Etudes de cas

La contribution la plus importante d’ISSAT en RSS c’est de développer les capacités dans les Etats fragiles ou en sortie de conflit améliorant ainsi leurs opportunités de rétablissement de la paix et le renforcement de l'État. L’ISSAT s'efforce d'atteindre ses objectifs par le biais des études de cas portants sur des pays ou des thématiques spécifiques. Les études de cas fournissent une contribution importante aux activités de RSS. Ils illustrent les réussites, ainsi que, des enseignements tirés directement du terrain.
 L’ISSAT encourage le partage des expériences et vous invite à fournir vos commentaires sur les Notes de conseil opérationnel d’ISSAT, sur les missions RSS, ou une mission ISSAT, en cliquant ici.

Iraq - Current Critical Security Issues

Introduction and context

Iraq is a war-torn country which faces enormous security and justice challenges, including a large number of internally displaced persons and concerns that small cells of defeated ISIL remain hiding in rural areas. Iraq’s youth are protesting for a better future with less corruption, better governance and lower unemployment; whilst security forces are being accused of using armed violence towards civilians.

With the defeat of ISIL, Iraq can now focus on reconciliation, recovery and reform of the security and justice sector to efficiently meet the challenges the country is facing. Security sector reform and governance is pivotal for long term stability and peace in the country. The official launch of the SSR process in Iraq was made in 2015, but there are still major challenges facing security and justice sector governance.

This short knowledge product aims to address emerging concerns in a country of high interest to ISSAT Members. It builds on ISSAT’s work, as well as on open-source documents and maps out some of the critical challenges impacting the security landscape in a given country. This note also aims to be a conversation starter and ISSAT welcomes comments and contributions from its Members and Community of Practice.

Internal Population Displacement and Returnees

The humanitarian and displacement situation in Iraq are one of the world’s most volatile and acute. Large waves of displacement have been tracked for more than 50 years driven by a combination of factors such as internal armed conflict, external intervention and political, ethnic and religious oppression, in addition to natural disasters including floods and earthquakes. The latest wave of displacement began in late 2013, when ISIL began to take over large swaths of territory. At that point, 2.1 million people were already living in internal displacement due to previous conflicts. The number of IDPs peaked at 4.1 million in 2016.

A decrease in scale and intensity of armed violence in 2018 allowed for around 900,000 displaced Iraqis to return to their hometowns. Since 2014, IOM estimate that around 4.6 million (February 2020) IDPs returned to their hometowns, amidst concerns about forced IDP returns and IDP vulnerability. According to IOM, around 1.4 million Iraqis remain internally displaced (February 2020), with over seventy percent of those originating from the Northern Ninewa and Salah al-Din governorates.

IDPs face challenges in access to safety and security, fair standard of living, employment, land and property, documentation, family separation and/or reunification, participation in public affairs, and justice services. Furthermore, inter-communal divisions between host communities and IDPs are also representing a challenge for future reconciliation and reintegration. The question still remains how to reintegrate IDPs into their host communities, if they are unable to return to their place of origin.

Armed Groups and Insurgency

Insurgent attacks by Daesh fighters and Sunni militias in western and central-northern Iraq, as well as, terrorist attacks across the country, continue to threaten the safety and security of Iraqis. Citizens still feel threatened of ISIL or other extremist groups if they are not eradicated (NDI, 2019).

There is also insecurity in the south with armed tribal groups and violent confrontations between rival Shia military groups which seek to control neighbourhoods in the capital, Baghdad. The neighbouring ongoing conflict in Syria facilitates arms, drugs, refugee flow and people trafficking and enables armed groups operations.

ISIL has suffered from territorial downfall and are today almost eradicated from the territory. It is although estimated that between ten and twenty thousand ISIL fighters are still active in the region and remain a threat to stability. As a small-scale insurgency, they indiscriminately target Iraqi civilians and commit human rights abuses. The United States-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL continues its military operations in Iraq and Turkey focuses its operations in northern Iraq. The unstable and fragile security landscape in Iraq is jeopardizing a legitimate and efficient national security sector. It further demonstrates different interests and visions among the population based on sectarian, ethnic or regional ties. 

Civil Action and Youth Discontent

Since the Fall of 2019, Iraq and especially Baghdad, has experienced civil protests, as thousands of mostly young people, have been demonstrating in different parts of the country against corruption, unemployment and poor public services. The protests, which started off in a non-violent and peaceful manner, has become more violent as time has passed. Security forces have responded using water cannons, tear gas, live rounds and rubber bullets. Several hundreds of protesters have been killed and thousands injured. Tens of thousands of residents in the southern governorate of Basra were reported to have been poisoned and hospitalized by polluted drinking water, fueling ongoing protests against government’s mismanagement of the neglected south.

Nearly 60% of Iraq’s population is under 25 years of age which is impacting the society and the country’s development. Lack of proper education, early marriages, gender inequalities and high unemployment rates are issues that affect the governance, security and justice needs by the population.

The civil protests in Iraq are one in a series of similar global mass demonstrations that have occurred over the past years. They have had significant repercussions on the security situation in the country, as they reveal shortcomings of State institutions and test the civilian accountability over security actors. Strong national consensus has been formed around the need for the government to be responsible for all firearms control and regulation and removal of all armed manifestations in public spaces. These protests in Iraq are an important watching theme for donors in the security and justice sphere, as this not only demonstrate citizen’s dissatisfaction but also reveals clashes between citizens and government, and between youth and government. Increased training and capacities in human rights training and non-violent protests controls are areas that are in need for support.

Weak Governance and State Institutions

Iraq’s public sector institutions have not been successful in equitably allocating resources across the country and its population and extend basic public services, including access to security and justice in an effective manner. In a poll from NDI 2019, most citizens see the government from federal to local level as ineffective, and a vast majority (74%) acknowledge that they are not aware of the government priorities. For decades state institutions have been captured by sectarian interests and decimated by corruption. The politicization of state institutions and control over state resources have undermined the effective and equitable delivery of services, thus exacerbating the crisis of legitimacy, the challenges to state authority, and, ultimately, the spiral of violence that we see in Iraq today. As noted in the 2011 World Development Report, weak institutions and a lack of legitimacy undermine states’ ability to provide basic security, justice, and economic opportunities for their citizens and can therefore be a key cause of conflict. This holds true in Iraq, where the fragility of key public institutions and processes is reflected most starkly in the chronic weakness of its civil service, public financial management, state-owned enterprises, public investment management, and judicial system.

