P080 – Blue and Green Lines: Police and Military Institutions in Africa
8 July, 16:00 – 17:30

Owen Olly / Oxford University


African states are characterised by a wide array of state security forces. These armed bureaucracies, with a legal and political mandate to use violence to enforce order, represent a broad ensemble of police, militaries and paramilitaries, including autonomous anti-terror forces, gendarmes, state-run militias, regime security units, community police and others. Across the continent, they share a security landscape with each other, and with non-state security providers, in shifting arrays of competition, collaboration and contestation. They are both used to collectively mobilise wider society and collectively mobilise their own personnel. Militaries, police forces and paramilitaries are prominent in the reshaping of contemporary African public spheres to competing historical and trans-national influences, visions and traditions in policing and military affairs. Yet their everyday practices, formation, sense of identity and production of norms are rarely examined. Building on recent ethnographic scholarship, this panel will explore deeper into the functioning and symbolic dimensions of police and military institutions across the continent.

Les lignes bleues et vertes: la police et les institutions militaires en Afrique
Les États africains sont caractérisés par un grand nombre de forces de sécurité de l’État qui ont un mandat juridique et politique à utiliser la violence pour faire respecter l’ordre; ils représentent un vaste ensemble de la police, des militaires et des paramilitaires, y compris les forces autonomes anti-terroristes, des gendarmes, des milices d’Etat, les unités de la sécurité du régime, de la police de la communauté et d’autres. Partout sur le continent, ils partagent un paysage de la sécurité avec l’autre, et avec les fournisseurs de sécurité non-étatiques, dans des tableaux variés et changeants de la concurrence, de la collaboration et de contestation. Ils sont tous deux utilisés pour mobiliser collectivement la société en général et collectivement mobiliser leur propre personnel. Pourtant, leurs pratiques quotidiennes, la formation, le sens de l’identité et de la production des normes sont rarement examinées. S’appuyant sur la bourse ethnographique récente, ce panel va traiter ressemblent du fonctionnement et des dimensions symboliques de la police et des institutions militaires à travers le continent.

Paper 1

Dwyer Maggie / Univeristy of Edinburgh

Mutinies in Burkina Faso: Mirroring and Perpetuating Instability

In Burkina Faso in 2011, mass military mutinies followed widespread civilian protests, indicating a crisis of confidence for President Compaoré. While Compaoré weathered the 2011 storm, the uprising was a precursor to the events that brought an end to his twenty-seven year rule in 2014. A detailed look at the mutinies will show that the junior soldiers’ actions symbolized severe tensions within the military. Although the mutineers never united with the demonstrators, their grievances mirrored those of the civilians. This overlap between civilian and military demands is part of a complex history between the two sectors. The unique civilian-military relationship can be seen in the way popular culture has engaged the issue of mutinies through mediums such as a play, movie, and music video.
This presentation is based on field research in Burkina Faso, which included interviews with military personnel, government officials, journalists, and civil society leaders. It will highlight the internal military dynamics that contributed to the uprisings in 2011. The presentation will also put the revolts into a historic context and show that the actions were part of a series of mutinies, which have been occurring since the late 1990s. The case of mutinies in Burkina Faso is valuable in providing a more nuanced view of the role junior soldiers within wider society in Africa as well as ways that unrest in civilian society affects the military.

Paper 2

Glasman Joel / Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

« N’atteint pas la taille requise » What does it take to be a good cop?

Lunch break in front of the Maison des Anciens Combattants. A couple of NCOs discuss the performance of a colleague, considering his strengths and weaknesses. The sergeant receives praise for his discipline, his experience and his good understanding of security matters. But a particular point attracts severe criticism and risks to counterbalance all aforementioned qualities: did the sergeant reach the minimum height for recruitment? The sergeant had served for two decades in the army in spite of being shorter than the required 1,70m. But even at the moment of his retirement, his size is still a matter of discussion, calling his whole career in question. Soldiers and policemen frequently judge the careers of their comrades-in-arms. In these discussions, they mix official (school level, writing skills, size, physical features, etc.) and informal criteria (ethnicity, attitudes, relations, etc.) to compare professional capabilities. Thus, they are continually enacting the hierarchies of their profession through the prism of individual cases, taking positions towards particular persons as well as towards their institution. Questioning the service of a colleague because he does not meet minimum height makes a statement both about this colleague and about the institution which hired him anyway. This paper, drawing on empirical material from Togo, argues for a historical understanding of professional qualifications in security forces.

Paper 3

Hills Alice / Durham University

Inequality of opportunity: Police-military relations in the 2010s

The relationship between police and military forces in Africa has not received the attention it deserves, and too many analyses are based on inaccurate premises. Specifically, it is frequently claimed that contemporary security developments are blurring the boundaries between the two forces. In fact, the distinction remains strong. Not only are police accorded secondary status, but also most are unable or unwilling to take on the high profile political role pursued by many militaries. Regardless of rhetoric, regime and resources, senior officers rarely build power bases comparable to those of the military, and while police manage elections they rarely play a prominent or overt role in coups or business. In other words, police accommodate political change; they perpetuate rather than create political order, and functional and political boundaries remain in place. The implications of this for a sub-field of police-military relations are assessed.

Paper 4

Kagoro Jude / Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIS) University of Bremen

Police Practices in Uganda: Between Ordering, Regime Security and Professionalization

Based ethnographic observations coupled with interviews with police officers and a wide range of citizens, the proposed paper will discuss police practices in Uganda. The paper will argue that the police in Uganda seem to function between regime security, ordering and professionalization constellation. In the last decade or so, the force appears to have on one hand developed closer ideological ties with the incumbent regime and also involved in political policing while on the other professionalising and improving its capacity to order society. The incumbent regime, the National Resistance Movement, has deployed military generals to head the police and consequently the force has adopted military models or violence-centric means of problem solving especially in the course of handling political demonstrations. On the other hand however, the same force is professionalising by attracting highly educated personnel, acquiring modernized equipment, attracting substantial state funding and implementing an effective command and control structure. Above all, citizens report cases at police stations in large numbers and seem to have increased confidence in the force. Certainly, the paper will make a scholarly contribution to the on-going debate on policing and police practices in Africa and beyond.

Paper 5

Asamoah Agyekum Humphrey / University of Copenhagen

On sticks and peps: the everyday practices of officer- man relations in the Ghana Armed Forces

The everydayness of being a soldier anywhere is shaped by relations of hierarchy, i.e. rank and seniority. Peps on officers’ shoulders mark their position in the military hierarchy. The background of the peps also indicates unit cohesion and identity. The soldiers’ internalized positioning vis-à-vis the rank and unit displayed in the peps is reflected in the etiquette of paying compliments and responding with the adequate unit salutation. In the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), the peps symbolize the Presidential commission which the officer has received upon graduating from the Ghana Military Academy. Thus symbolically, disobeying orders by an officer is disobeying the orders of the President himself. While peps are solely indicative, particular ranks and positions come with the privilege of carrying command sticks or canes of various uses. For example, at the weekly Master Parade, the Regimental Sergeant Major will appear with his Pace stick tacked under his left armpit to amplify hi s authority. While it is primarily ceremonial on this occasion, it is also used to demarcate the parade’s parameters prior to the event. This paper zooms in on everyday practices and material objects of the GAF as sources of identity and norm formation. The symbolic expression of authority in these objects and practices and their recognition by the parties involved generate and reproduce on a daily basis the normative ground of officer- men relations.

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