Paper on arrest in Africa released

PPJA has released a paper exploring the issues around arrest in Africa. The paper considers the historical roots of policing in Africa and how these have been translated in the post-colonial context. The paper suggests not all people are at an equal risk of arrest, but rather that it is the poor, powerless and out-groups that are at a higher risk of arrest. The report concludes with a number of recommendations, calling for further research, decriminalisation of certain offences, and restructuring of the police in African countries.
Some extracts from the paper by Muntingh
 
"The purpose of arrest and subsequent detention (first police detention and then pre-trial detention in a prison) of a suspect is essentially to ensure the attendance of the person in court or for another just cause. The police’s  powers of arrest are, in theory, curtailed to the extent that the arresting officer must be able to provide reasons for the arrest and continued police detention. It is because arrest and detention is a prima facie interference in the right to liberty, that the powers of arrest are limited and, if challenged, that the onus is upon the state to show why the arrest was executed and the suspect detained." 
 
"Most African states have legal requirements for a court to mandate the continued detention of an accused or order release at the first court appearance following arrest. Where detention is ordered, the intention is to transfer the suspect to a prison if bail is not granted or the case not immediately resolved. Practice, however, tells a different story and suspects often remain in police custody for much longer than the legal requirement. Statistical data on this duration is hard to come by and data on the proportion of cases that proceed from police detention to first court appearance is even scarcer. Some data has, however, been generated in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia  which affirms that that a substantial number of suspects are, after arrest, detained by the police for anything from a few hours to several days, and even longer, without ever being charged or appearing in court. For them, arrest and detention is a summary punishment, without their guilt or innocence ever being ascertained."
 
"The roots of African policing lie in Europe, but the model replicated was not the European model of civilian policing, but rather one that protected the ruling white colonial elite and aimed at social control, the vestiges of which are still visible in many jurisdictions. It is important to note from the outset that the focus is here on formal policing and not on other expressions of African policing documented in the literature. The formal police force, uniformed and employed by the state is but one form of policing in Africa. Baker notes that self-policing constitutes the historical norm, with state policing existing in parallel, or even obscuring but never eradicating it. In his survey of African policing he identifies the following as expressions of what he calls ‘multi-choice policing’: the mob, informal security groups (vigilantes), religious police, ethnic/clan militias, political party militia groups, civil defence forces, informal commercial security groups, formal commercial security groups, customary courts and police, and dispute resolution forums. The extent to which these other expressions of policing link up with and interact with the more formal policing (and criminal justice system) is uncertain and may vary greatly from one jurisdiction to another."
 
"An important feature of colonial policing was the creation of a range of offences to be used as a means to bring the local population under criminal justice control: Not only did the Europeans use armed policing, but just as importantly, they equipped themselves with ‘a legal arsenal of arbitrary regulations to carry out [their] responsibilities: diverse master-and-servant ordinances, specified periods of obligatory labour service at state defined tasks, plenary powers to local administrators to impose penalties for disobedience’. Charges of ‘vagrancy’, ‘prostitution’, ‘beer brewing’, ‘smuggling’, ‘poaching’, membership of an ‘unlawful society’, ‘native witchcraft’ and the catch-all ‘public nuisance’ were used to criminalize Africans, to control their labour and to repatriate them to ‘native’ areas. This legal framework enabled the police to tackle legalistically what it had previously accomplished militaristically. State law provided the technical procedures and the bureaucratic framework that enabled the police to rationalise their activities as law enforcement."
 
"In the following decades most independent African states adopted some form of authoritarianism. Under these regimes police forces were poorly funded and trained, and subject to insecurity, political interference, and
economic depression. Being irregularly paid, police officers were unreliable and open to corruption and often became predatory in their practices.For example, a 2002 report by Transparency International found that on
average each Kenyan had been forced to bribe the police four-and-a-half times a month, paying them on average US $16 per month, and that 95% of interactions with the police resulted in a bribe. A description of the Sierra
Leone police from the late 1960s to the 1990s is true of many African police forces: ‘a litany of oppressive policing, nepotism and corruption that undermined public confidence in the police… skills were not sought after and officers were illiterate. The police were not given uniforms, training or equipment."
 
"In Nigeria, police officers from the mobile unit are referred to as ‘kill and go’; the traffic police in Kenya are called TKK – Toa kitu kidogo – Swahili for ‘give something small’; in Ghana, police are often chided as ‘koti’ because of their tendency to harass the public; in Sierra Leone during the APC era the internal security unit (ISU) was known as ‘I shoot you’ and when they changed their name to Special Security Division (SSD) they became known as ‘Siaka Stevens’ [the President’s] Dogs’; in Cameroon police are referred to as ‘Mange-milles’ – thousand eaters – in reference to the customary bribe of 1000 CfA."
 
"Despite these negative perceptions of the police, it is accepted in the security sector reform discourse that policing and concerns about policing are central to national development, economic growth, socio-political progress,
maintenance of sustainable peace, durable security and the consolidation of democracy in transition societies. Proactive and credible policing forms part of what is needed to advance peace and development and its absence
creates conditions for violence and instability. Security should also be seen in a broader context as human security and that it forms an important part of people’s well-being and is therefore an objective of development.
A lack of human security impacts negatively on economic growth and thus on poverty and development. In turn, the lack of development and growing inequality are important causes of conflict. An effective and efficient police force operating according to the rule of law, human rights standards and good governance principles is an essential requirement for development and human security."

 

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