Justice and Security in Africa
Despite the serious nature of the subject matter, I have had great fun and made some fantastic friends through the security and justice assignments I have undertaken over the last few years. You don’t have to be in Nigeria very long before you experience first hand the problem with civil security services – inept, poorly skilled and corrupt. Wherever you look across the less visible aspects of the sector, you will find a similar story whether it is related to police, civil and criminal court systems or prisons. The lack of equality in whatever access to justice is available means that millions are subjected to routine victimisation, violence, intimidation, extortion or limited freedom – and as ever, it is the most vulnerable who are most affected.
The assignments I have undertaken gave me something I could never have otherwise experienced – a fascinating insight into the inner workings of some of these institutions at a very personal level. What I would never have been able to envisage are the struggles of the many people who do this work – often to the very best of their ability with whatever resources are made available to them. Of course there are bad apples – a disproportionately large number of them in the case of Nigeria, but there are many thousands of Nigerians who work tirelessly in dangerous, low paid, poorly respected jobs because they genuinely want to make a difference. There are many others, particularly at community level who work very hard on a day to day basis to try to effect the long term changes that are needed.
Access to justice and security are complex issues inter-connected with many other complex issues and in my observation they are amongst the hardest areas to detect improvement, even where improvement exists. Change of any kind takes time, but when faced with complicated and often fragile state institutions, deeply corrupt governance systems and processes, highly personalised interests, a desperate lack of resources and deeply entrenched societal attitudes and values about the concepts of justice and equality in general, these problems will take generations rather than years to address in any large scale or long term way.
Despite this, it is clear to me that even small changes that address the symptoms as well as the root causes of problems in security and justice can make a very big difference to the day to day lives of a significant number of people. I hope you enjoy the galleries and the background stories that I’ve associated with some of them.