Case Studies

The Creation of a Republican Police in Benin

Background and Introduction

Benin's development relies heavily on its ability to attract foreign investments and on tourism. In a West African region troubled by violent events, the country's security is therefore an essential condition to its future wealth. Benin's security and defence forces have been facing the traditional threats posed by serious and organised crime, road blockages and illegal exploitation of the sea for many years. The extension of terrorism from the Sahel into Benin is an emerging risk for the stability of the country. It became a reality on May 1st, 2019, with the assassination of a guide in the Pendjari Park and the kidnapping of French tourists near the border with Burkina Faso.

National security was already a key issue during the 2016 elections campaign. As new Head of State, Patrice Talon quickly expressed his vision for the transformation of the security sector in the Government Action Programme (GAP) 2016-2021 and the National Development Plan (NDP) 2018-2025. The documents set out the ambition to rationalise the public administration and the government’s architecture. The GAP lists eighteen sectoral projects aiming at strengthening public security and national defence, including, risk prevention, civil protection, integrated management of border areas and internal security.

The creation of a single internal security force under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security through merging the police and gendarmerie, was included as a potential measure to improve the security sector’s management. The operationalisation of this commitment came on the 1st of January 2018, when the creation of the "Republican Police" was announced. This major initiative, transforming Benin's security sector, only has one recent precedent, being the reform of Belgium's police initiated on the 1st of January 2001. Benin’s security apparatus is being redefined, as a result of the disappearance of those two very old structures, which contributed through their culture and traditions to its architecture and governance. The new structure now brings together some 10,000 police officers and is intended to be a hybrid of two organisations with different practices and understandings of internal security. 

In reality, regional instability and emerging security threats require Benin’s political authorities to implement an effective system for anticipation and response. The creation of the Republican Police is only the first step, and a new National Security Strategy is now expected in the first half of 2020. While the police-gendarmerie merger could define the reform’s outlook, it constitutes a major challenge for the country with foreseeable advantages and disadvantages on the structural and functional levels.

The Challenges of the Merger

Strategic Challenges

Fundamentally transforming the organisation of a security institution requires national security policies and strategies that identify priority objectives and the capabilities required to achieve them. Throughout 2017, the committee set up to prepare for the merger of the National Police and the National Gendarmerie has worked without a national security sector strategy or a national security policy. With no political or strategic guidance at its disposal, the committee based its work solely on the will of the Head of State.

Ideally, national authorities generally set the framework for security sector reform (SSR) through a security policy document and a transformation plan that reconciles aspirations and means. Experience shows that it is important that these key documents integrate internal security, defence and justice and are the product of a truly comprehensive and inclusive dialogue, resulting in a widely shared vision. The Head of State’ political will, while crucial to reform, is not sufficient on its own to set priorities and bridge the gap between divergent views on the technical aspects of a difficult transformation. The lack of long-term planning has also led to fears of an unpredictable process and a foreseeable difficulty for the State to meet costs not previously assessed.

Structural Challenges

The first structural challenge concerned the human resources and economies of scale that needed to be achieved as units and functions were streamlined into a single organisation, avoiding duplication. As a result of two hierarchical structures merging into a single structure, many officers found themselves without command responsibilities. The merger affected the employment of nearly three hundred officers. Some were placed at the disposal of the General Directorate of the Republican Police while others remained without operational assignments. To improve the situation of these officers and in order to avoid an excessive number of idle officers, a temporary solution was found by deploying several of them to peacekeeping operations under the umbrella of multilateral organisations.

On the positive side, the merger has improved security coverage by rationalising the distribution of security forces throughout the country. The density of the security network in Benin was insufficient by international standards, particularly in the border areas and in the north of the country where the risk of religious radicalisation is greater. Localities that used to have both a police station and gendarmerie barracks are now under the jurisdiction of a single police station, thus avoiding conflicts between bodies, ambiguity of responsibilities and wasted resources. The financial savings generated as a result of the merger have made it possible to set up units in localities where there was no police presence. In spite of the police-population ratio remaining unchanged, the security service has come closer to the population with nearly 85% of the territory being covered, compared to 55% before the merger.

