What are the implications of multiple policing providers in Africa for government and donor security policies? This book from the Nordic Africa Institute examines ‘multi-choice’ policing in sub-Saharan Africa – the fragmented and overlapping pattern of public and private policing. It includes case studies of Uganda and Sierra Leone. Governments should act to maximise the benefits of non-state policing and minimise its hazards. They need a national strategy that integrates, regulates, mobilises and empowers all those willing to preserve law and order in an acceptable way.
Policing in Africa is not a monopoly of the state, but is increasingly diversified to formal and informal agencies outside of the police and usually outside of the state. It involves business interests, residential communities, cultural groups, criminal organisations and local political figures as well as governments. Non-state policing is engrained in African communities, with its specific forms determined by local circumstances, and those who authorise policing may not be those who provide it. The book argues that as governments do not have the resources to provide adequate state policing, and as non-state policing is well established, they should integrate non-state policing into internal security policies.
Multi-choice policing could be an opportunity to extend the range of state social control by bringing ‘responsible’ elements under thorough statutory legislation. Another option could be allowing non-state policing a degree of autonomy as long as the legitimacy of the state is acknowledged. Further findings are:
- The social benefits of a choice of policing include the provision of a social safety net where state policing is inadequate, the potential for locally sensitive community governance of policing, and the potential for complementary private and state policing services.
- The possible disadvantages of non-state providers include: unequal provision and access; the promotion of social exclusion through discrimination against certain social groups; the use of violence as warning and punishment with no presumption of innocence; and inadequate accountability, which can lead to the facilitation of illegal activity.
Holistic development and security programmes offer great potential, but the logistics of joined-up governance are problematic in a context of rivalry and overstretched resources.
Governments have four main policy options regarding non-state policing, and these could be used in combination. They are:
- partnership to extend order and security (through open cooperation, incorporation or co-optation);
- regulation to bring all policing and law and order systems under legislative control;
- deregulation and delegation, which could involve giving policing responsibilities to state and local government; and
- criminalisation by defining parameters of what is acceptable, although this may be difficult to enforce.
- tackle the underlying social issues that cause conflict and necessitate alternatives to the state police;
- create complaints ombudsmen, use civic education to promote knowledge of the law, provide better access to justice in state courts, and consider reforming the police and justice systems (to simplify procedures, for example);
- recognise that partnership with non-state policing providers would not reduce state duties but would involve active collaboration, support and coordination; and
- provide oversight of non-state policing through a single supervisory body and a national policy.