The past two weeks at USIP have been incredibly busy. With my departure impending and four country reports to work through, there was never a dull moment. In addition to working on the reports, I researched strategies and approaches to non-state community policing forces, such as the CJTF and other vigilante groups in Nigeria and the Kogl-weogo in Burkina Faso.
The predominant approach to dealing with armed, non-state actors is disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), a process that historically has focused on disarming and drawing down non-state armed groups, whether anti- or pro-government, post-conflict. DDR emphasizes integrating combatants into existing or reformed state security structures, or, alternatively, reintegrating them back into the community. Alternatively, a hybrid security approach emphasizes the co-existence and interaction of multiple state and non-state security providers, recognizing that there may be multiple sources of authority and governance.
Given the resource constraints of formal security forces in Sahel countries, as well as the continued prevalence of customary authority, hybrid security appears to be the most relevant approach. With this in mind, I began searching for examples of countries with armed community policing initiatives, ultimately researching these initiatives and state responses to them in Libya, Uganda, Tanzania, Liberia, Mexico, and Peru.
One interesting dynamic that emerged is whether or not these groups can even be considered customary. In many of my case study countries, the community policing initiatives emerged due to specific circumstances, but they were based on customary institutions. However, among the Kogl-weogo and CJTF, the customary basis is less clear. These groups arose due to recent security threats; however, there is nothing to say that newer institutions can’t qualify as customary. Customary law and the bodies that perpetuate and enforce it are not static. Therefore, as long as these groups adhere the norms and authority of customary law, they could legally recognized and legitimated as an informal component of the security sector. There are a lot of factors and perspectives to consider in this project. Unfortunately, time did not permit me to take it as far as I would like.
Ultimately, I had a great experience with USIP this summer. I learned quite a bit about a new sector of international development and post-conflict situations, broadening my perspective and knowledge base significantly. Thank you to everyone at USIP who made the experience so worthwhile!