In their effort to restore law and order in instances where breaches of the peace have occurred, the police and military in Africa have often used lethal force that causes unnecessary suffering.
Lethal policing has often involved disfiguring people’s bodily dignities and honours. It has also caused wanton destruction to properties and sometimes involved maiming and killing even innocent bystanders. These brutalities tend to stir up negative public sentiment against the state that security officers mount to enforce public compliance to law and order.
The persistence of lethal policing poses the state not only as inept and incapable of properly attending to the basic survival, safety, well-being, and contentment needs of citizens; it also leads civilian populations to want to regard law enforcement officers as legitimate targets for violence when the police have sought to restore law and order. In the process, law enforcement officers brutalise civilian populations and civilians brutalise law enforcement officers at the least opportunity. This results in low trust in the commitment of governments to protect and safeguard people against insecurity.
Countries have sought to correct these consequences of poor policing of civilian matters, by engaging in security sector reforms that emphasise the discourse and practice of human security. Human security emphasises policing methods that are people-centred, and is hence, pro-life saving, compared to the state-centric approach that uses paramilitary methods and often results in unwarranted disfiguring of dignities and honours of civilian populations.
The shift from the state-centric approach is thus important. It especially recognises that citizens, and not just the state, should constitute the subject and object of police protection when security is breached. The shift allows us to locate security and law enforcement systems within the governance and development processes of countries.
Using the human security doctrine and its practice to enforce law and supply security can still be insufficient in efforts to end lethal policing in Africa. It is less explicit about whose agenda, either the state or citizens, ought to constitute the content of security and who should construct security contents. This indirectly allows the elite agenda that characterises state-centric security architecture and provision to gain dominant salience in the construction of collective security and insecurity contents.
The corrective for lethal policing, therefore, lies not in the practice of human security, but rather in the emergent concept of inclusive security. Inclusive security ensures civic voices about security architecture, content and provision are accepted by states as legitimate feelings and incorporated into the design of policing methods. It is people-centered just as human security but also has an immediate focus on the civic space which human security tends to lack.
Its focus is on the fostering of understanding between elites and citizens about security and insecurity contents and how security content is to be supplied. Inclusive security welcomes the state as the ultimate protector of collective security, but also requires the state to accept and incorporate civic voices into the design and delivery of security. This encourages citizens and elites to constantly engage in dialogue about the evolving phases of collective security needs. The inclusion empowers civilians and elites to co-own the design and supply of security.
Inclusive security can be fostered in Africa. This will however require credible reforms to the security architectures most countries inherited from their colonial creation. Security sector reforms have taken place since the return to democratic governance in the early 1990s.
These reforms have subordinated the security and law enforcement system to civil control. This has also frequently been taken to mean a subservient of security and law enforcement officers to ruling elites and denied effective civil scrutiny of relationships between law enforcement officers and political elites. It has particularly created opportunities for political elites to securitise collective security needs according to policy preferences but portray civic concerns about such preferences as having motivations to cause unnecessary fear and panic.
This posture not only delegitimises efforts to integrate the civic space into collective security but can also stifle real concerns of security threats until they have become massive. It also creates a condition whereby the security and law enforcement systems can become distanced from civilian populations.
The way to actualise inclusive security in these contexts requires countries to adjust their security and law enforcement systems to accommodate civic voices and allow for their civic spaces to be included in security contents and policing methods. This will then position law enforcement officers to safeguard not just the human being in insecurity situations but also restore law and order devoid of the use of paramilitary methods that tend to cause unnecessary sufferings.
The author, Sulley Ibrahim (PhD) is a Security Analyst.