Lack of Public Trust

Weak governance and accountability, unrepresentative institutions and insufficient access to security and justice services across the country result in lack of public trust in public services. A recent survey from NDI revealed that lack of public trust and low confidence in national elections, drive perceptions that Iraq remains a divided country and increases support for protests. This further strengthens divisions according to sectarian lines in society. According to the Head of UNAMI, increased public trust in governmental institutions is key for development in Iraq, particularly after the fight against ISIL. Lack of public trust is also driven by a view of ineffective and unaccountable governmental apparatus.

Despite a general lack of trust, citizens tend to do have increased trust in army and police institutions, and in the Popular Mobilization Units[1] as the security situation is slowly stabilizing. However, citizens seem to have less trust in judicial institutions and provincial councils.

Today, Iraq needs robust and functional accountability mechanisms and community reconciliation to recover from conflict and its associated societal traumas. For this aim, restoring public trust in the judiciary and justice system to hold perpetrators accountable of key importance.


Endemic corruption is one of the main threats to Iraq’s stability, alienating the population from its ruling elite and driving young people into a protest movement that demands radical change. In a recent poll, more than 80 % of Iraqi’s were concerned, or very concerned, about corruption at the highest levels of government and the population perceive it to be getting worse. In Kurdistan, over 90% say that corruption is getting worse. Corruption among senior politicians and civil servants is systematically undermining trust in the government and destroys the legitimacy of leaders.

Transparency International (TI) scored Iraq on rank 162 out of 180 in 2019. This was a rise of six ranks compared to 2018 and Iraq is now on the same level as Cambodia and Chad. Further, Iraq was ranked by TI as the fourth most corrupt country in the Middle East, only better off than Syria, Yemen and Libya. For comparison, the three countries better than Iraq was Iran (146), Lebanon (137) and Egypt (106).

However, until now, political corruption has been primarily treated as an individual crime. Little recognition is given to corruption as primarily driven forward by the structure of the political system and the role that Iraq’s political parties play in it.

Public Financial Management

A recent survey from NDI reveals that the lack of financial stability is one of the main concerns among the population, and this sparks frustration and conflict. Enhancing public financial management is crucial for building the efficiency and effectiveness of state services and the situation in Iraq is no exception. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure accountability in the management of public resources. Weak public financial management increases the risk of mismanagement of resources and opportunities. In Iraq, formal channels by which public finance and procurement processes are managed hides the processes through which resources are raised and spent. Such parallel processes are unclear and difficult to change, especially as they tend to shift power from the state to other actors. This keeps a vicious cycle of a weak, unreliable and opaque public financial management system. 

Human Rights Violations

Human rights violations are common in Iraq. Security forces are accused of detaining suspects without court order, arrest warrant, or any other justification of arrest. Authorities are accused of violating the process for detainees to see a judge within 24 hours, to have access to a lawyer throughout interrogations or to have families notified of their detention. Detainees have witnessed torture in prisons, in some cases leading to death. Courts sentence individuals convicted of terrorism-related offences to death, frequently after questionable trials that reportedly rely on torture-tainted evidence.

Iraqi families with perceived ISIS affiliation because of their family name, tribal affiliation, or area of origin, have been denied security clearances required to obtain identity documentation or other civil documentation. This has impacted their freedom of movement, right to education, right to work, and right to apply for welfare benefits and obtain birth and death certificates. Although numerous ethnic and religious minority groups are living in Iraq, the government does not guarantee equal treatment and access to public services.  

Gender Inequality

Over recent decades, the rights of Iraqi women have been significantly weakened, and their parity with men has suffered setbacks in a number of areas. However, demands for increased gender equality are increasing.  While the legal position of women was relatively strong compared with other countries in the region and Iraqi women have traditionally taken part in society through education, labour and politics, this reality has now receded. The influence of women started to decline in the 1980s with Saddam Hussein. Women empowerment’s main constraints are largely economic, social, and cultural, driven by sectarian, ethnic and family-related boundaries. Harassment, domestic and sexual violence are constantly reported, and women have few legal frameworks that could be used to protect their rights. Iraq’s criminal code includes criminalizing physical assault but lacks any explicit mention of domestic violence, and even when sexual assault can be criminalized, it does not apply in a marriage. Donors need to not only focus on women, but also to steer gender programming to male roles and unpack traditional gender roles through for example public awareness campaigns.

Weak territorial integrity

Iraq has historically been a battleground in regional power struggles, and this is continuously reflected in its domestic political dynamics with a multiplicity of armed groups with ties to neighbouring states. While many areas of Iraq continue to be relatively secure, pockets of violence exist where armed groups continue to be active. PMU armed groups are operating and fighting in parallel with national security forces, and the myriad of security actors are undercutting state monopoly of violence and state legitimacy. This further leads to incoherent national defence and weak territorial control and integrity.

In addition, Iraqi provinces have a large margin for self-control and a legal right to create autonomous regions. One example of such a region is Kurdistan with its own judiciary, parliament and security forces, located in northern Iraq. In addition, Shia-dominated south has been demanding the right for an autonomous southern region, even though this is facing resistance from other opposing groups. With increased regional tendencies for autonomous rule along sectarian, ethnic and nationalistic lines, the State’s backbone risks further weakness and disintegration, increasing insecurity and lack of access to public services including justice by the population.

Tackling those sensitive challenges in a country like Iraq requires the presence and vested interest of regional, internal and local powers. This today is the biggest challenge Iraq is facing for its State-building and reform processes.

[1] Popular Mobilization Units (also known as Hash’d al Shaabi) are an umbrella organization consisting of more than 50 different militias with ties to the government, performing along the lines of national security forces.

