At the Office
At work this week I continued to research and write my reports on internal security law in Nigeria and Tunisia. There are a number of similarities between the countries I’ve researched so far. All but one were French colonies, and as a result their security apparatuses reflect the highly centralized French security model. In this system, security forces are divided into two groups: armed forces (i.e. the military) and internal security forces. Internal security forces are further subdivided into two or three entities: national police, gendarmerie, and sometimes a national guard. The national police and gendarmerie generally serve the same functions, and the difference lies in their territorial jurisdictions. While national police operate in urban and peri-urban areas, gendarmerie are (sort of) a paramilitary force that provides policing services in rural areas. Additionally, this system often differentiates between administrative functions – essentially maintaining law and order – and judicial functions – conducting criminal investigations. The national guard also engages in many of the same activities, and coordination frequently seems to be a problem.
In addition to institutional similarities, the security environments have common elements. Each state is battling armed terrorist groups and institutionalized corruption. Additionally, although they are supposed to defend against external military threats, the military frequently is deployed within the territories of each of these countries and tends to be the favored security force.
The exception is Tunisia. For fifty-four years Tunisia was a dictatorship, and both regimes feared coups. As a result, they drastically underfunded and underutilized the military as compared to internal security forces and other countries. When protests erupted in the 2011 and internal security forces were unable to quash them, the military felt no loyalty to the Ben Ali regime. As he and many police officers fled, Tunisia’s armed forces filled the security vacuum.
Nigeria’s security sector is also different from the rest as a result of its English colonial history. While the French system contains multiple bodies with overlapping jurisdiction, there are only two distinct forces in Nigeria: the armed forces and the national police. Nigeria is a federal system, and so one might expect that it would have a decentralized police force. However, Nigeria’s police system is and has largely always been highly centralized; no other police force is permitted to exist under the 1999 Constitution. Although a police commissioner within each state is responsible for administering and operating the police force in that state, they are ultimately subject to the authority of the Inspector-General, who in turn is subject to the authority of the president.
Each country’s legal system is deeply rooted in its history, both in terms of the formal rules that structure the system and how it operates in practice. This holds true across countries, regions, and legal systems. It is a reminder that the problems facing developing countries are holistic and interdisciplinary, and therefore it is crucial for any aid worker to have a multidisciplinary perspective. Through this internship I am learning the importance of security-related issues to every day life and the ways in which insecurity affects macroeconomic development at a personal level.
I also had a little fun this past weekend. It started with a half Tough Mudder in Doswell, Virginia on Saturday. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to try, just to see if I could do it, but I’ve never been in good enough shape. I’m still not in good enough shape, but a half event sounded doable. It’s only six miles and ten obstacles as opposed to 12 miles and 20 or so obstacles. Somehow, running the first mile and half in the 90-degree heat seemed to be hardest part.
The runner-up involved a 13 foot half-pipe that I had to run towards at full speed and pray that I got high enough to (1) grab the top and pull my self up or (2) have someone already at the top grab my arms and help drag me over the lip. As I stood in line and watched others succeed or fail, I was sure that I would fall and knock out my teeth. Somehow I made it (via option two), and by the end of the course I was the dirtiest I’ve ever been. Even after a wash my socks still have dirt in them. The next day I drove back to the city and explored a little. I had lunch on H Street and then took the metro to the National Portrait Gallery before succumbing to the soreness and exhaustion of the prior day.