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Private Security in Africa. From Global Assembly to Everyday
The security agents in Africa contribute to the security of some, in certain areas and sometimes, but also mix roles.


The private security company G4S has 120 000 employees in Africa. With a total turnover of over 40 billion, the company is the world's largest in its industry and one of the world's largest employers. It says a little about how dependent we have been on private security services.

The smoking fresh book Private Security in Africa. From Global Assembly to Everyday has been edited by two experienced security researchers: sociologist Paul Higate at the University of Bristol and Mats Utas, anthropologist at the University of Uppsala. These two have left plenty of room for the other eight contributors in the book; Higate has just written a resounding introduction, while Utas is content with a brief epilogue. Generous, but understandable, since they have managed to gather contributions from some of the foremost experts on (un) security in Africa: Rita Abrahamsen and Michael Williams have spent the last decades security assemblytheory to analyze the mix of state and private security in Africa, while William Remo is known for his thorough studies of insecurity, insurgency and warfare on the continent, especially in Sierra Leone.

Theories and categories. In this book, Abrahamsen and Williams have contributed a clarifying chapter on how they understand security assemblyconcept and used this in an analysis of security around the Canadian gold mining company Africa Barrick Gold's activities in Tanzania. While traditional security analyzes distinguish between public and private security services, the main point is assemblythe theory that such dichotomies have nothing in common. We gain a greater understanding of the security challenges in Africa by involving more players and expanding the content of the security concept. Based, among other things, on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's deconstructive / postmodern analyzes in the book Thousand Trays (1980) and Saskia Sassen's insistence on expanding the analysis categories (for example, are territory for Sassen much more than country – there is also power, word usage, requirements and so on), Abrahamsen and Williams argue fluidity og Multitasking are key to understanding how security challenges in Africa are addressed. Security, they argue, needs to be analyzed in detail, empirically and locally, rather than using general theories of political science international relations-direction.

In the past, diamond mines and diplomats were guarded by private security companies; now small businesses, hotels and aid organizations also hire security guards.

As a historian, I draw a sigh of relief here. Political scholars have always been more concerned with theories and general features of social development than historians, who prefer the particular and emphasize the peculiar rather than the universal. Now the state witnesses can use one theory which emphasizes the peculiar and peculiar nature of what they study and perform empirical, qualitative individual studies without resorting to dichotomous thinking such as state / society, private / public, secure / uncertain, voluntary / coercive. By using assembly the state scholars approach the historians without feeling as unorthodox as us – though without adding anything new.

Somalia and Al-Shabaab. In his chapter on today's Somalia, William Reno argues that there is considerable discrepancy between the security rhetoric and the actual uncertainty people experience in their daily lives. While official statements, both from the UN and the country's authorities, indicate that security is steadily increasing, the author is undergoing a series of Al-Shabaab explosions, fatal shootings and suicide bombings since 2015, and shows that this is not the case. He explains how Al-Shabaab's men are infiltrated in Somali intelligence and how the regime's security people and Al-Shabaab often have dual and incompatible agendas when it comes to improving security in the country. Reno argues well that neither today's regime nor Al-Shabaab has the will or ability to create a safe Somalia. He trusts that private security companies can do better.

Congo and the Guardians. Peer Schouten's contribution to security in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) is also concerned that the boundaries between private and state security actors are blurred, almost non-existent.

The growth of private security agents in DR Congo has been enormous over the past decade. While diamond mines and diplomats were previously largely guarded by private security firms, small businesses, hotels and aid organizations are now hiring security guards. The watchmen usually wear uniforms that are so similar to state police or military uniforms that they are easily mistaken. But the private are not allowed to carry weapons in the country, so they must have good contact with the police or military in order to be effective in a threatening situation. This contact can be arranged directly with the individual police patrol or a group of soldiers where, for example, an extra, unofficial salary is agreed to be prepared to move out and assist a private security patrol. But contact can also be arranged at the general / police level where more or less corrupt agreements are entered into for support to the private security companies if needed. “The most important thing to have in this industry is not technical know-howbut technical know-who", One of Schouten's sources points out. In this way, the boundaries between private and state security services are blurred, while the non-legal conflation of them puts the users of the service tests in a bright light.

Safer, and vice versa. The starting point for Jacob Rasmussen's text is different. He has for several years studied the civil protection group Mungiki in Nairobi. Here, poor, most often unemployed, and politically marginalized young men have organized to secure their own neighborhoods. Gradually they have taken partial control of major parts of Nairobi and are looking after shops, residential areas and families. Here it is most often a matter of delicate balance between paying for security and being pressured to pay for not being robbed or turned down. Mungiki is seen by some as violent youth gangs, while others see them as poor people's security agents. While someone happily pays for the protection Mungiki gives, others experience it as direct extortion.

The private security company G4S, one of the world's largest employers, has 120 employees in Africa.

This ambiguity is central to all the eight contributions in the book. Security agents – be it state, private or unofficial – contribute to increased security for some, in certain areas and sometimes, while also increasing their degree of uncertainty for other sections of the population, through their fluidity, flexibility and mix of roles. . So even though the concept security assembly does not add security studies to new, radical perspectives, the contributions of the book undoubtedly add a lot of high-quality empirical evidence to the understanding of security in Africa.

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Ketil Fred Hansen
Hansen is a professor of social sciences at UiS and a regular reviewer at Ny Tid.

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