Learn More

DCAF-ISSAT Iraq SSR Country Backgrounder

Case Study

Gender Mainstreaming Case Example of ISSAT’s mid-term evaluation of Swedish Police Project in Liberia

In 2018, the Swedish National Police (SNP) requested ISSAT to conduct a mid-term evaluation for its Police Cooperation project in Liberia. The project was implemented by the SNP between 2016 and 2019. The purpose of the project was to achieve improved quality of crime investigations including on Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV), basic crime investigation, basic crime scene investigation and cooperation between the Liberian National Police (LNP) and the Prosecution Service in three police station areas.

The components of the project focused on addressing important challenges and needs as formulated by the LNP and prosecutors such as:

  • Training in basic crime investigations, basic crime scene investigations and investigations of SGBV crimes.
  • Guidelines to optimise the quality control of any crime investigation case forwarded to the Prosecution Service.
  • Basic forensic equipment.
  • Improved premises and facilities for one stop centres and comfort rooms for SGBV victims.  
  • Improved cooperation between police and prosecutors.
  • Public awareness raising.

ISSAT’s evaluation was one exercise in a series of engagements with the Swedish National Police. It built on previous lessons learned studies on police reform in Liberia and national policy documents. The evaluation included a 7-day mission to Liberia and visits to local police zones for direct observations at police station level. The mission also included semi-structured interviews with beneficiaries as well as SNP normally based in Stockholm.


Main Takeaways

The evaluation was carried out based on OECD-DAC criteria (relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability) which is aligned with ISSAT’s methodological approach for evaluations. Guided by the terms of reference, ISSAT closely liaised with the project’s gender expert to understand and better integrate in the evaluation’s approach the main components of effective police investigations into sexual based crime and victim protection.


LESSON 1: Gender equality approaches need to be an explicit part of the evaluation methodology

Throughout the data gathering phase, ISSAT ensured consistent inquiry into the project’s gender sensitive approaches and strategies. Under each of the evaluation criteria, ISSAT looked at gender relevant issues and dimensions. The results of ISSAT’s evaluation found that SNP systematically promoted gender equality, and allocated resources for combatting sexual and gender-based violence crimes. This reflected Swedish commitment to this gender equality and combatting SGBV, through project strategies that promoted awareness-raising among local counterparts.


LESSON 2: Gender equality subject-matter expertise is essential for articulating project impact

The Swedish National Police included a gender expert as part of the project’s team. The gender expert on SGBV was not based in Liberia but deployed up to four times a year. Having a gender expert as part of the project further strengthened the quality of the project’s deliverables, as well as the communications capability for the project to create traction and ownership of its priorities amongst stakeholders. It increased focus on SGBV reporting, achievements and outcomes for Swedish National Police, as well as enabled greater synergies between the different work streams. 


LESSON 3: Build on what works at the local context

ISSAT’s evaluation demonstrated that the Swedish support project achieved positive results from its capacity building engagements on SGBV because it built on existing training material already used by the Liberian National Police and the UN Mission in Liberia. This method ensured that the project’s contribution was consistent with current skills and techniques used by LNP. The added value of the SNP was therefore to bring in practical implementation techniques addressing victims of SGBV. This made the trainings and practical elements relevant and grounded in a Liberian context rather than in a Swedish model, contributing directly to the success of the project.


LESSON 4: Comfort rooms are an effective protection measure if used appropriately

Another key output of the Swedish support project was the usage of comfort rooms where victims can report SGBV crimes. Comfort rooms require minimal maintenance costs if used in a consistent manner. ISSAT’s evaluation showed that it is important to establish guidelines and objectives for their usage to prevent improper, or unintended usage of the dedicated facilities. Moreover, comfort rooms need to be included in national regulations, operational documents and strategies in order to enable continuous monitoring and review of their usage by SGBV victims.


LESSON 5: Donor coordination on cross-cutting issues is crucial

ISSAT’s evaluation demonstrated that engagement in coordination activities ensures critical information gathering on primary needs when it comes to SGBV crime investigations and forensic evidence gathering. Active and close collaboration between donors and national stakeholders in the form of task forces or coordination groups strengthens the effectiveness and impact of donor efforts and programming. It also provides a platform to explore whether the project is on the right track and opens new channels to troubleshoot if and when the project faces resistance, blockages or challenges.


LESSON 6: Avoid revictimization during evaluation of SGBV programming

To safeguard and protect the victims of SGBV crimes, there is a need for rules and procedures to be put in place in the methodology in order to prevent “revictimization” of victims. Questions and discussions on the person’s prior traumatic experience and re-examination of details and actions that explain the incident and the police’s response could put the SGBV survivor at risk, as well as expose their family or community members to unintended consequences. Evaluation teams conducting impact or effectiveness reviews of a SGBV programs need to design their approach avoiding revictimizing the victims.


Lesson 7: Use awareness-raising campaigns as an outreach tool and not only for visibility

When awareness campaigns are used as a strategy for the project to achieve its objectives, it is important that these are used as outreach channels to raise awareness on SGBV rather than merely be project visibility tools. Such campaigns also enable continuous monitoring on SGBV issues and serve as powerful advocacy tools for national counterparts to their maintain focus on those crimes and combatting them. Projects that integrate empirical evidence of outcomes in their awareness campaigns tend to achieve higher levels of conviction and credibility, particularly on a complex and culturally charged subject area such as SGBV.

Case Study

La création d’une Police Républicaine au Bénin

Contexte et introduction

Le développement du Bénin repose fortement sur sa capacité à attirer des investissements économiques internationaux et du tourisme. La sécurité du pays constitue donc une condition essentielle de sa richesse future dans une région ouest-africaine troublée par des phénomènes violents. Depuis de nombreuses années, les forces de sécurité et de défense béninoises font face aux menaces traditionnelles de la grande criminalité, des coupeurs de route ou de l’exploitation illicite de la mer. La menace nouvelle d’une extension du terrorisme sahélien sur le territoire du Bénin s’est concrétisée le 1er mai 2019, par l’assassinat d’un guide du parc de la Pendjari et l’enlèvement de touristes français près de la frontière du Burkina Faso.

