole. Mawby (2008:17) cited in Newburn, (2008) states that policing in the “process of preventing and detecting crime and maintaining order, is an activity that might be engaged in by any number of agencies or individuals “. Community policing helps society achieve a range of goals such as the reduction of crime and state-to-state society (Denney and Jenkins, 2013). Whichever way scholars choose to examine it, there may be positives and negatives which can be drawn from such policing however, there are risks associated with it especially in countries that have suffered conflict. Two countries from Africa will be used to discuss the main challenges posed by policing in post-conflict situations.

Ogbaharya,(2008:396) states that after war most countries face partial state failure or total collapse which breaks down the central authority. When the state or the government breakdown and yet they are the providers of most and basic services to the public this can therefore lead to other individuals or private organisations taking over. This breakdown has social, economic and political consequences such as violence, destruction of infrastructure, cross border refugees, rampant unemployment, hunger, genocide and other violations of human rights. The challenges that are mainly faced by such states are those of reconstituting state authority, re-establishing legitimate authority and demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration (Collier, 2008). Whilst trying to rebuild such countries it is important to reconcile, integrate and incorporate subnational structures and social networks (Ogbaharya, 2008). Transport facilities, hospitals, free schools and other public services that are usually offered by the government become inaccessible. The government also becomes powerless in establishing authority over services that they are not running. This will see the inflation of services be it health wise or education as long as it is being provided privately it becomes inaccessible to the public.

According to Baker, (2008) crime and security are issues of great concern especially among the social classes. This is noted between the rich and the poor especially in Africa and is mainly concerned with policing that takes a range of methods “ formal and informal, legal and illegal, effective and inept, fair and partisan, restrained and brutal used by African governments, communities, commercial enterprises, ethnic groups and individuals to provide policing” (Baker, 2008:154) These cases are prevalent in countries that have suffered war previously in that each and everyone wants to be in control and because of a lack of resources the government is powerless to control these groups. Examining the statistics of police ratios to the public that needs to be served it is inevitable to say that the ratio does not tally. According to Bayart et al. (1999) cited in Baker, (2006) Sierra Leone has a police force of 8000 which is supposed to police a population of 6 million people whereas Uganda on the other hand, has 13,000 police officers to look after 27 million people. This shows that the police are virtually absent and the running of things is left to those informal organisations such as youth dominated mob justice in Sierra Leone. Public policing in Africa neither to serve the society equally nor is it free (Clapham, 1999). In order to secure interest in investigations or prosecution people might, and in most cases need, to offer payment to the state which is quite unaffordable. As mentioned previously the services that are or in most cases should be provided vy the government will require individuals to pay for themselves which is quite unrealistic as evidence shows that only 20% of the populations are of working.

Baker, (2006) suggests that problems in Africa are a reflection of the over-militarisation and over-politicisation of policies that were established during the colonial era. These policies are a result of modern social, economic, military and political realities which nurture criminal activity and limit the capacity of the state to combat crime (Ogbaharya, 2008). Poverty within the government and community leads to social inequality, youth marginalisation, political transition, structural adjustment programs, rapid urbanisation, greater availability of cheap weapons and poorly functioning state justice systems (Baker, 2006). Accordingly Baker, (2006) suggests that because of the low employment rates in Africa and particularly in Sierra Leone, a high population of people survive hand to mouth and are unable to contribute to the infrastructure of the country through taxes and national insurance. These contributions are vitally important in the day to day running of a country as it will enable the government to subsidise other services. The moment the government fails to provide a service to the public competitors get on the market to fight for those few resources that have been left. This in itself leads to problems within different organisations that provide services to the public. Services that should be offered for free end up being charged even if at a small amount of money, but ultimately become unaffordable to the society (Baker, 2008)

The police in Africa are poorly equipped which means that they cannot be able to attend and deal with cases of extreme violence or robberies as they do not have the proper equipment to protect themselves. The police are also poorly paid which can lead them to accept bribes from offenders as they might need to subsidise their wages and make a living for their families. Finally they are poorly trained so they in most cases struggle to cope with the growing and ever increasing challenges of crime and conflict. This leads the police to become supporters in ethnic or political strife. However, the main problem that results from this is that of corruption. Forcing the police into a situation such as this might encourage them to sell their services to criminal organisations (Baker, 2008). Moreover, all these problems can lead to other forms of policing. Baker, (2008) states that there are informal policing efforts which come from private security forces and which are mainly organised and funded by private security enterprises and businesses. Gangs and vigilantes take this opportunity to both protect the public and simultaneously terrorise them. Because the police are not in control gangs and vigilantes take control of the situation. They might be on the other hand helping to protect the public and protect a certain area unless they have their own interests in something. This is the case for those who do not want to conform to their rules and regulations (Baker, 2008). However, Bayart et al. (1999) argue that corruption amongst those who are in control and who possess the means of force is prevalent. Policing becomes ineffective and corruption and violence mar the correct procedures (Baker, 2006).

After their conflicts, both Sierra Leone and Uganda had to rely mainly on local forms of policing. The civil war in Sierra Leone destroyed the police state. Neither state has the resources to offer the society any protection from crime (Baker, 2008). Baker, (2008) defines policing as any organised activity that seeks to ensure the maintenance of communal order, security and peace through elements of prevention, deterrence, investigation of breaches, resolution and punishment. All this had to be undertaken by local authorities as the government did not have the resources to provide the required support. These local policing mechanisms that were being formed were aimed at preventing crime and policing was instituted largely by extended families and friends providing patrols at night. During the day they looked out for one another and watch for strangers but at night problems arose as most of them did not have locks to put on their outdoor houses. There is no street lighting and because of the war the government cannot afford to replace them. Most issues in Sierra Leone are being dealt with by the chiefs of the local mobs because of the unavailability of police. The youth normally respond to fights because the police fail to respond to such petty issues (Baker, 2008).

The main problems that have been identified that policing in Africa face especially in post- war countries are issues of governance, employment, infrastructure. These are mainly caused by the collapse of the ruling government. It also takes time to get back to normal after a period of war and terror and normally those in charge are the least trusted as most of the blame might be placed on them.


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Baker, B., (2008) Beyond the Tarmac Road: local forms of policing in sierra Leon and Rwanda: Review of African political Economy: 35(118): 555-570.

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Newburn, T., (2008), Handbook of policing. 2nd edition, Devon: Willan Publishing.

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