Vigilantism thrives where formal institutions fail

A recently published report “Understanding Vigilantism: Informal Security Providers and Security Sector Reform in Liberia” by Ana Kantor & Mariam Persson provides enlightening thoughts on the commonality of the emergence of such groups; not only in Liberia where the study was based but in any country where formal institutions have proved incapable of providing its citizens with basic security.

The authors observe that non-state groups and vigilantes often emerge with the goal of ensuring the maintenance of communal order. They also note that vigilantism flourishes not only in places where states lack capacity to protect citizens from crime, but also where the state itself is believed to be corrupt or untrustworthy.

While undertaking the research, the authors noted that policing in Liberia is under-resourced. One deputy police commander who provided feedback for the study said that there was only one vehicle available in an area with about 250,000 inhabitants; a familiar problem in other African countries. Another common denominator is the significance of youth unemployment. One respondent explained that vigilantism formed a way to occupy the youth.

In western democracies, the implied assumption is that security is a public good, and it is up to the state to ‘deliver’ this service. However within the African context informal structures do often take precedence.

Read Understanding Vigilantism: Informal Security Providers and Security Sector Reform in Liberia

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Yipe an acronym for the Youth Interactive Portal for Enterprise is an organization that assists entrepreneurs to start up and manage their small businesses.

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