Le sujet de la sécurité était déjà un enjeu de campagne des élections du premier semestre 2016 qui ont porté Patrice Talon à la présidence du Bénin. Prolongeant ses propositions de candidat, le nouveau Chef de l’État a rapidement exprimé sa vision de la transformation du secteur de la sécurité dans le Programme d’Actions du Gouvernement (PAG) 2016-2021 et le Plan National de Développement (PND) 2018-2025 qui décline la vision prospective « Bénin 2025 Alafia ». Il y expose en particulier la volonté de rationaliser l’architecture gouvernementale et l’administration publique. La création d’une force unique de sécurité intérieure sous la tutelle du ministère de l’Intérieur et de la Sécurité publique fusionnant la police et la gendarmerie pour améliorer le cadre de gestion y est mentionnée.

Le PAG liste dix-huit projets sectoriels touchant au renforcement de la sécurité publique et du système de défense, à la prévention des risques et protection civile, ainsi qu’à la gestion intégrée des espaces frontaliers et des affaires intérieures. Avec pour seul précèdent récent à une telle fusion la réforme des polices de Belgique du 1er janvier 2001, la création le 1er janvier 2018 de la « Police républicaine » constitue une initiative majeure de la transformation du secteur de sécurité béninois. Le dispositif de sécurité du pays est ainsi modifié par la disparition de deux structures très anciennes, qui ont contribué par leur culture et leurs traditions à son architecture et sa gouvernance. Le Bénin voit naitre donc une structure réunissant aujourd’hui environ 10.000 policiers qui se veut hybride en procédant à la fusion de deux organisations, pratiques et conceptions de la sécurité intérieure. 

En réalité, l‘instabilité régionale et des nouvelles menaces sécuritaires nécessitent que les autorités du Bénin mettent en œuvre un vrai processus d’anticipation et d’adaptation. La création de la Police républicaine ne représente qu’une première étape d’un tel processus alors qu’une nouvelle Stratégie de Sécurité Nationale est désormais attendue au premier semestre 2020. Alors que la réussite de la fusion police-gendarmerie pourrait conditionner les étapes à venir, elle constitue donc un défi majeur avec des avantages et des inconvénients parfois prévisibles aussi bien sur le plan structurel que fonctionnel.

Les difficultés de la fusion

Sur le plan stratégique

Dans plusieurs pays confrontés aux besoins de transformer en profondeur l’organisation de la sécurité, des politiques et des stratégies de sécurité nationale ont été développées pour définir des objectifs prioritaires et les capacités requises pour les atteindre. Leurs autorités nationales ont généralement fixé le cadre d’une réforme du secteur de la sécurité (RSS) par un document de politique de sécurité et un plan de transformation qui concilie aspirations et moyens. L’expérience démontre qu’il est important que chacun de ces documents clés intègre la sécurité intérieure, la défense et la justice et qu’il soit le produit d’un processus de dialogue véritablement global et inclusif, qui donne lieu à une vision largement partagée.

Tout au long de l’année 2017, le comité mis en place pour préparer la fusion de la Police Nationale et de la Gendarmerie Nationale n’a pas travaillé dans un cadre de réforme fondé sur une stratégie nationale du secteur de la sécurité ou une politique nationale de sécurité. Sans orientation politique ou stratégique à sa disposition, le comité n’a fondé son travail que sur la volonté du chef de l’État. Cette volonté politique, bien que déterminante en matière de réforme, n’est pas suffisante à elle seule pour établir des priorités et rapprocher les points de vue divergeant sur les aspects techniques d’une transformation difficile. L’absence de planification sur le long terme a également fait craindre un déroulement imprévisible des changements et à une difficulté prévisible pour l’État à faire face aux couts non évalués au préalable.

Sur le plan structurel

La première difficulté a porté sur les ressources humaines et les économies d’échelles à obtenir puisque des unités et des fonctions ont dû être rationnalisées dans une organisation unique sans doublon. Autrement dit, lorsque deux structures hiérarchiques parallèles fusionnent en une seule structure sans démultiplication injustifiée des postes de responsabilité, beaucoup de cadres se retrouvent sans responsabilités de commandement.

Dans le cas du Bénin, la fusion a affecté l’emploi de près de trois cents officiers. Certains ont été mis à la disposition de la direction générale de la Police républicaine tandis que d’autres sont restés sans affectation opérationnelle. Pour améliorer la situation de ces cadres, une solution temporaire a été trouvée par le déploiement de plusieurs d’entre eux dans des opérations de maintien de la paix d’organisations multilatérales afin d’éviter un trop grand nombre d’officiers désœuvrés.

Un effet positif de la fusion est cependant déjà constaté. La densité du maillage sécuritaire au Bénin est insuffisante au regard de standards internationaux, notamment dans les zones frontalières et dans le nord du pays où est identifié une vulnérabilité particulière à la radicalisation religieuse. La fusion a permis l’amélioration de la couverture sécuritaire en rationalisant la répartition des effectifs des forces de sécurité sur le territoire. Les localités qui disposaient à la fois d’un commissariat de police et d’une caserne de gendarmerie sont maintenant placées sous la juridiction d’un commissariat unique, évitant ainsi les conflits entre corps, l’ambiguïté des responsabilités et le gaspillage de moyens. L’économie financière qui a été générée a permis l’implantation d’unités dans les localités qui étaient dépourvus de présence policière. Même si le ratio police-population demeure le même, le service de sécurité s’est ainsi rapproché de la population : près de 85% du territoire est aujourd’hui couvert contre 55% avant la fusion.

Sur le plan fonctionnel

La fusion a pour ambition de disposer d’une force de sécurité intérieure complète, ni juste police ni complètement gendarmerie, opérant aussi bien dans les villes que dans les campagnes isolées, en conservant des fonctions spécifiques à la gendarmerie, telle par exemple que celle de la police aux armées. Il faudra néanmoins du temps pour harmoniser effectivement les pratiques du fait des nombreuses différences fonctionnelles entre les deux précédentes institutions.

