Building on a political foundation of shared counter-insurgency goals, national leaders should encourage vigilante leaders and local community representatives to vet recruits more carefully. Central governments could go so far as to insist that vigilantes operate only in their home areas — or, if displaced, among their own communities —, thereby reducing their contact with other ethnic groups and deterring abuses. Offenders will be more easily identified and shamed among their own people, facing potentially long-lasting consequences.
As a further preventive measure, state authorities should, where possible, supply and equip vigilantes, reducing the risk that they might feel justified taking provisions and equipment by force from civilians or international aid organisations. To hold offenders to account, central governments should advise vigilante and local leaders to establish their own codes of conduct and publicise them widely, including via radio. They also should establish their own disciplinary bodies to enforce rules of behaviour. In general, internal disciplinary processes are preferable to punishment by the national army, which risks opening rifts between vigilantes and regular soldiers.
Central states and international partners also should encourage civil society and non-governmental organisations to conduct independent reporting on abuses and publicise their findings. Even if governments and donors take steps to ward against mission creep and abuses, empowering vigilantes has the potential of undermining central authority and tipping the power balance toward non-state armed actors.
This is all the more likely when outside parties work in tandem with such actors, thereby affording them international legitimacy. This was the case in Iraq, as illustrated below.
Likewise, U. It also could put them at odds with the regime. Yet the proliferation of non-state armed actors in the context of deficient state security forces has forced a re-evaluation. As academic experts have noted, the notion of a state monopoly over the use of force often is divorced from reality; the truth is closer to an oligopoly.
Hide Footnote The challenge is how to manage such an arrangement when the state faces hostile insurgent groups and cannot provide security without relying on allied militias or where outside parties feel threatened by a terrorist-qua-insurgent group and therefore subcontract security duties to an allied militia group. In such instances, the urgent need to address the security menace can take precedence over the longer-term goal of state-building. A political order undergirded by a network of non-state actors and local strongmen hardly is optimal for building effective national institutions.
But in fragile states facing civil conflict, such an imperfect order can be the lesser of two evils. There are ways for the state to limit long-term damage, both while cooperating with vigilantes and after the insurgent threat subsides. Where possible, governments should view partnering with vigilantes not as a stop-gap or temporary alliance of convenience, but as an opportunity to pursue the long-term objective of bolstering state legitimacy at the local level.
Applying such a long-term strategic lens, governments and their partners should plan well in advance how they will manage vigilante groups after the insurgency recedes. Without a workable plan for managing vigilantes after the insurgency ends, governments face yet another risk: that vigilantes and their communities feel they have been used and abandoned. That threatens to alienate unemployed youth vulnerable to recruitment into anti-state factions, criminal gangs or radical groups.
For example, because South Sudan failed to disband or formalise the Zande Arrow Boys after the LRA threat declined, they were able to join rebel ranks years later when they felt their community was threatened. As the Boko Haram threat wanes, Nigeria likewise is faced with the challenge of preventing members of the increasingly redundant Civilian Joint Task Force from turning to crime.
iv Analytic Support to Intelligence in Counterinsurgencies. Both studies were conducted for the U.S. Department of Defense within the International Security and. Examines the nature of the contemporary insurgent threat and provides insights on using operational analysis techniques to support intelligence operations in.
As with other armed groups, disbanding vigilantes is likely to require a comprehensive disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration DDR process. In Sierra Leone and Teso, DDR processes were intended to offer vigilantes incentives to return to civilian life and turn over their weapons, reducing the number of arms in circulation.
But both processes fell short, leaving vigilantes and their communities bitter and mistrustful of the state. Many Kamajors felt reintegration packages hardly compensated for their sacrifices and government administrators recognised that vocational training should have been better tailored to local market needs. After conflict, societies need to balance domestic and international calls for justice by holding to account perpetrators of violence, including vigilantes on the one hand, and calls for reconciliation to help communities confront the past and move on with their lives on the other.
Delays in implementing formal national justice and reconciliation schemes have led local communities and civil society to promote reconciliation at the local level. Hide Footnote Key to striking a balance that reflects the priorities of affected communities is to ensure that victims have a role in designing national and local processes.
