Mar 05 2010

Police reform in Nigeria — around Africa — is essential

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 11:33 AM

The widespread killings by Nigeria’s trigger-happy police are receiving welcome condemnation from government officials. Today even the country’s police minister joined in the chorus of complaints about police brutality. Will fresh attention lead to reforms?

Nigeria is not alone in seeking a new approach to policing. Kenya also faces an urgent need for police reforms. Indeed, across Africa, there’s probably no more important improvement to be made in civil society. While the U.S. in its foreign policy continues to emphasize assistance to the armies of Africa, the triumph of civil society and nominal democracy has meant that policemen and policewomen, not soldiers, are on the front lines of securing law and order in African cities and rural areas.

In general, Africa’s police use to heavy a hand against alleged criminals and legal protesters. In Kenya and Nigeria both, police have maintained informal death squads in a misguided attempt to rid the streets of armed robbers and others who prey on the poor and the weak.

Some African countries continue to have police forces that are too weak rather than too strong. South Africa needs more effective police, for instance.

Whether to aggressive or too passive, police forces across Africa need to strive for a higher standard. Civil activists within countries — and across the globe — should strive not only to expose “extrajudicial” killings by police, and other forms of brutality, but they must also provide concrete suggestions on police improvments.

The media also has a special role to play. African journalists should make “the police beat” among the m0st important on their papers. Close monitoring of police behavior, including the taking of bribes as well as the taking of lives, could be the most effective way for the media to assist in Africa’s social uplift.

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