La gendarmerie était organisée avec des officiers, des sous-officiers et des hommes du rang alors que la police nationale avait une structure à quatre corps de gardiens de la paix, d’officiers de paix, d’inspecteurs et de commissaires.  Les gendarmes étaient soumis aux impératifs de disponibilité du régime militaire, les policiers bénéficiaient d’un mode de management des ressources humaines plus proche du reste des administrations de la fonction publique. La pratique du commandement et l’organisation de la chaine d’ordres étaient d’inspiration militaire chez les gendarmes qui utilisaient une structure de type état-major constituée de bureaux fonctionnels (B1 à B9) alors que la structure de commandement de la police nationale relevait d’un mélange de logique administrative et de touches paramilitaire avec des directions techniques, des directions centrales, etc.

Des difficultés sont donc apparues lors du reversement et du reclassement des personnels des deux anciennes institutions dans les nouveaux corps et grades d’appartenance. Fort opportunément, l’ancienne Police avait déjà entrepris une réforme interne pour adopter une organisation en deux corps (sous-officiers et hommes du rang, puis officiers) dont la mise en œuvre aux premières heures de la fusion a facilité les reversements et reclassements.

Au niveau opérationnel, les gendarmes et les policiers ne travaillaient pas de la même manière, à l’exemple des tirs de sommation qui n’étaient pas autorisés aux policiers pour le maintien de l’ordre alors que les gendarmes pouvaient en faire usage. En mai 2019, de violents affrontements à Cotonou ont opposés des manifestants à la Police républicaine et à l’armée, qui ont été mises en cause pour avoir tiré à balles réelles. L’explication de cet incident dépasse le seul problème de la différence de pratique du maintien de l’ordre mais le cas illustre des difficultés opérationnelles de la police qui restent à régler.  

De plus, du fait des lieux d’exercice de leurs fonctions, la police a toujours été en zones urbaines alors que la gendarmerie a plutôt été considérée comme une force officiant dans les campagnes. L’ordre public ou la sécurité publique n’y a pas la même connotation, puisque l’espace public n’a ni les mêmes dimensions ni les mêmes significations. Ainsi, la fonction de renseignement de proximité dans les quartiers occupe une place importante dans la fonction policière où elle se trouve très organisée alors qu’en gendarmerie c’est plutôt la surveillance du territoire et la mobilité des unités qui sont importantes pour des fins de défense opérationnelle du territoire.

Au-delà de ces premières différences, un enjeu majeur consiste à faire converger des cultures institutionnelles et des perceptions individuelles de leur rôle dans la société béninoise très différentes. Les personnels des deux institutions n’avaient pas les mêmes codes, ni les mêmes représentations sociales du service qu’ils rendent à la population. La gendarmerie mettait l’accent sur son caractère républicain garant des institutions de l’Etat alors que la police revendiquait une proximité plus grande avec la population à laquelle elle fournissait un service public de sécurité et de défense des droits de citoyens.

Conclusion et l’avenir de la fusion

La réussite à moyen et long-terme de la fusion entre la police nationale et la gendarmerie nécessite la mise en place d’un système rigoureux de suivi et de l’évaluation. Il semble aujourd’hui que la décision de création d’une organisation unique de sécurité intérieure policière est efficiente puisqu’elle a permis de mutualiser les moyens et les ressources afin d’occuper plus d’espace. Il est néanmoins crucial de pouvoir assurer le suivi de la fusion et de ses effets sur le long terme. Des benchmarks clairs doivent encore être établis alors qu’ils n’avaient pas été pensés au préalable. Or, sans document du planification ou feuille de route allant au-delà de la fusion des structures, il est peu probable d’avoir des instruments de mesure permettant de juger de l’efficacité de la nouvelle institution.

Après le lancement des dix-huit projets liés à la sécurité du PAG, la décision a donc été prise en 2019 de rédiger une Stratégie de Sécurité Nationale (SSN), intégrant les réflexions de l’état-major des armées et de la direction générale de la Police républicaine. Cette initiative devra prendre en compte des thématiques transversales clefs, telles que la prévention de l’extrémisme violent, le contrôle démocratique du secteur de la sécurité, le genre et les droits humains. Ces derniers, faute d’être systématisés et intégrés de manière structurée et pérenne, risqueraient de faire l’objet de considérations aléatoires laissées au bon vouloir des responsables à divers niveaux.

La vigueur politique avec laquelle les changements ont été imposés aux personnels policiers, notamment en matière de réduction des tracasseries et de la petite corruption, a abouti à une amélioration perceptible par la population de la situation sécuritaire sur les grands axes de communication du pays et dans les grandes villes. Il se pose maintenant la question de l’extension, de la viabilité et de la durabilité du processus de réforme qui dépendent largement de la capacité de l’État à le financer et du soutien combiné des citoyens et des policiers béninois.

Un tel changement doit donc être adossé à un projet de société ou un programme économique d’envergure. La Stratégie de Sécurité Nationale en cours d’élaboration devra venir combler les vides en apportant une lisibilité et une cohérence à l’ensemble du processus de RSS. C’est alors que le modèle de Police républicaine sera systématisé, présentable et exportable.

Le rôle principal de l'ISSAT est de fournir un soutien opérationnel pour renforcer les capacités de la communauté internationale en termes de réforme de la sécurité et de la justice. A travers nos études de cas, nous présentons à nos donateurs et à notre communauté de praticiens des exemples contextualisés de processus de réforme qui pourraient leur être utiles dans la mise en œuvre de leurs programmes. Cette étude de cas est basée sur les observations et les réflexions de l’un de nos experts en RSS, suite à un déploiement dans le pays. Cette étude de cas vise également à ouvrir le débat. N’hésitez pas à nous faire part de vos commentaires.

Case Study

Burkina Faso - Current Critical Security Issues


Burkina Faso has been increasingly exposed to the threats and attacks of violent armed groups, targeting symbols, institutions and representatives of the state, including the defence and security forces, local leaders and political figures.

With a history of several coup d’états, the country has entered a cycle of more frequent terrorist attacks since 2014. The northern parts of the country, bordering Mali and Niger, are particularly at risk as a result of conflict spill-over. In December 2018, a state of emergency was declared in several regions, granting extraordinary powers to the security forces and restricting freedom of movement and assembly in the country. The State of Emergency was renewed twice in January 2020 and June 2021.

