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THE POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IN AFRICA: AGENDA FOR REFORM
Across much of the continent, cases of abuse by the police and security agencies are rampant. Indeed, protection of the populace by the police with no strings attached is often the aberration rather than the norm. Stories of police inefficiency, corruption and extortion of citizens abound. Recent political developments in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria, once again, brought to the fore the contentious issue of public protection on the continent. The clash between expectation and reality is one of the major issues at the heart of policing on the continent. Typically, emerging calls to the police either go unanswered or when answered, police lack the capacity for rapid response thus arriving at the crime scene too late or not at all. It is not uncommon for personal callers to police stations to pay bribes before being served. No wonder many citizens seek protection from alternative sources including private security, civil militia and vigilante groups as seen in many parts of Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Liberia among others. The paper seeks to examine various theoretical and practical problems of the police as a significant element in the criminal justice system in Africa. The paper will equally use the post-colonial state framework of analysis to capture the thesis that the criminal justice system in any society reflects the socio-economic system in operation. The paper will highlight the challenges facing the police in Africa and suggests ways of correcting them. The paper concludes by positing that unless basic structures change, police reform in Africa will be stunted.
Key words: Police, criminal justice, corruption, post-colonial state