Models of African Policing:
Many years of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa have been accompanied by economic, political, and social dislocation that, taken in conjunction with the uncertainty resulting from the end of the cold war, reduced many commentators to judgments expressed in pathological terms. 1 The apparent irrational breakdown of recognizable order has meant that attention to policing has been slight even though contemporary conflict is characterized by developments (such as the mobilization of children) that will have implications for policing. 2 Of greater importance for this study is that it is in such extreme circumstances that the attributes of police systems are most clearly seen.
No matter how depressing, such circumstances are rarely beyond hope, so I call the fifth phase of the model “transition, ” rather than borrowing a term from pathology. It is based on situations that combine a fragmented state, endemic tension or conflict, and a disintegrated police system. It may involve both crisis and recovery. It is an artificial classification—Uganda in 1986 could qualify for inclusion—but it is taken to apply to situations where there has been a continuing absence of central state authority and institutional capacity. Policing in this context is consequently seen as a local effort or as part of factional politics, in the absence of a single dominant unifying organization (such as Museveni's NRA).
I use three very different examples to illustrate the main arguments associated with the model: Somalia, the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland, and Congo (Zaire). I turn first to policing in Somalia because it provides the most extreme example of what happens to a national police force once conflict has broken a state apart, leaving it existing in name only. I contrast the situation with that in Somaliland, where societal groups took over policing directly, just as they do on a smaller scale in other societies. For the way in which the police force disintegrated as political power in