Police Reform in Zaire

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Police reorganization in Zaire

Zaire is a country in Central Africa. Historically, police reorganization in Zaire has continuously been done under successive regimes. Currently, the main police organization in Zaire is called the Police Nationale Congolaise (PNC). PNC was formed in 1985 by an amalgamation of four police forces namely, Force Publique, Guarde Civile, Police Urbaine and Gendarmerie. The Zairean police force has for many years been accused of repressing political opposition, unlawful killing, detention, arbitrary arrest, corruption, and impunity. PNC has also been accused of meting violence against people who share an ethnic and tribal background with the country's main opposition leader. The Ministry of Interior, Decentralization, and Security (MIDS) is entrusted with playing an oversight role in any form of police reforms in Zaire. The Zairean police force should also be reformed to deal with the emergence of new types of crime that are associated with information technology. Firearms and violent crime in Zaire are serious problems in Zaire that needs to be addressed by police reforms (African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, 2008).

Police reforms are a major challenge in Africa. The demand for better police service has necessitated a clamor for police reforms in Zaire. Forced displacements that are highly prevalent in Zaire have necessitated a need for police reforms. Zaire has experienced many ears of violence based on ethnicity and fights for natural resources. Zaire is one of the richest countries in the world with regard to natural resources. However, political instability that is fuelled by conflicts for the control of natural resources has made citizens of the country live in endemic poverty. Cases of forced internal displacement are common in Zaire. As a result, there are many internally displaced individuals and refugees in Zaire. The police force in Zaire always plays a crucial role in repression of dissent and persecution of individuals who engage in unlawful activities. Displacement of persons has offered opportunities for police reforms to be done in Zaire. Zairean police officers have been known for a long time for their incompetence, brutality, and corruption. The police officers are ill paid and poorly equipped. The police officers have also been known to steal foreign aid intended for internally displaced persons. The police officers have also been involved in robbing of humanitarian workers, kidnapping of humanitarian workers, hijacking of aid convoys and shooting of Zairean businessmen. Police reforms are in dire demand in Zaire given that the country is in a post-conflict setting. Police reforms in a post-conflict setting are important because they play a major role in preventing reversion to conflict. Police reorganization and restructuring would play a major role in addressing several issues that the Zairean police force is grappling with. Police reforms are vital in preventing future conflict in a country such as Zaire (O'Neill, 2012).

Police reforms will play a major role in ensuring that human rights are protected in Zaire. The reforms will ensure freedom from torture, threats to life and any forms of mistreatment that are often meted on civilians by the police force. Police reforms will ensure that human rights violators from the Zairean police force are purged from the police force. The reforms will also ensure the establishment of both internal and external forms of accountability within the police force. The main goal of carrying out of police reforms is to enhance effectiveness and accountability of the police force (Hills, 2000).

Challenges to police reforms in Zaire

Fears by the Zairean government that a reformed police force would threaten its control are deterring police reforms. The Zairean government is afraid of allowing profound police reforms to take place because it senses that the reforms may threaten its control over the police force. A reformed police force is a threat to the control that the Zairean government has over the police force. Police reforms should involve the participation of political systems. Police reforms is a long-term process that involves ensuring power relations in the society are transformed. Police reforms also involve tinkering with police practice or doctrine. Given that police reforms are political, reforms in the police force causes changes in power distribution and relationships. Many individuals in the old order of a police force are likely to see police reforms as a direct threat to them, out of a perception that they stand to lose in case the reforms take place. People who invested in the old police structure are likely not to be happy about imminent police reforms. Carrying out of police reforms also means that what exists or has existed for a long time is flawed. As a result, people who invested in the old structure are likely to display some resistance towards police reforms. Therefore, individuals who embark on police reforms should know that the process involves a lot, more than a mere technical fix or a small adjustment with the operational side of the police force. Institutions that control Zairean police force are likely to continue showing resistance to police reforms (OtNeill, 2012).