Functional Challenges

The aim of the merger is to have an integrated internal security force, with a hybrid functioning system, retaining some aspects particular to the gendarmerie, such as military police whilst operating both in cities and isolated rural areas. A complete functional harmonisation will be a long-term process due to the deep divergences between the two institutions. For example, the gendarmerie was organised with officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers, whereas the national police had a four-corps structure of peacekeepers, peace officers, inspectors and commissioners.  The gendarmes were subject to availability requirements as per the military regime, while the police benefited from a human resources management system, closer to the rest of the civil service administrations. The Chain of Command among the gendarmes was inspired by the military system, which uses a staff-type structure consisting of functional offices (B1 to B9), whereas the command structure of the national police was a mixture of administrative and paramilitary aspects with technical directorates, central directorates, etc. As a result, many challenges arose when the staff of the two former institutions were transferred and reclassified into the new corps and ranks. A key opportunity and enabler for the merger was the previous internal police reform process which adopted a two-corps organisation (non-commissioned officers and officers), which facilitated the transfer and reclassification for the merger.

On the operational level, gendarmes and police officers do not have the same approach for conducting their work. For example, the use of warning shots for law enforcement was not authorised for police officers, whereas gendarmes were allowed to revert to this measure. In May 2019, violent clashes in Cotonou pitted demonstrators against the republican police and the army, who were accused of firing live ammunition. This incident illustrates operational difficulties for the police that remain to be addressed.  

Whilst the police has performed its duties in urban areas, the gendarmerie has been perceived as an institution representing the State in the countryside. In addition, public space, public order and safety are concepts with different meanings and interpretations in rural and urban areas. For example, the function of local intelligence gathering occupies an important place in the police function and is highly organised, whereas the gendarmerie engages in terrain surveillance and practices mobility of units for operational defence of the territory.

Beyond these initial differences, a major challenge is to bring together very different institutional cultures and individual perceptions of their role in Beninese society. The personnel of the two institutions did not have the same codes, nor the same social representations of the service they render to the population. The gendarmerie emphasized its republican character as the protector of State institutions, while the police demanded greater proximity to the population, to whom it provided a public service of security and protection of citizens' rights.

Conclusion and Way Forward

The medium and long-term success of the merger process requires the establishment of a rigorous monitoring and evaluation system. The creation of a single internal security organisation should in theory strengthen its effectiveness by allowing pooling means and resources and covering more localities. It is nevertheless crucial to be able to monitor the merger and its long-term effects. Clear benchmarks for performance have yet to be established. Without a roadmap it is unlikely that there will be any tracking to evaluate the effectiveness of the new institution.

After the launch of the eighteen security sector reform projects included in the GAP, the decision was taken in 2019 to draft a National Security Strategy (NSS), integrating the vision of the Armed Forces General Staff and the General Directorate of the Republican Police. This initiative will have to consider key cross-cutting themes, such as the prevention of violent extremism, democratic control of the security sector, gender equality and human rights. If those topics are not mainstreamed in a sensible and sustainable manner, the risk will be that they will be subject to divergent interpretations and left to the discretion of officials at various levels.

The political vigour with which behavioural changes have been imposed on police personnel, particularly in terms of reducing harassment and petty corruption, has led to a perceived improvement in the security situation for the population on the country's main routes and in major cities. The question now arises as to the extension, viability and sustainability of the reform process, which depends largely on the State's ability to finance it and on the combined support of Benin's citizens and police officers.

Security reform processes must be backed by social and economic development programmes. The National Security Strategy currently being drawn up should fill the gaps by bringing clarity and coherence to the entire SSR process.

ISSAT Case Study Examples
ISSAT’s main role is to provide operational support to reinforce the international community's security and justice reform capacity. Through our case studies, we present our donors and community of practice with contextualized examples of reform processes that could be useful in their areas of priority. This case study is based on the observations and reflections of one of ISSAT SSR expert following a deployment in the country. The case study also aims to work as a conversation starter, and we welcome comments and contributions from our readers.

case study


Tool 1 : Political Leadership and National Ownership of Security Sector Reform Processes

Tool 1 of the Toolkit for Security Sector Reform and Governance in West Africa by DCAF addresses political will and national ownership, fundamental requirements of SSR processes.