This short knowledge product aims to address emerging concerns for human security in a country of high interest to ISSAT Members. It builds on DCAF’s operational programming, open-source documents, as well as the learning ISSAT captures from its Governing board Members engagement in the country. and maps out the top challenges and actors impacting the hybrid security landscape in the country. This note also aims to be a conversation starter and ISSAT welcomes comments and contributions from its members and Community of Practice.

Food Insecurity

Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries with more than half of its population living on 1.90 USD per day. It is a traditionally rural country and agriculture is its main source of income. Farming and forestry employ 80% of the population. Despite recent economic growth, poverty levels remain largely stagnant. This is partly driven by population growth rates, combined with recent climate shocks, affecting crops and food security . Urban areas are particularly affected, with an unemployment rate of 50%. Poverty, combined with an overstretched state apparatus, leads to significant gaps in access to state security and justice services and creates a breeding ground for social tensions and violence. This gives credibility and space for non-state armed group to operate, in particular in areas where the community expresses perceptions of exclusion, especially amongst the youth, namely in relation to corruption and unequal distribution of resources and wealth. This could be compounded by unharmonized access to public services between the capital and regions.

Community Level Tensions

The broader security landscape in the Sahel region needs to be taken into consideration when examining the worsened security situation in Burkina Faso. Following the conflict in northern Mali, the armed groups have contributed to the rise of intercommunal violence in central Mali, but also in Niger and Burkina Faso.

While their areas of operation were at first concentrated in the administrative provinces of Soum and Oudalan, in the northern Sahel Region bordering Mali and Niger, the attacks have now spread into other administrative regions notably the Est, Boucle du Mouhoun and Northern Regions and are also threatening the capital, Ouagadougou, and the border areas with Benin and Ivory Coast.

These armed groups have been mostly targeting civilians and state security forces and committing serious human rights violations, leading to massive population displacement and intercommunal tensions. The heightened security risks across the region could lead towards further militarisation within Burkina Faso. As armed groups recruit and arm (male) civilians, the State is trying to compensate for its shortcomings by also widening the access to weapons for reasons of national civil defence. As a result, regional human security is undermining prospects for peace and development in Burkina Faso and the Sahel region.

Population Displacement

Indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Burkina Faso have led to the displacement of more than a million people as of December 2019. Compared to 50,000 in January 2019, this is a number, experts expect to continue increase.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) face several critical human security challenges such as food insecurity and limited access to the land resources and markets. Access to basic services such as health, education, water, sanitation and justice is also a major concern. Their presence weighs on the resources of  host communities and puts an extra burden on an already stretched out national resources and public services infrastructure, leading to increasing tensions among the communities and risk of intercommunal violence. These tensions were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has globally affected the most vulnerable hardest.

Population displacements also impact the security of the territory, and the ability of the security forces to track members of the armed groups, while there are growing concerns that IDPs and those living in refugee camps are vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremist groups.

Over-Stretched State Security Institutions

Burkina Faso’s security forces are considered inadequately equipped and lack sufficient operational capacity to perform their duties in line with the country and population’s needs. They have sometimes been accused of disproportionate use of violence, extrajudicial killings and human rights violations, including towards civilians. Concerns were also raised regarding the composition of the army and auxiliary forces under its control and the risk of the current events affecting the coherence and resiliency of this institution. Furthermore, corruption, lack of accountability and weak legitimacy undermines the legitimacy of the security forces. National security personnel may also be members of non-state forces such as the Koglweogo, which is one of the largest non-state security actors in Burkina Faso. Koglweogo groups gradually became important players in Burkina Faso’s security and political landscape, questioning State authority and legitimacy.

Despite the recent creation of a new special forces body, the path is still long and challenging before their role and impact become clear. The previous elite unit, the Presidential Guard, was dissolved in 2015, leaving an institutional and human resources gap as it had represented around 10% of the total military body and a large margin of the defence budget, training and equipment.

The international community, including the EU, UN, US, and the Joint G5 force for Sahel are supporting armed forces’ capacity development, including skills and equipment provision. However, lack of sufficient attention to management and accountability aspects in a country where those are perceived to be corrupt, politicised and abusive of their powers, makes this a risky endeavour.

Lack of Access to State Security Services

A 2018 donor-led assessment conducted through ISSAT’s support in Burkina Faso showed that security forces were absent in 36% of the regions. The ratio of security personnel of 1/758 is well below the international standard of 1/400. With a total strength of 5,219 gendarmes, the gendarmerie ratio is 1/2,685. The country has 350 administrative regions in total, 156 of which do not have any internal security force unit established.  24% of the administrative regions have at least one police station and one gendarmerie unit and  31% have one gendarmerie unit or a police station.

The inconsistent coverage of all the territory has led to unequal distribution of State services across the entire population, in particular in rural areas. At the core of this institutional challenge are multiple drivers, including inefficient use of human resources, unclear institutional mandates, blurred lines of management and weak national coordination. Burkina Faso still lacks clear plans to organise and restructure the territorial distribution of its security forces.

The National Police is placed under the authority of the Ministry of Security and organized around the General Directorate of the National Police. It is responsible for public security and consists of civil servants. The National Gendarmerie is technically under the authority of the Ministry of Defence but reports to the Ministry of Security, with weapons and equipment still managed by the Ministry of Defence. It is a military force with similar ranking system to the army. The police and gendarmerie perform their activities across the country. While the law provides that a decree shall specify the respective areas of territorial jurisdiction, both police and the gendarmerie often end up working in the same locations at the expense of certain regions. The traditional role of the police to operate in urban areas and the gendarmerie in the countryside, has been blurred during the last years, leading to a shift of the National Police outside urban areas and the ‘urbanization’ of Gendarmerie units.

Weak Oversight and Accountability over a Hybrid Security Landscape

Initially locally formed to respond to rising insecurity in the northern regions, non-state armed groups such as the Koglweogo, Dozos and Rugas have evolved to key players in the security and political landscape in Burkina Faso. These groups have established semi-formal relations with the security forces with whom they collaborate. In 2018, the government launched several initiatives to strengthen the dialogue with the Koglweogo and adopted a decree formally allowing them to participate in the fight against insecurity alongside the State forces. The option to transform these groups into a community police mechanism was also scoped.