The proliferation and ubiquity of mobile cell-phone and internet technology has changed the rules of the game. Marston; Other specific instruments have been implemented in order to increase the knowledge of the communities where the counterinsurgent operates. Attempts have been made to increase control over vigilantes, leading to some professionalisation. The GNA is struggling to control such groups, which benefit from its resources and legal cover. Do not talk about your submission to others If you have any issues talk to WikiLeaks. The current global social context plays a relevant function in motivating counterinsurgents to adopt this type of approach.
Still, taking these opinions into account is critical to ensure legitimate and effective responses. Hide Footnote If widespread abuses have been committed on all sides, and if some combatants, including vigilantes, have been compelled to fight, affected communities might prioritise reconciliation over formal justice mechanisms. Justice and reconciliation initiatives optimally should be community-led and take account of cultural specificities. Hide Footnote Former Kamajors who committed abuse struggled to gain social acceptance in their home areas; in the years that followed, community-level reconciliation became an essential part of their reintegration into civilian life.
The degree of abuse by former combatants was found to be the single greatest determinant of their acceptance or rejection by family and community members. Hide Footnote Donors can play a key role in providing international expertise and financial resources to help partner governments plan and implement sufficiently generous, locally-tailored disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs. To be most effective DDR initiatives should be gender-sensitive, taking into account the particular obstacles faced by female and male vigilantes, whether they have fought or played supporting roles, and the social stigma they may encounter as they assume family responsibilities or seek employment.
Governments should set realistic expectations to help mitigate the risk of alienating large numbers of unemployed former combatants. Recruiting a significant proportion of former vigilantes into state security forces may be difficult because of their typically low education levels and large numbers. Hide Footnote But there are other roles they can play. Governments and their international backers should consider alternatives to deal with demobilised vigilante groups in a manner that minimises their discontent and, at the same time, makes the most of their local roots and, where applicable, legitimacy.
For instance, former vigilantes might be retrained as unarmed community police units with the authority to gather information or even apprehend suspects. In either scenario, they would need adequate training, resources and oversight to take on these responsibilities. In Afghanistan, too little oversight and training meant that the Afghan Local Police — an experiment in semi-formal community policing supported by the U.
Crisis Group has argued for integrating the few effective units into the Afghan National Police and disbanding the rest. The federal parliament is considering a bill to formally recognise the Vigilante Group of Nigeria VGN , while the presidential adviser on the Niger Delta recently indicated plans to recruit 10, youths to guard petroleum pipelines.
Hide Footnote In the north east, civilians have a history of mistrust toward security forces, which they view as ignorant of local ways, arrogant, abusive and professionally incompetent. But CJTF members, by participating in efforts to counter Boko Haram, acted as a bridge between civilians and security forces, helping the state regain a measure of local legitimacy while protecting the local community. Giving former CJTF members a sense of purpose and responsibility in community policing roles in a close working relationship with state institutions could help prevent them from becoming a long-term security headache, and build on the positive outcomes of state-civilian security cooperation during the Boko Haram insurgency.
Relying on non-state armed actors to counter insurgencies might well be a necessary evil — but it ought to be a limited and finite one. The gravest dangers are posed when vigilantes pursue their own political-ethnic agenda; lack strong command and control structures, enabling battlefield commanders to promote their own interests; are largely unsupervised by either local or national authorities; or are ignored, unrecognised and cast aside once their military utility has expired.
Support by an outside power against the wishes of the central state also increases the risk that vigilantes will fuel greater insecurity. To limit the odds that vigilantes will turn from community protectors into insurgent forces, national leaders need to cooperate closely with local leaders and patrons to agree on a narrowly circumscribed mandate, geographic focus, and effective demobilisation, disarmament and reintegration.
Under the best of circumstances, such an approach can do more than achieve short-term security gains. It also can help the central state forge closer ties to local communities, earning it the legitimacy needed to build longer-term peace. Regional armies in the Lake Chad basin deploy vigilantes to sharpen campaigns against Boko Haram insurgents.
