'The people need security'

'Tracking down offenders'

Interview with Martin Weiß, GIZ

giz2016-Martin-Weiss

GIZ has been supporting police forces in Africa for many years on behalf of Germany's Federal Foreign Office. Why is that necessary?

The people need security. Just like we do. They need protection against serious crimes such as rape or murder and safeguarding against acts of terrorism, like the kind perpetrated by Boko Haram. We have trained police officers to international standards in criminal investigation techniques and forensics, meaning they are now better able to solve criminal and violent cases more quickly. We also help police forces to combat cross-border crime more effectively. The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, for example, uses southern parts of Niger as a safe haven. The Niger-Nigeria border is some 1,500 km long and has just 10 border posts. We have helped set up nine new border checkpoints and will train the officials there to manage the border to international standards. In other words, we will teach them to conduct ID and goods checks, to recognise false documents and to identify and apprehend criminals – all with due respect for human rights, of course. People in these countries can only feel safe if they are served by a well-trained police force – including a border patrol – that knows its rights and duties and respects those of the people, too.

Isn't it possible that this support might be turned against the people?

We give a lot of thought beforehand to the equipment we provide. Items that readily lend themselves to misuse, like night-vision goggles, tear gas, weapons or the like, are a no-go. Furthermore, our staff in the countries we operate in monitor the programme's implementation and that includes the use of any equipment provided. We have not yet come across an instance in which the resources we provided were put to improper use.

How can you ensure that the police force is not misused as an instrument of power by the ruling elite?

Precisely because such problems exist, it is all the more important for us to be on site and help ensure that human rights and the rule of law take their rightful place in the policing process. Of course, we won't be able to resolve the problem over night. But through our work we can make a major contribution by training police officers to do their job, namely to serve and protect the citizens.

We are also seeing some good things come out of greater citizen participation. In Niger, regular meetings are held between the police and members of the public who can report on any police misconduct. That helps generate greater transparency and gives the public more control. What's more, by advising the authorities on ways of improving HR management, we are strengthening motivation amongst police officers. Law enforcement officers that serve the citizens properly have better prospects for career advancement and promotion. This boosts motivation and loyalty and lowers police officers’ susceptibility to corruption.

What are you aiming to achieve by 2018?

We want to enable the police in our partner countries to protect their citizens even better. Further training for police officers is to meet international and – above all – human rights standards. In Nigeria, for instance, we are training 100 trainers who will then coach police officers and officials working for the immigration service. We are also hoping that more crimes will be brought before the courts thanks to improved criminal investigation techniques and forensics expertise at the crime scene. For this reason, there are plans to set up a regional criminal investigation centre in Côte d'Ivoire to assist other countries in the region with their forensics work, as and when required.