The Role of Modern Policing in Failing African States

Pietro Toggia, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania

This paper examines the stabilizing political role of modern policing under three successive regimes in Ethiopia since the 1940s. The study uses primary sources of historical documents published in the official Amharic (Ethiopian) language, including the current bi-monthly newspaper published by the Ethiopian police. The paper explores how police functions in contemporary Ethiopia mainly included the sustenance of the successive powers of the monarchy, the socialist military state, and the federal ethnic state. The Ethiopian police organization and its raison d'etre varied corresponding to the ideologies and political nature of each one of the three successive regimes. Policing encompassed law enforcement, judicial, and paramilitary functions. These consolidated powers were periodically exercised as emergency power in order to stabilize the states, when the regimes faced crisis of legitimacy in the midst of political opposition and armed insurrections. The continuance of this consolidated police power, albeit changes in regimes, mainly dealt with acts distinctively defined in the criminal statutes as threat to the security of stat power. Hence, policing in this East African country is generally viewed as instrumental to authoritarian state dominance in the absence of any semblance of democratic freedom and due process rignts. The paper further analyzes how policing not only reflected authoritarian governance, but also how it re-enforced authoritarian rule.

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Updated 05/20/2006