Privatizing Security in the Central African Republic
The growth of a private security industry in Africa is a not a recent development. But the growth of a local one deserves particular attention. My article, ‘Local Dynamics of Security in Africa: The Central African Republic and Private Security,’ in African Security Review surveys some of the actors of an ascending private sector in one specific country, the Central African Republic.
It studies two main issues; the first relates to the political economy of private and public security. What is the state of the local private sector and where does it operate? What are the different commercial policies and hiring strategies? What is the relation with the traditional policing institutions? These questions are addressed in a perspective that advances the traditional literature–which has focused primarily on private military and security firms intervening outside their country of origin, mostly non-African actors intervening in the African continent. The companies I interviewed are instead local firms; their recruitment is also local. My research also shows that the increase in private security is matched by a declining strength of public forces. A dwindling proportion of the national budget is allocated to security in the last two decades. A larger question is whether the ‘market for force’ produced “˜externalities’, that is whether there is a direct connection between the rise of one sector and the collapse of the other. This cannot be unambiguously shown. Yet, a skewed distribution of security plagues the country–i.e. PSCs have the same unevenly distributed territorial presence as the public forces.
The second question that I study relates to the presence of a specific discourse and a techno-managerial vocabulary of security that aims at depoliticizing security thus posing a real danger of self-perpetuation of supply. Some biased characterizations involve a reconfiguration of international political opinions at the micro-level. They reflect the discourse of commentators who associated the situation in Chad and the CAR to Darfur. Incidents occurring in Chad and the Central African Republic are thus incorporated into the “˜genocide in Darfur’ story and a supposed danger of genocide is thus paradoxically integrated into the list of dangers and hazards to insure against. I conclude that although private security firms hardly present a silver lining for unravelling conflicts, the study of the sector is significant in Africa’s weak states where forces that operate outside the formal state boundaries play increasingly important roles.