Without the strong political commitment of national authorities, SSR will fail, regardless of the material resources and technical expertise invested into it. SSR must be home-grown, designed to meet country-specific needs, and led by national stakeholders who take full responsibility for it. For SSR to produce sustainable results, it is also essential to ensure the active involvement of a critical mass of citizens - men and women - from all strata of society in the definition and implementation of a reform agenda that reflects a shared vision of security. Unless it relies on an inclusively defined and widely shared vision of security, SSR cannot succeed.

Acknowledging the challenges that may arise in the process of operationalising these principles, Tool 1 offers practical guidance on how to reinforce national ownership and leadership while defining an inclusive, national vision of security as a basis for a security sector reform. It provides an overview of potential entry points for SSR in the broader framework of national governance in a West African setting. It also suggests how to institutionalise the national leadership and coordination of an SSR process, including through strategic communication.

The Tool is primarily intended for policy and other strategic decision makers, government officials involved in security sector governance, national SSR advisers and practitioners. It will also provide members of parliament, other oversight institutions, civil society organisations and development partners with an overview of the responsibilities of the executive in SSR and how to uphold national ownership throughout the process.

For more information on the tool Political Leadership and National Ownership of Security Sector Reform Processes, kindly follow the link to the DCAF website.

Follow the links to access the other documents in the Toolkit for Security Sector Reform and Governance in West Africa: 

Tool 2: Security Sector Reform Programming

Tool 4: Effective Management of External Support to Security Sector Reform

Tool 6: Civil Society Involvement in Security Sector Reform and Governance

The publication is also available in français and português.


Tool 2 : Security Sector Reform Programming

The conduct of an SSR process requires translating a political, national vision of security into an operational programme and defining the different concrete actions needed to generate the desired societal change and improve security for all. SSR programming provides tools both to determine the nature of the change sought in the functioning of the security sector and to plan implementation in a structured manner that is measurable over time.

Tool 2 of the Toolkit for Security Sector Reform and Governance in West Africa addresses the successive programming steps that enable the development and rolling out of a context-relevant SSR programme. These steps range from an initial needs assessment to the setting up of coordination mechanisms aimed at ensuring overall coherence of national SSR efforts. The Tool offers practical advice for prioritising and sequencing reform actions, budgeting the programme and mobilising the resources necessary for its implementation, establishing viable and efficient management mechanisms, coordinating national and international actors involved in the implementation of the programme and developing a communication strategy to support transparency and sustain national ownership.

For more information on Tool 2 : Security Sector Reform Programming, kindly follow the link to the DCAF website.

Follow the links to access the other documents in the Toolkit for Security Sector Reform and Governance in West Africa: 

Tool 1: Political Leadership and National Ownership of Security Sector Reform Processes

Tool 4: Effective Management of External Support to Security Sector Reform

Tool 6: Civil Society Involvement in Security Sector Reform and Governance

This publication is also available in français and português.


Ferramenta 1 : Liderança Política e Apropriação Nacional dos Processos da Reforma do Sector de Segurança

Esta ferramenta 1 « Liderança Política e Apropriação Nacional dos Processos da Reforma do Sector de Segurança », parte da « Caixa de Ferramentas para a Reforma e Governação do Sector de Segurança na África Ocidental », fornece orientações práticas para as autoridades nacionais da África Ocidental sobre como abordar a RSS de uma forma que demonstre liderança e garanta uma apropriação nacional inclusiva. Ressalva a importância da vontade política na formulação de políticas relacionadas com o sector de segurança, a necessidade de envolver actores não-estatais não só na fase inicial, mas também durante todo o processo de reforma, e a necessidade de articular a RSS com outras políticas e reformas à escala nacional. A ferramenta também se debruça sobre o papel desempenhado pela CEDEAO, que apoia os estados-membros na construção de processos de reforma endógenos. Aborda igualmente os desafios práticos que as autoridades nacionais poderão vir a enfrentar na concepção e implementação de processos de RSS, propondo também soluções para enfrentá-los.