Adding to the hybridity of Burkina Faso’s security landscape, in 2020, the government adopted a decree creating the status of ‘Defence Volunteers’, according to which, these contribute, by force of arms, if necessary, to the defence and protection of persons and property in their area of residence. The volunteers undergo a swift military training, are armed and placed under local leadership structures. These have been loosely placed between state security institutions and non-state armed groups. They have as a result been victims of attaches by non-state armed groups and unable to seek shelter in military camps.

The Koglweogo and other non-state armed groups have been able to implement their own rules and pass sentences. They have already been accused of committing human rights violations and their activities are often inconsistent with the respect of basic rule of law principles such as the presumption of innocence. Despite their perceived effectiveness in dealing with insecurity at the local level, the legalisation of such groups questions the ability and credibility of the State to oversee  armed groups’ practices. The community’s frustration with armed groups’ human rights  abuses could further expose the State’s incapacity to oversee them and hold them accountable in the framework of Rule of Law.

Weapons Proliferation

The trafficking and diversion of weapons and ammunition are fuelling the conflict in the Sahel and continue to threaten community safety across the region, in particular in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. Burkina Faso is located along some of the most important weapons trafficking routes in West Africa. To prevent the deterioration of the situation, the Burkinabe government suspended the sale of firearms to the civilian population at the end of February 2019. However, after only a few months, the measure was lifted in June. In early 2020, the government took a reverse approach by creating the Defence Volunteer status, therefore giving civilians access to weapons and legalising their use of force to supplement the security forces.

However, arming civilians could negatively contribute to a complex security landscape and fuel conflict.  Burkina Faso’s intercommunal tensions soared due to the multiplication of armed groups as the perceived association of Fulani communities with Islamists groups generated resentment and mistrust among the rest of the population. Therefore, arming civilians in a tensed security context where government control is limited could likely foster the proliferation of weapons and heighten probability of intercommunal conflict.

Elections Volatility

Burkina Faso has a long history of coup d’états. In the current security situation, the international community could be concerned that non-state armed groups could seriously impair the election process. Due to increased violence and terrorist attacks, entire villages have been displaced from regions in the north and east. As a result,  electoral constituencies have undergone significant change in inhabitants, reflecting an emerging imbalance between number of candidates and sizes of constituencies. The electoral law and the possibility for displaced voters to vote outside their constituencies is also under scrutiny.

Armed groups have also been playing a key role in the political space in Burkina Faso. As a prominent actor with an increasingly important role, armed groups have been using their influence in shaping the future of Burkinabé elections and politics.

SSR Process Facing Significant Challenges

The worsened security situation in the country, increased violence, high number of IDPs and lack of access to State services across the whole country are some of the main challenges facing the security sector reform process in Burkina Faso.

In October 2017, a National Security Forum held in Ouagadougou with over 600 participants from ministries, agencies and civil society kicked-off the Security Sector Reform process led by the National Defence and Security Council (CSDN). The country set itself on a reformative agenda to elaborate on a new national security policy and strategy, develop an anti-corruption strategy, increase governance of the security sector and develop a strategy to combat violent extremism, among other commitments. DCAF has been supporting this process through contributing to the drafting of a national security policy and a national security strategy.

One of the key priorities currently in Burkina Faso is preventing violent extremism and a national strategy to prevent radicalisation and violent extremism was adopted in May 2021. Whilst the pressing need in Burkina Faso is the stabilisation of the country and building the resilience of its community in view of the millions of IDPs and overwhelmed public sector, longer-term reforms need to remain important for the donor community in this country. The synchronisation between crises response and investment in SSR for sustainable conflict prevention and peacebuilding is the biggest challenge facing reform across the Sahel region.

Case Study

Exemple de cas d'intégration du genre : Développement de programmes de formation - Contribution de la RSS à la prévention et à la lutte contre l'extrémisme violent

En 2018, le Danemark, la France, les Pays-Bas, la Norvège et la Suisse ont mandaté l'ISSAT pour développer un cours sur la " Contribution de la RSS à la prévention et à la lutte contre l'extrémisme violent " (SSR-VE). L'objectif de ce mandat était de créer un cours de 5 jours focalisé sur la prévention de l'extrémisme violent (VE) et couvrant les dimensions liées à la sécurité humaine, la gouvernance et l'engagement des communautés locales. Les cours ont ensuite été expérimentés à Bamako (Mali) et à La Haye (Pays-Bas).


Dès le début, l'ISSAT a adopté une approche fondée sur le genre pour l'élaboration et la prestation des cours, prenant en considération le lien important entre ce domaine thématique et la sécurité communautaire ainsi que sa pertinence pour la sécurité et subsistance des hommes, des femmes, des garçons et des filles.


Points d'entrée pour l'égalité des genres

Références au genre dans les documents fondateurs du cours

Les termes de référence du cours fixent des engagements explicites en matière d'égalité des genres pour le cours.  Le document de conception du cours souligne que " les considérations liées au genre seront intégrées dans l'ensemble du programme.  Il met l'accent sur la présentation d'expériences fondées sur des données probantes reflétant l'importance critique de l'analyse sensible au genre pour répondre aux besoins uniques des communautés locales, aux défis de l'injustice et de la marginalisation sur différents segments de la société".


L'ancrage des considérations relatives à l'égalité des sexes dans la vision du cours et dans les documents fondateurs a non seulement permis de parvenir à une compréhension commune de l'importance de l'égalité des genres et de la RSS, mais a également garanti l'intégration de cet aspect dans l'ensemble des supports du cours.  Cela a également permis aux animateurs du cours de s'engager dans la nécessité de mettre davantage l'accent sur l'égalité des sexes dans leurs sessions individuelles.


Parité au sein de l'équipe du cours et parmi les participants

L'ISSAT a investi des efforts considérables pour viser une représentation paritaire au sein de l'équipe de formation.  L'équipe chargée de l'élaboration du programme d'études, ainsi que les équipes d'animation, étaient composées à part égale d'hommes et de femmes.


