Little attention has been paid to the factual effect of the state’s security forces on the security of African citizens. Reports about security forces’ contribution to widespread insecurity are frequent: the protectors become violators and their appearance causes fear, not security. In many African crisis countries the realization of better security forces appears to be an elusive goal, either because violent conflicts are not definitively settled and therefore do not allow for decent reform or because a lack of capacity as a result of material constraints is not easy to remedy. The self‐help mechanisms used to compensate for the lack of state‐sponsored security need more attention. However, it has to be acknowledged that the ideal of a neutral and effective force loyal to the state is shared by a great majority of the population. This contribution compares the experiences of Liberia and the Central African Republic, two extreme cases of strong and weak international involvement, respectively, in post‐conflict security‐sector reform.
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