At independence many states in Africa anticipated a national police force that would provide universal, effective and just protection from crime and disorder. However, after 40 years of independence it has become apparent that African governments are not willing or able to provide the level of service they had promised. The explanation is partly financial, but it is also true that weak states often choose “regime stability and narrow sectional interests over public safety considerations” or at times are simply guilty of “malevolent indifference” (Goldsmith 2003:4,7; Hills 2000). As regards offering protection for citizens, state police are widely perceived as indifferent, inept, inefficient and corrupt (Adu-Mireku 2002; Chukwuma 2000; Shaw 2002). Even worse, there are many occasions when the police, pursuing their own or regime interests, commit extra-judicial killings, beat detainees, use excessive force, arbitrarily arrest and detain persons, and act in collusion with criminals (see annual reports of the US Department of State, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International). Given their regime-determined agenda, it is not surprising that police who commit such abuses are rarely investigated or punished.
Bibliographical noteThis is an electronic version of an article published in Journal of Contemporary African Studies (2002) Vol. 22 (2): 165-188. The Journal fo Contemporary African Studies is available online at InformaworldTM http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713622544~db=all~order=page
- abuse of power
- national police force