Effectiveness of community-led security mechanisms in urban Eastern Africa: a research agenda

Effectiveness of community-led security mechanisms in urban Eastern Africa: a research agenda

In many African states, even in those states not afflicted by conflicts from the beginning, in reality, the state never managed to impose a monopoly on security. Moreover, in many cases the African states never developed ‘public’ security systems to protect all citizens without discrimination. The public police remained largely in the service of the elite in power. Consequently, the private-public demarcation remains largely superficial as even the ‘public’ security systems were largely in the service of those in power.

This study focuses on community-led mechanisms in the East African countries of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda and seeks to address two critical gaps with regard to the governance of security in low income urban neighborhoods in East Africa. The first gap has to do with the continued treatment of security as the preserve of the state. This reality is problematic in that it overlooks how the state’s monopoly over security is being challenged. The waning dominance of the state in the use of force calls for a better understanding of the emerging community-led mechanisms in enhancing public security.

The second gap that this study seeks to plug is a policy one. At the policy level the limited understanding of the effectiveness of community-led security mechanisms has contributed to the preoccupation with the need to increase the presence and numbers of the public police in low income urban neighborhoods as the only measure of securing the residents. This is in spite of the fact that in many instances, the public police are themselves the source of insecurity for the residents of low income urban neighborhoods, given their poor relations with the community as well as the policing models that see the residents of low income urban neighborhoods as predisposed to crime and therefore a category that should be the subject of surveillance, restriction and punishment.

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