But using these militias creates risks as combatants turn to communal violence and organised crime. Over the long term they must be disbanded or regulated. Vigilante groups in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad play a major role in the fight against Boko Haram, but their presence raises concerns. They make military operations less blunt and more effective and have reconnected these states somewhat with many of their local communities, but they have also committed abuses and become involved in the war economy.
In Nigeria in particular, vigilantism did much to turn an anti-state insurgency into a bloodier civil war, pitting Boko Haram against communities and leading to drastic increases in violence. As the conflict continues to evolve, so will vigilantes. They are enmeshed with high politics, especially in Nigeria, and in local intercommunal relations, business operations and chiefdoms.
Their belief that they should be rewarded will need to be addressed, and it is also important for the Lake Chad basin states to address the common gap in community policing, particularly in rural areas.
To ensure vigilantes are not a future source of insecurity, these states will each need to devise their own mix of slowly disbanding and formalising and regulating them. Vigilantism, the recourse to non-state actors to enforce law and order of a sort , has a history in the Lake Chad region. Colonial powers there relied, to a substantial degree, on local traditional chiefs and their retinues.
The multi-faceted crisis in governance and decline in services among the Lake Chad states since the s gave rise to new vigilante groups. The law and order challenges vigilantes tried to address were a factor in the formation and growth of Boko Haram, itself an attempt to provide regulation and guidance. Operating under the unofficial but revealing name of Civilian Joint Task Force CJTF , vigilantes were essential in flushing Boko Haram out of the city, then began replicating throughout the state.
Niger has been more cautious, partly because of past struggles with armed groups and because it has not needed them as much. Vigilantes have played many roles, from mostly discrete surveillance networks in Niger to military combat auxiliaries or semi-autonomous fighting forces in Nigeria. They have made the military response more targeted and more efficient, but their mobilisation also provoked retribution by Boko Haram against their communities and contributed to the massive levels of civilian casualties in and As the insurgency splinters and falls back on more discrete guerrilla operations and terror attacks, however, the time has come to measure the risks posed by such a massive mobilisation of vigilantes they claim to be about 26, in Borno state alone.
Their compensation demands will have to be addressed, especially if authorities consider offering deals to Boko Haram militants to lay down their weapons. In the longer term, vigilantes may become political foot soldiers, turn to organised crime or feed communal violence. Vigilantism can be a powerful counter-insurgency tool, but there is a compelling need to confront the immediate concerns it raises, notably in terms of impunity, and to begin planning for its long-term post-conflict transformation. To prepare for a transformation of the vigilantes and prevent the emergence of mafias and ethnic militias.
In , it gained control of large swaths of territory in north-east Nigeria.
Since , Nigeria and its neighbours have progressively developed a stronger military response. Boko Haram has mostly been forced into enclaves on Lake Chad, the hills along the Nigeria-Cameroon border and forested areas of Borno state. It has reverted to suicide attacks and guerrilla war. Military pressure, importantly aided by vigilantes, has aggravated its internal divisions. As Boko Haram splinters and morphs into more discrete guerrilla forces, with renewed emphasis on terrorist attacks, it is timely to rethink the role of vigilantes and their governance and prepare for their transformation.
Researchers interviewed vigilantes, local state and security and non-governmental organisation officials, human rights activists, journalists, academics and citizens to investigate their understandings of the situation and their perceptions of peace, law and order. Law and order in the Lake Chad basin bears the imprint of pre-colonial and colonial times, when massive disruption occurred as states formed and disappeared due to a fast-changing regional economy increasingly shaped by global connections.
Ajayi and M. Crowder eds. Hide Footnote Slave-raiding, banditry and cattle rustling fed local forms of self-defence. After often violent conquest, and frequently in alliance with local warlords, colonial states maintained relative peace, but particularly in rural areas they habitually relied on decentralised forces, the retinues of chiefs. Hide Footnote They should not be overstated: the colonial state relied everywhere on a strata of chiefs and their followers to levy taxes, mobilise labour and suppress dissent.