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Law Enforcement Capacity building in African Postconflict Communities

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Journal Article

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Coventry University Coventry United Kingdom

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Postconflict is, unfortunately, not always a suitable descriptor of societies where a peace agreement has been signed and a transitional government installed. Violence does not stop on the day of the public signing of the treaty. Large numbers of unemployed and in the short term unemployable youths, often armed or with access to arms, loiter on the streets. They have had little opportunity to gain education in the preceding years, but have learned that violence is the key to accessing resources and status. The former security forces or informal armed groups and militias that they have been part of have, over many years, provided a whole range of roles social support group, family, employer, provider, escape ladder from rural poverty, and source of status. Hence, whether these groups are officially disbanded or not, the youths look to their former general-patron and their ex-fighting colleagues as their surrogate clan in times of trouble. Violence may well live on in their minds, dreams, responses to conflict resolution, attitudes toward women, and methods of securing resources. No wonder, then, that the crime rates escalate in the cities where they now live, and no wonder that some militias remain in the countryside, looting and robbing, despite the official end of the war. In such a postconflict environment, I recommend that serious consideration be given to the role that nonstate law enforcement actors can have. I do so against a background of increasing interest by policy think tanks and donors in the role of local law enforcement groups in delivering safety and justice for the poor. When I mention nonstate actors, the first thing that comes to mind for many is the young men whose militias and armed groups originally created the insecurity. The response is a quick dismissal of the idea that such people could provide law enforcement and defend the new order. But this is not what is being suggested.

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  • Sociology and Law

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