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Volume 20 Number 4
1 December 2011

By the late 1990s the concept of ‘security sector reform` had become a key term in the aid lexicon, especially in influential policy circles such as the United  Nations, European Union, Organisation for Economic Cooperation  and Development,  and World Bank. The prospects for a more peaceful coexistence after the Cold  War led to a belief that the political future would be a democratic one and that within that political system there would be a ‘normalisation` of the role of security agencies such as state-based police agencies. These expectations led to the  export  to transitional  and post-conflict  jurisdictions  of particular  philosophies (such as community-oriented policing) and principles (human  rights, democratic oversight and civilian accountability, minimum force) closely associated with a Western tradition  of consensual policing.

In part because of the climate created by 9/11, in developing regions of the world such as in Africa, the police and policing followed a different trajectory. Despite the initial expectations of peaceable democracies, post-conflict realities soon confirmed that the future of the state in Africa and its police remained  fundamentally  different, more uncertain  and fragmented than originally anticipated. Before long, structural  conditions  punctured  the euphoria  that had been induced by the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.

By the new millennium  the initial optimism for security sector transformation  in sup- port of the rule of law has given way to much  more measured  realism. Post-conflict  re- construction  of the state (and its armed wings) turned out to be complicated. Violence and conflict proved more tenacious and the prospects for lasting peace much  less certain than originally anticipated. This new realism is reflected in the World Development  Report 2011: conflict, security and development.  Contrary  to initial expectations of a more peaceful world at the end of the Cold War, conflict and violence remain key features of developing regions in the 21st  century. At many national and regional levels, the records attest to the ways in which conflict and violence evolve and mutate in the post-conflict era. Different forms of violence – political and criminal – have become closely interlinked. As cyclical patterns of violence erode the prospects for democracy and economic development, aid agencies, the report advises, must attend to issues of political and criminal violence as part and parcel of developmental strategies.

In line with recent re-analysis of the security function in conflict states, this issue of the African Security Review offers reflections on diverse aspects of policing in contexts characterised by political, ethnic and criminal violence. The studies highlighted below are concerned with aspects of police-building in weak or unstable states where the efforts of transnational, regional and national authorities combine in sometimes perverse ways. The emphasis here is on ‘conflict policing`  and draws on examples from Africa.

The police in war: fighting insurgency, terrorism and violent crime,  Bayley situates the conversation on the challenges of the police in the context of insurgency. Iraq and Afghanistan are illustrative case studies of US efforts aimed at ‘stabilisation`  and peacebuilding. What reasonably could and should the role of the local police be in the context of violence, both of an insurgent and criminal nature? What are the challenges which confront the project of ‘police-building` – under  the political and financial tutelage of the West – in such difficult jurisdictions? Bayley engages with the prospects for, and strategies towards, crafting security institutions  along democratic lines in zones of conflict. He argues that the focus should be on the development of ‘core policing`, that is, the expectation that police should be available for citizens, responsive to their safety needs, and fair in the execution of their daily activities.Training in these basic (mostly neglected) principles is critical if police in such contexts are to develop the skills in balancing the use of force in ways which do not erode the search for social legitimacy and social consent. The conversation has relevance far beyond Iraq and Afghanistan where the strategic and operational question as to a functional division of labour between military, paramilitary and police agencies looms large. It is a question which police confront in many urban localities. In such environments the police have to respond to situations of disorder in which a motley collection of groupings (called insurgents, rebels, gangs, mobs and/or  thugs) may participate. Bayley succeeds in  identifying  common challenges which the police (developed or underdeveloped;  modern or not; situated in the North  or in the South) confront and attempts to articulate some principles on which policing strategies need to be built.Political and criminal violence and the role of the police are also illuminated in a Kenyan case study. Mutuma Ruteere focuses our attention on the policing of post-election violence.

In many African states the holding of elections is associated with prospects of violence and intimidation.  In such contexts the public police have a critical role to play. Here the spot- light falls on the policing of violence which followed the most recent general elections in Kenya in 2007/08. Police handling of the violence at the time was widely condemned as politically partisan and brutal.  The author  emphasises that those conceptions  fit in well with the prevailing understanding  of Africa`s police agencies as protectors  of the political elite. But he argues that such a view is too deterministic and politically over-determined. A range of influences intersect and there may be little or no pre-determined course of action as police set out to intervene in outbreaks of public disorder. Upon  closer scrutiny it would appear that there is simply more fluidity in the outcome than an overly structuralist analysis would suggest. Ruteere`s engagement with the relative autonomy of the police as a sub-component of the state bestows a measure of agency on the police. Others may wish to explore further the motives and orientations which police themselves bring into situations of conflict and violence.

In the next paper the focus shifts to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as so- called ‘post-conflict`  reconstruction gets under  way. The  comparative record  tells us that many challenges confront state-building after the cessation of political conflict. Reform of the security sector has been seen as a critical component of state rebuilding in the troubled space of the DRC.

In her paper, Janine Rauch takes the policy debate on security sector reform as an implicit point of departure and focuses attention on the role and capacity of civil society in security reconstruction. Policy templates routinely pronounce on the desirability of civil society participation in security sector reform. But civil society is ill understood  and its capacity rarely examined. Rauch draws on empirical research of constitutive elements of civil society in the Congolese context and examines the capacity of civil society organisations to operate, raise funds, undertake research, lobby and influence debate, and collaborate with security institutions.

Capacities to undertake  such a multitude  of activities – which is routinely associated with civil society participation in the developed world – are both underdeveloped and uneven in the Congo. On the basis of the available evidence, Rauch concludes that whilst Congolese civil society is in many ways more dormant  than alive, it is also remarkably resilient and resourceful in the face of so many challenges. In conclusion it is noted that foreign donors are well advised to support civil society organisations as an integral component  of developmental efforts to build local capacity. Much like the state in post-conflict jurisdictions, civil society too enters into the reform equation as relatively weak and disorganised.

The final paper brings reflections from a transnational policing space, Darfur in Sudan, where international efforts towards peace and stability coalesce around the hybrid UN/AU peace operation. Van der Spuy explores the dynamics associated with police deployment  to a foreign locality. There has been growing interest  in the role of police in peace-keeping environments. This insertion of pockets of national police into a political space of a distant place – far beyond the homeland – raises a wide range of questions of which the evolving role of police vis-à -vis the military in the theatre of peacekeeping is a particularly interesting one. The discussion has an empirical focus and tracks key aspects of the ‘career` of peacekeeping as articulated by members  of the South African police deployed to Darfur. What motivates domestic police to sign up for foreign deployment; how do they construct the routines associated with the role of the police within a peace mission; what about the social interactions in the field and the re-entry into the environment back home? The interviews uncover some of the experiences of those participating in the policing of a foreign cultural space, characterised by conflict and feelings of insecurity.

In a short space of time, the focus on the policing of peace, after civil war and conflict, has made way for a renewed focus on the role of the police in the routine management of conflict and violence. The shape and content of conflict and violence may vary from one locality to the next. Conflict may be led by insurgents, terror groups, militias, rebels, paramilitary formations,  self-help community based formations,  street gangs or organised crime syndicates. This is the case in Iraq and Pakistan, in the cities of London and Paris, in the favelas of Latin America, in the inner-city slums of America, and in the shanty towns of much of urban Africa. In all such situations we are forced to enquire about the role of the police vis-à -vis such violence. Comparative analysis now reiterates that conflict and violence arecentral, rather than marginal, to the routine business of police in most parts of the world.

Romi Sigsworth (Editor) 

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