The security situation in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa is unstable, and the effects of many of the armed conflicts that took place the past can still be felt. Even today, situations can quickly turn violent. The police are often under-staffed, not well trained and prone to corruption. And there is a lack of materials and equipment. Moreover, police officers often come from former rival groups.
On behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is currently cooperating with police institutions in eight African states as well as the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the East Africa Standby Force. A priority area of the programme is to professionalise police forces by providing improved training. Courses teach officers about international standards on criminal investigations and forensics, border security, human rights and dealing with victims of sexual violence. Since 2009, around 9,000 police officers have received training. For Honorine Munyole, who heads South Kivu police station in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this has made a real difference, ‘Unfortunately, there are lots of rape cases in this area, but now we know how to secure any traces that a perpetrator leaves on a woman’s body and can often use this evidence to convict the man involved.’
GIZ also supports its partners with organisational development; in the Niger, for example, it is helping to develop strategies to improve human resource management. A structured career plan and clear promotion prospects boost the motivation of the country’s police officers.
When it comes to equipment and police infrastructure, too, GIZ provides its partners with flexible support tailored to the most urgent needs of each country. Since the start of the programme, 40 new police stations have been set up across nine countries, and 60 police stations in Côte d’Ivoire have received materials to help with the investigative process, for example with taking DNA samples and finger prints.
But what do these facts and figures mean for people’s everyday lives? Fidèle, father to 13-year-old Nicole, lives in South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. ‘My daughter was raped on her way home from school,’ he explains, ‘and the man threatened to kill her if she told anyone anything about it.’ But Nicole’s father went to the police to file a complaint. Even only a few years ago, he would never have considered taking such action as rape was deemed a trivial offence that the police did nothing about. Families often even forced victims to marry the perpetrator. That wasn’t an option for Fidèle. ‘I’ve never regretted putting my trust in the police. They investigated immediately, found and arrested the perpetrator and handed him over to the prosecutors. And he got the punishment he deserved.’
Citizens’ trust in the police is increasing as police officers become more professional. The foundation has been laid, but there is still a long way to go to establish a modern police system.
Last update: December 2016