P089 – Security, State and Society in Africa
10 July, 09:00 – 10:30

Murunga Godwin / Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi
Sjogren Anders / Nordic Africa Institute


Issues of (in)security are becoming increasingly significant in shaping politics and society in Africa. Recent events in Nigeria and Kenya demonstrate that security issues are characterised by multiplying threats and inadequate responses. The two cases mark a growing trend characterised by an uneasy relationship between security, state and society in contemporary Africa; a trend that stems from how ruling elites have structured security in state-centric terms. As a consequence, large segments of society, when they are not the object of repressive forms of law and order, have been excluded from state security considerations. It has however become increasingly difficult for ruling elite to reign in the larger society into such narrow security arrangements. Accompanying rapid social change are new security threats, many of which defy territorial boundaries. In the absence of adequate political responses, social forms of handling these threats have emerged, including informal groupings which present their own security dynamics. Custodians of the state are thus confronted with the alternatives of preserving state security interests or transforming security thinking and practice. What are the implications for security arrangements in a broad sense of the parallel tendencies of reinforced state security, attempts to reform this, and informal security provision? This panel seeks to interrogate these issues. It welcomes theoretical, empirical and comparative contributions.


Paper 1

Diphoorn Tessa / University of Amsterdam

Unraveling the private of the security assemblage in Nairobi

In this paper, we explore how private security companies operate within the larger security assemblage of Nairobi, Kenya. Nairobi is regarded as a hotspot of urban insecurity, where high crime rates and recurrent terrorist attacks largely impact the daily lives of its citizens. As many consider the state police to be inefficient in tackling these security issues, citizens are increasingly entrusting private security companies to provide residential and commercial security. In this paper, we will focus on the security performances enacted by private security companies and present a two-fold analysis. On the one hand, we argue that the growth of private security raises pertinent questions about citizenship and belonging as it consolidates particular social divisions. This process reveals tensions in the relationship between citizens and the nation-state and its apparatuses, such as the state police. Yet on the other hand, we also show that the security performances enacted by private security companies are embedded within the larger security assemblage through recurrent interaction with other policing bodies. Private security companies thus habitually negotiate for legitimation and authority with, through and by the state, thereby resulting in hybrid forms of political sovereignty. We thus argue that the role of private security companies in policing the streets of Nairobi must be analyzed in relation to other actors within a security assemblage framework.

Paper 2

Habyarimana Jean-Bosco / University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Electoral Violence Prevention in Multi-Ethnic Countries: The Role of Middle-range Leaders in the 2013 Elections in Kenya

Electoral violence has become a type of political violence that is gaining momentum in the literature of democratization and state building in Africa, especially in ‘conflict-prone countries’, raising interests on how to prevent it. Indeed, electoral violence is a subset of political violence that poses threat to state security due to its recurrent trend and potential for devastating destruction of efforts for national transformation. This research seeks to relate the 2013 peaceful elections in Kenya to electoral violence prevention in multi-ethnic countries. Specifically, the study intends to determine the role of intermediary level leaders in the avoidance of violence during the 2013 elections, and how this informs the prevention of electoral violence in Kenya. The study is built upon the assumption that mid-level leaders such as civil society organizations, the media, and community/traditional/administrative leaders are among politically relevant groups who have agency in national politics of Kenya. It therefore aims at exploring this agency in the context of the 2013 peaceful elections in Kenya, for the purpose of contributing to the literature on electoral violence prevention.

Paper 3

Tapscott Rebecca / The Fletcher School

The State Has Long Hands: Community Security Groups and Arbitrary Governance in Acholiland

This paper examines community security initiatives (CSIs) as providers of (in)security in Northern Uganda where state control is believed to be weak or absent after a two-decades long conflict. I combine four months of ethnographic research on CSIs with a regressions analysis of a 1,887-household survey in the same region to explore (1) Where do CSIs arise and why? (2) What types of CSIs exist? (e.g. who joins them, what they do, and what symbols they adopt), and (3) What determines these differences? I explore “institutionalized arbitrariness”, comprised of: (1) how the central government can leverage the recent history of conflict to justify defining and intervening against perceived security threats, and (2) how the population’s hope for peace renders such responses legitimate, even when they appear arbitrary and unfair. I examine how the central state shapes the local legal and political environment, while also engaging directly with local security issues.Unlike other types of boundary institutions, the regulation and control of the public use of violence is essential to their purpose. This study puts into relief what is (not) understood as legitimate use of violence and what this says about the nature of the state-society relationship.

Paper 4

Sefa-Nyarko Clement / University of Ghana

Gender and Perceptions of Personal Security in Ghana

Peace and security are sine qua non for development. They are not synonymous with political stability, as personal security is compromised through crime, persecution and public disorder. Perceptions of personal security determine people’s participation in social, economic and political activities. Ghana is a typical politically stable country that has deficits in personal security. In 2013, Ghana ranked 7th in the overall Ibrahim Index of African Governance, scoring 70.8% on Safety and Rule of Law, but 52.5% on personal safety. Personal insecurity occurs when a person’s productive and dignified life patterns are interfered by the fear and occurrence of violence and crime. None of the explanations offered in Ghana has considered gender as important determinant of personal (in)security. Men and women perceive crime, violence and threats differently based on their socialization, and deeper studies into these perceptions is crucial to policy in the face of persistent gender inequality, and in spite of changing global trends. This is the gap this study hopes to fill, and would define personal security as one of the cardinal determinants of Human Security. The source of data for this study is the Ghana Living Standards Survey (2012-2013), which has questionnaire on Governance, Peace and Security. Six questions on perceptions of safety would be scored to create an index for perception of security, and gender would be the main independent variable.

Paper 5

Okafor-Yarwood Ifesinachi / African Leadership Centre, King’s College London

Understanding Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea from the Human Security nexus

With the rise in attacks and attempted attacks on marine-based critical infrastructure, maritime security is increasingly becoming a topic of interest in the international community, as well as in the African subcontinent. It follows that the concept has almost always being conceptualized from the traditional security nexus, where security of the territories (in this case, maritime domain) is paramount. This is accentuated by the claim that African government continue to reel in a period of “optional sea blindness” (Vrēy, 2013). Whereby a lot of emphasis is given to inland security, while paying less attention to ensuring that threat to and from the sea is abridged.
Further, despite all attempts, albeit militarized to securitize the sea, respective government in African littoral states (particularly the Gulf of Guinea) have failed to ameliorate the situation. This is especially because maritime threats such as piracy/armed robbery at sea, human/drug trafficking and illegal fishing is prevalent in the region. Given this impasse, this paper proposes to explore the idea of securitizing the maritime domain from another angle, i.e. the human security.
This is pertinent, particularly since threats to the maritime domain are increasingly non traditional, as well as having severe socio-economic and environmental consequences on communities in Africa, as shown with the Somalia example.

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