Security Sector Reform in Africa: A Lost Opportunity to Deconstruct Militarised Masculinities?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Yaliwe Clarke

Under the guise of peace-building and post-conflict reconstruction, countriesthat have been through years of civil war (Liberia, Sierra Leone, DRC, SouthernSudan, Mozambique, Angola, etc), have committed to reforming the securitysector. There are a number of gender researchers and activists (Koen, 2006;Meintjes, 2001; Pillay, 2000) who regard post-conflict reconstruction asan opportunity for African women to advance their status in the public arena.I will explore whether this perceived opportunity is being taken up withinsecurity sector reform, particularly in relation to the need to deconstruct,understand, and transform the militarised varieties of masculinity pervasive inpost-conflict situations. Does security sector reform present an opportunity forengagement with these militarised masculinities in a way which would allowfor the emergence of an alternative society?

Countries described as post conflict have invariably undergone a formalpeace process in which conflicting parties have made a commitment to worktogether to redress fundamental inequalities that are perceived to be the rootcause of the conflict. Whereas unequal access to resources (such as oil) andpolitical power are often posited as the main ‘cause' of the conflict, there ishardly any (if at all) interrogation of prevailing constructions of masculinityand femininity, and how these are always a key dynamic within oppressiveinstitutions. There is equally minimal insight into how these dynamics mightlie at the heart of the tendency for given polities to revert to war, the ultimateexpression of masculine violence and aggression. Although security sectorreform entails a reconstitution of a wide range of institutions - including thearmy, militia groups, intelligence services/networks, private security firms, thepolice, the judiciary, and prisons - the most contested institution is the military(both formal armies and informal militia groups). However, not only have allkey institutions been historically male-dominated, serving as essential vehicles for the production of masculinity in modern nation-states, but the military has operated as the most intensively coercive of these in its relation to the authority and force of masculinity.

Security sector reform (SSR) often arises out of peace processes andforms part of post-conflict reconstruction efforts. Other imperatives drivingthe push for SSR include fiscal reform, deficit reduction, improved control ofcrime, desire to enhance civil control, human rights, or legitimacy of securityinstitutions. This article will focus on the more specific instances of SSR thathave occurred as a result of peace agreements. This is because the mostcomprehensive SSR processes in Africa have been attempted in the aftermathof conflict, and these scenarios dominate the discourse of SSR in Africa(Hutchful and Fayemi, 2005).

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SSR Africa Deconstruct Militarised Masculinities, Clarke, 2008