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Community Policing in Burkina Faso

Earlier this month, QuophyBlogeur wrote about community policing in Burkina Faso, an innovative and promising concept which has thus far proven less than stellar in practice.

This post, I must admit, struck me because this is the kind of story that will almost never make the international press, but will always matter to ordinary people and the communities where people live their lives.

Community policing, QuophyBlogeur writes, aspires to be a new kind of security based on, “a new partnership between security forces and the population” [FR]:

Par cet aménagement de la gestion de la sécurité, les services compétents devront s’intégrer aux collectivités locales pour mieux connaître leurs préoccupations en termes de besoins sécuritaires tandis que les populations doivent être désormais impliquées dans la prévention de la criminalité et des troubles à l’ordre public.

Under this security arrangement, the relevant services are to integrate with the local communities to better understand their concerns in terms of security needs while the local populations are now to be involved in the prevention of crime and disruptions of public order.

Local Security Committees (CLS) were created in 1998, but QuophyBlogeur describes how with a lack of information and training, the project never really got off the ground. Similarly, a measure for community policing was passed in May 2003, but is only just now being put into effect, however haltingly, thanks to renewed interest in the concept on the part of Colonel Assane Sawadogo, made Minister of Security last summer.

QuophyBlogeur says that despite Assane's professed optimism, early results have not been promising:

Bien qu’ils n’aient pas exhibé d’indices publics d’efficacité de cette nouvelle approche de sécurité intérieure, Assane Sawadogo a fait un «bilan positif» du mouvement enclenché par son prédécesseur. Mais son optimisme n’en semble pas moins démenti sur le terrain. Rien que le week-end dernier, les coupeurs de route ont encore fait parler d’eux sur les axes routiers Fada-Diapaga dans la région de l’Est et Ouaga-Dori dans le Sahel. Dans la capitale, le crime crapuleux perpétré par le jeune Abbas Damen sur Idrissa Ouédraogo, dit Daouda, agent de change à l’aéroport, a plongé le pays dans l’émoi et la consternation. Ce n’est donc pas du pain qui manque sur la planche de la lutte contre l’insécurité et le grand banditisme.

Although no clues about this new approach to internal security's efficacy have been made public, Assane Sawadago has given the movement set in motion by his predecessor “high marks.” But his optimism doesn't seem any less contradicted [by the reality] on the ground. Just last weekend, “les coupeurs de route” [bandits who set up illegal roadblocks to extort money] made headlines again on the Fada-Diapaga highways in the Eastern region and in Ouga-Dori, in the Sahel. In the capital, a despicable crime committed by Abbas Damen, a youth, against Idrissa Ouedraogo, also known as Daouda, the foreign money changer at the airport, has plunged the country into shock and anxiety. So there is no shortage targets in the struggle against insecurity and organized crime.

QuophyBlogeur also questions more broadly the efficacy of the concept, particularly given Burkina Faso's history with other mass organizations:

Que peuvent véritablement les Comités locaux de sécurité? En les confinant au simple rôle de «prévention», ne coure-t-on pas le risque de les transformer en de sulfureux cercles de délation ou milices au service de gourous paranoïaques qui voient des ennemis partout? Ces questions méritent d’être posées, surtout dans un contexte sociopolitique où l’on a visiblement du mal à se défaire des réflexes de défense de chapelles politiques. Le ministère de la Sécurité aura-t-il les coudées franches pour éviter aux CLS certaines dérives des CDR – entendez les fameux Comités de défense de la Révolution – qui continuent de hanter certains?

What can the Local Committees of Security really do? By confining them to the simple role of “prevention,” don't we run the risk of transforming them into demonic circles of denouncements or militias in the service of paranoid gurus who see enemies all around? These questions deserve to be asked, especially in a sociopolitical context where it is visibly difficult to undo the defense mechanisms of the church of politics. Will the Minister of Security have the room to help the CLS [Local Committees of Security] avoid some of the legacies of the CDR — the famous Committees of Defense of the Revolution–that continue to haunt some?

Whatever the newfound optimism, the greatest challenge, QuophyBlogeur explains, remains securing the necessary financial and technical support in a country still struggling with the basics:

Aussi innovante que puisse paraître l’idée de la police de proximité, elle ne pose pas moins le problème des moyens pour sa réalisation. Sur les 350 départements que compte le Burkina, il y en a au moins 160 qui n’ont aucune structure de sécurité. En 2005, le ministère avait évalué à 18 milliards de francs CFA le montant de l’enveloppe nécessaire pour la construction des infrastructures et leur équipement ainsi que le recrutement d’un effectif supplémentaire de 5 760 agents de police. Malheureusement, ce programme ne semble pas emballer les bailleurs de fonds. Seulement la France vient de se manifester par la signature d’une convention dont la contribution est évaluée à 1,5 milliard. L’Etat lui-même n’a pu réunir que 790 millions. Entre les prévisions et les disponibilités financières, le fossé est encore grand. Les ambitions de la police sont visiblement à l’épreuve du nerf de la guerre…

As innovative as the idea of community policy may seem, there is also the problem of funding its realizaton. Of the 350 counties that comprise Burkina, there are at least 160 that have absolutely no security infrastructure. In 2005, the Ministry estimated that a sum of 18 billion CFA francs would be necessary to construct the infrastructures and secure the equipment as well as recruit 5,760 additional police officers. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem this [community policing] program is brining in the financers. Only France has made an appearance, inking an aggreement for a 1.5 billion CFA franc contribution. The State itself wasn't able to put together more than 790 million. There is still a major gap between the projected and available funds. The ambitions of the police are visibly challenged by the war [for funding]

…La France est curieusement le seul et principal partenaire technique et financier du Burkina dans la mise en œuvre du concept de police de proximité. Cette idée, qui a été concoctée dans les années 90 aux bords de la Seine – sous le gouvernement socialiste de Lionel Jospin, entre 1997 et 2002- connaît des écueils et des fortunes diverses. «Police de proximité» ou «police proche des gens»? La polémique enfle en France. En attendant qu’elle démarre ici, il faut espérer que la rhétorique ne noie pas ce besoin essentiel qui est d’avoir plus de sécurité et donc des interventions promptes, sérieuses et efficaces aussi pour bien prévenir que pour traiter les cas avec diligence…

…France is curiously Burkina's sole and principal technical and financial partner in the implementation of this community policing concept. This idea, which was concocted in the 90s on the banks of the Seine–under Lionel Jospin's socialist government, between 1997 and 2002–met with its own stumbling blocks and various fortunes. “Community policing” or “police close to the people?” The debate swells in France. While waiting for it to arrive here, let's hope that the rhetoric does not drown this essential need which is to have more security and so prompt, serious and effect interventions to prevent as well as treat cases with diligence…

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