Le principal défi reste d'assurer la parité des participants à la formation, domaine dans lequel l'ISSAT a la plus faible marge d'impact.  Malgré un suivi actif visant à inclure les femmes, lors de la première session pilote à Bamako, seules 3 femmes (14%) ont participé au cours, en raison du faible nombre de candidates.  Lors de la deuxième session pilote à La Haye, le taux de participation des femmes était plus élevé, avec 47 %.


Une analyse comparative des deux sessions de formation souligne l'importance de la parité des sexes pour des discussions plus représentatives, pertinentes et diversifiées sur les questions liées à la réforme de la sécurité et de la justice.  Elle favorise également un engagement plus fort des participants en ce qui concerne les thèmes des cours. 


Déterminer le niveau de sensibilisation des participants aux questions de genre

L'ISSAT a déterminé le niveau de sensibilisation aux questions de genre parmi les participants à la formation en procédant à l'analyse des demandes d’inscription et des questionnaires préalables au cours. Cette étape joue un rôle capital pour que le matériel de formation réponde aux besoins des participants et pour garantir que le débat autour de l'égalité des genres soit nourri par l'introduction des thèmes et questions clés, et évolue vers une compréhension plus complexe des rôles de genre et des implications sur l'efficacité, la responsabilité et la légitimité des institutions de sécurité et de justice.


Développement du contenu

Le cours de SSR-VE visait à sensibiliser à l'importance de développer des programmes de RSS sensibles au genre, basés sur une analyse fondée sur le genre de la sécurité communautaire et visant l'égalité des genres dans l'accès aux services, ainsi que dans la prestation des dits services. Il visait à modifier l'orientation actuelle de la communauté de la RSS, qui est principalement axée sur le recrutement des hommes et des garçons dans les groupes extrémistes, et à la rééquilibrer concernant les questions du recrutement souvent négligé des femmes et des filles et des rôles qu'elles jouent dans la communauté et dans les institutions de sécurité.


Les deux cours pilotes comprenaient également une session sur le " renforcement de la confiance entre les citoyens et les forces de sécurité ", qui mettait l'accent sur l'égalité des genre et les approches fondées sur les droits humains. Cette session a introduit une séance de jeux de rôle pour illustrer que les femmes, les hommes, les filles et les garçons ont des expériences différentes de l'(in)sécurité et a inclus des exercices pour discuter des rôles des différents groupes dans la prévention de l'extrémisme violent. En outre, les bonnes pratiques d'inclusion et de représentativité ont été largement discutées lors des sessions thématiques sur la gouvernance, la justice pénale et le maintien de l'ordre. Le message clé transmis dans le cadre de la session sur la gouvernance portait sur le rôle clé que joue l'égalité des genres dans le renforcement de l'efficacité, de la responsabilité, de la transparence et de l'inclusivité des institutions de sécurité et de justice. Au cours de la session sur la réforme de la chaîne de la justice pénale, les facilitateurs ont abordé la question de l'accès à la justice et de l'exclusion de groupes spécifiques en raison de leur culture, de leur gender, de leur âge ou de leur milieu socioéconomique. La session sur l'engagement communautaire s'est concentrée sur les conditions de la réduction de la violence communautaire (CVR), en discutant de la manière d'autonomiser les hommes, les femmes, les garçons et les filles et de promouvoir la cohésion sociale.


Présentation du cours

Dans la prestation de ses deux cours pilotes, l'ISSAT reconnaît l'importance de développer des stratégies d'intégration de la dimension de genre qui soient culturellement sensibles. La compréhension du contexte dans lequel la formation a été dispensée était d'une importance primordiale pour les animateurs. L'approche du cours a été conçue en tenant compte des croyances profondément enracinées et des valeurs sensibles au genre des participants. Les animateurs du cours ont veillé à ce que les questions d'égalité soient abordées d'une manière adaptée aux contextes locaux et régionaux. Par exemple, les questions pertinentes pour les personnes LGBTQ ont été plus facilement abordées lors de la deuxième formation pilote à La Haye.



·       Définir clairement les résultats, les objectifs et les livrables liés à l'égalité des genres dans les documents fondateurs du cours. Cela permet d'obtenir l'engagement de toute l'équipe depuis le début et de s'assurer que l'accent est mis sur cette priorité stratégique clef tout au long de la conception et de la prestation du cours.

·       Allouer suffisamment de temps pour expliquer et déconstruire les notions de genre, d'intégration de la dimension de genre et d'égalité entre les genre. Souvent, les participants ont des conceptions préconçues de ce que l'on entend par genre. Une discussion ouverte sur ce qu'est le genre, au début du cours, peut aider à établir une compréhension commune entre les participants et, par conséquent, permettre un échange plus riche et plus productif pendant les sessions. 

·       Rechercher une parité entre les genres parmi les participants à la formation en diffusant de manière proactive les applications du cours parmi les participantes potentiellement pertinentes. Cela peut être particulièrement difficile, en raison des faibles pourcentages de femmes dans de nombreuses institutions de sécurité et de justice. L'impact de la diversité parmi les participants à la formation est très élevé sur le niveau et la qualité des discussions, ainsi que sur la force du message que le cours communique sur l'engagement de l'organisation envers l'égalité des genres.

·       Lorsque la parité n'est pas atteinte, les animateurs doivent adopter des stratégies alternatives pour compenser cet écart. Ces stratégies pourraient inclure le recours à des animatrices ou des conférencières supplémentaires, l'établissement de règles de base permettant à tous les participants d'intervenir sans crainte ni intimidation, ou la promotion d'une discussion ouverte entre les participants sur les expériences positives ou négatives liées au genre dans leur vie professionnelle et/ou personnelle. 

·       L'établissement de données probantes ou d'exemples fondés sur l'expérience avant le cours est la clé du succès du cours. Les animateurs doivent de plus en plus se référer aux recherches et aux preuves existantes sur la dynamique des genres et des masculinités en rapport avec le sujet du cours. Les spécificités culturelles liées aux constructions sociales et de genre dans le contexte géographique du lieu du cours doivent également être prises en considération afin de maximiser l'impact de la formation et d'éviter les maladresses culturelles.


Case study published in January 2020. 

Case Study