Creating sustainable peace in conflict-affected areas relies on effective policing in ways that aren’t always apparent.
Peace support operations are typically associated with heavy military involvement, especially in the initial stages of the operation, but policing is crucial if the road out of conflict is to lead to lasting peace.
‘In a conflict or post-conflict situation, the [local] police institution as we know it would normally have collapsed. That means the vulnerability of communities is very high,’ explains Crowd Chirenje, Police Coordinator in the African Union Peace Support Operations Division.
This breakdown in policing leaves gaps that affect not only the safety of communities, but also prospects for confidence in the new government. ‘Hence, international police support will be required,’ says Chirenje.
He explains that the African Union Police fills these gaps in various ways to provide much-needed services, and to develop capacity to restore local policing services and functions and the confidence of the community.
As a central player in all matters of peace and security, the police have an active role in the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and the African Governance Architecture (AGA) towards the realisation of the aspirations of the AU’s Agenda 2063 – The Africa We Want. This role is increasingly being recognised and catered for structurally within the AU and its peace support operations.
A key way in which this has taken place is through the establishment of the AU’s Police Strategic Support Group (PSSG), following the maiden conference in 2014. The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) – through the Training for Peace Programme – has been a reliable and consistent partner in creating and implementing this important mechanism.
‘The PSSG provides technical advice and support on all matters related to police and policing for peace support operations and special operations to the AU Commission, to the regional mechanisms, and to the AU Peace and Security Council,’ explains Chirenje.
‘ISS is actually one of the midwives of the PSSG,’ says Chirenje. ‘It’s a long road that started way back in 2012. After realising that there are major structural challenges facing the police and policing within the African Union, and that there is a strategic and overarching need to address this problem, we looked for support.
‘The ISS is one of the institutions that stepped forward to assist in this process. Over the years, the ISS has been consistently assisting in the process of developing AU capacity through the vehicle or mechanism called PSSG. We look forward to that continued partnership until we reach the targets that we want to reach. The challenges are still there, but I’m happy that we’ve covered a lot of ground.’
The second PSSG conference was successfully hosted at the AU in December 2016, with the ISS as a key organising partner. The conference has resulted in robust recommendations that will shape the continued assistance offered by ISS. Chirenje adds that these recommendations are further expected to be taken up to AU decision-making organs for adoption. ‘This would become our own roadmap, as police to contribute to the strategic visions of our leaders.’
|The ISS has been consistently assisting in the process of developing AU capacity through the vehicle or mechanism called PSSG|
|– Crowd Chirenje, Police Coordinator in the African Union Peace Support Operations Division|