Security Sector Reform, Police Work and Urban Violence


‘Localizing’ International Security Sector Reform (SSR) | A Micro-sociology of Policing in Urban Congo

Project Length: July 2019 – Februrary 2021

Location: Institute of Development Policy (IOB), University of Antwerp.

Project Summary: Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNS), the project ‘Localizing International Security Sector Reform (SSR): A Micro-sociology of Policing in Urban Congo’ examines global issues emerging at the intersection of state capacity and security apparatus, international intervention, local governance and urban violence, through an empirical focus on the EU’s efforts (EUPOL) at implementing the Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s national Police Reform. In parallel to other international development agencies (including DFID), EUPOL has indeed contributed, among other things, to the ambitious project of establishing Community Policing (PdP, Police de Proximité) in Kinshasa  from 2007 to 2014. Based on existing academic and policy literature and drawing on data collected in Kinshasa from 2014 and 2019, this research A) explores the processes through which EUPOL’ s Community Policing programmatic gaols have intertwined – and perhaps transformed – both the practices and perceptions of insecurity and violence in fast-changing cities like Kinshasa, B) teases out the linkages and discrepancies between high-level international intervention and national policies and the ‘real-life’, everyday experiences of street-level police officers and other civil servants  and ordinary urban dwellers, and finally C) offers a prospective outlook onto the various ways police reform and policing practices might be reconfiguring future (urban) conflictualities and their potential mitigation mechanisms.

In so doing, this project  investigates the complex workings and texture of police-citizens relations in Kinshasa via ethnographic and visual qualitative methodological tools and analyzes the discursive and programmatic practices EUPOL has employed to design and implement its PdP pilot project. Overall then, the project has both practical and theoretical concerns in mind and hopes to offer three key contributions to the fields of IR, Political Sciences and other related fields: 1) offer empirical expertise on the performative and ideational dimensions of security governance in urban DRC, 2) present an innovative critical approach to transnational conceptualizations of governance in fragile states and beyond, and 3) provide new knowledge and practical avenues to policy-makers engaging in future SSR programming in non-western environments. The project’s finaliyzed outputs are currently underway, and will be ready for publication shortly.

News and Key Outputs

  1. The project’ consolidated conclusions were shared at a seminar with the ‘Doing IP’ transnational hub, on January 8th, 2021.
  2. The project’s preliminary findings  were presented at a Research Workshop, organzied by Prof. Tom de Herdt at the IOB, University of Antwerp, on April 16, 2020. Take a look at the presentation here.
  3. See my preliminary mapping of Urban Governance through the District (Commune) of Kinshasa, that localizes all my collected data on Police posts and stations and in/formal local administration, including neighborhood chiefs (in all neighborhoods) and street chiefs (in 2 neighborhoods so far).