Lack of financial support and moral support from the United Nations, the Zairean government and other relevant organizations, has made it difficult for the Zairean police forces to be properly trained and equipped with state of the art facilities. United Nations member states have been unwilling to contribute personnel from their civilian forces that would play an integral role in the training of the Zairean police force. There is a lack of voluntary contributions from United Nations member states to fund the high cost of conducting police reforms. Donor countries have also expressed concerns over the approach of using their funds for purposes of conducting police reforms in Zaire. The Zairean government has failed to financially support financial reforms in the country; this could be because the country is poor. Police reformers are also grappling with the question of whether to confront police reforms from a top- down or bottom-up approach. An organizational reform that is pegged on the selection and training of new police officers is possible when a new police force is being created. Training of new police officers offers an ample opportunity to replace old doctrines with new doctrines as well as an infusion of the new police officers with new commitments to matters of human rights and citizen service. However, carrying out of police reforms from lower ranks may not work. The existing organizational structure in the Zairean police force is likely to stifle reforms that start from lower ranks of the police force (James & Kelling, 1982).

Expenses for international advisers, trainers, and monitors towards ensuring that police reforms are achieved could prove expensive to the Zairean government. There may be shortfalls from donors who pledged resources that they would help the Zairean government to successfully undertake a post-conflict resolution process that involves police reforms. The anticipated emergence of new rebel groups in Zaire and organized crime may impose pressure on the Zairean police force to rollback reforms that they may have initiated, leading to a continuous violation of human rights. There may be a formation of informal security forces to bypass a reformed police force to preserve prior organizational cultures and networks. Establishment of high salaries for the police force may prove difficult to maintain once external resources from donor countries are phased out (OtNeill, 2012).

A successful police reform process

A successful police reform process ought to involve societal transformation. Police reform is a major exercise with regard to state building, and it requires that the police serve the public regardless of existing political agendas. Police reforms also involve urging the public to support the reforms despite their bad experiences with police officers. The dynamism that is explained above represents a pivotal change with regard to how society is governed in countries such as Zaire (a country that has been affected by forced displacement) (Dijk, 2008).

Police reforms ought to pay attention to the police force institutional development. There is a need for police reforms to go in tandem with judicial reforms such as modernization of laws, training of judges, making courts to be more efficient and accessible as well as ensuring that prisons are dehumanized. All institutions of the criminal justice system should enact reforms with regard to recruitment, training, making oversight and carrying out police operations. Mentoring and other innovative practices by outsiders can play a major role when it comes to enforcing what is learned in police academies. Mentoring programs should last longer so that they may be impactful in bringing about change (African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, 2008).

Organizations entrusted with the role of oversight of the police force should be independent, transparent and objective. The organizations must also have resources that would ensure that they play an oversight role in a more effective manner. An effective police oversight mechanism will play a major role in promoting effective and respectful policing. A disciplined police force means that there will be lesser human rights violations perpetrated by police officers and there will also be greater cooperation between police officers and civilians. Greater cooperation between police officers and civilians will lower crime rates. There are police officers who resist oversight, stating that it is a hindrance to fighting crime. Police officers must change their management mentality; this will play a major role in ensuring that police officers are more disciplined and exhibit high levels of accountability (O'Neill, 2012).

A system of incentives should be developed in the police force to reward ethical behavior together with ensuring that practices of abuse and corruption are punished. A system of incentive will play a major role in promoting integrity, competence and capacity within the police force (Hills, 2000).

Police officers should pay attention to minor offenses such as prostitution, pick-pocketing and petty theft so that they can reduce fears in communities, strengthen communities and prevent the occurrence of serious crimes. It has been revealed that Zairean police officers response to crime is slow, the police are poorly trained and ill-equipped to even deal with minor offenses. A multidimensional and coordinated approach should be taken in addressing police reforms. A lack of support and participation from relevant stakeholders is likely to doom all efforts meant to ensure that police reforms take place. There must be vetting of all members of the police force so as to weed out individuals who do not measure up to standards of the police force (African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, 2008).

References

African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum. (2008). An audit of police oversight in Africa. Cape Town: African Minds for the African Police Oversight Forum.

Dijk, J. J. M. (2008). The world of crime: Breaking the silence on problems of security, justice, and development across the world. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Hills, A. (2000). Policing Africa: Internal security and the limits of liberalization. Boulder (Colo.: Lynne Rienner publ.

James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling (1982). Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety. International Library of Comparative Public Policy, 9, 515-523.

OtNeill, G.W. (2012). Police reforms in situations of forced displacement: Chad, Eastern Zaire and Kosovo. Case Studies on Transitional Justice and Displacement. ICTJ.

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