A ferramenta pretende ser um recurso para os responsáveis pela tomada de decisões estratégicas, funcionários governamentais, consultores nacionais e outros profissionais de RSS. Também disponibilizará aos membros do parlamento, a outras instituições de supervisão, às organizações da sociedade civil (OSC) e aos parceiros de desenvolvimento uma visão geral das responsabilidades que o poder executivo tem na RSS e sobre como garantir a apropriação nacional ao longo do processo.

Para maiores informações sobre a Ferramenta 1 : Liderança Política e Apropriação Nacional dos Processos da Reforma do Sector de Segurança, siga o link para o website do DCAF.

Por favor, siga o link para ter acesso às outros documentos da Caixa de Ferramentas para a Reforma e Governação do Sector de Segurança na África Ocidental: 

Ferramenta 2 : Programação da Reforma do Sector de Segurança

Ferramenta 4 : Gestão Eficaz do Apoio Externo à Reforma do Sector de Segurança

Ferramenta 6 : Envolvimento da Sociedade Civil na Governação e Reforma do Sector de Segurança

Esta é a versão em Português da publicação. It is also available in English et disponible en français.



Bénin : la sécurité, une problématique majeure

Du Mali au Burkina Faso, les djihadistes occupent des aires d'influence territoriales relativement limitées mais n'excluent pas la coopération dans certaines zones au cours de leurs opérations. Concernant l'enlèvement des deux touristes français au nord du Bénin, l'identité des preneurs d'otage est encore inconnue mais la ministre de la Défence Florence Parly a indiqué que deux mouvements terroristes principaux ont été repérés et "qui sont affiliés pour l'un à Al Qaïda, pour l'autre à l'EIGS (Etat islamique au Grand Sahara)".


Policy and Research Papers

Beneath the Apparent State of Affairs: Stability in Ghana and Benin

The Potential for Radicalization and Political Violence in West Africa

Crises in the Sahel (from Mali to southern Tunisia and Libya) and the regionalization of Boko Haram’s activities as far as the Lake Chad basin (Niger, Cameroon and Chad) are some of today’s worrying signals related to West African stability. 

The question of a potential broadening of this ‘arc of crisis’ to stable countries in the region, including Benin and Ghana, motivated research in the field conducted by the Clingendael Institute. In Accra and Tamale in Ghana, and in Cotonou and Porto-Novo in Benin, the research team looked into religious, historic, political and societal dynamics that may constitute elements of future (in)stability. New religious “ideologies” (Christian evangelism and/or Sunni revivalism), mixed with economic frustrations, have deeply impacted the traditional balance and make long‑term stability a challenge for most of the countries in the region, from Mali to the Horn of Africa. In this report Clingendael explores the specific ways the Ghanaian and Beninese actors are dealing with politics, identity and societal stress. They also identify the influence of external actors, from both the region and beyond, and potential spill over of nearby conflicts. 

Clingendael comes to the conclusion that several issues, like border porosity, absence of a regional strategic approach to counter terrorism, youth frustration towards the elder’s political and economic monopoly, rural and urban disparities and rampant illiteracy are some of the regional aggravating factors that are conducive to the spread of extremist ideology and dividing behaviours.

They argue that their report can be considered as an early warning, but what is urgently needed is early action. For the full report on Beneath the Apparent State of Affairs: Stability in Ghana and Benin, kindly follow the link.


Afrique de l'Ouest: Faire de la prévention des conflits la règle et non l'exception

Résultat d’une recherche documentaire et de dizaine d’entretiens menés à Cotonou, Lomé et à Abuja en mars et juin 2018, ce rapport s’interroge sur la manière dont le mécanisme d’alerte précoce et de réponse de la CEDEAO contribue à la prévention des conflits en Afrique de l’Ouest.

Partant des obstacles politiques et techniques auxquels la CEDEAO a été confrontée, il présente tout d’abord ses évolutions en matière de collecte de données ainsi que la récente réforme de décentralisation au plan national. En outre, il passe en revue les réponses que la CEDEAO, les États et la société civile sont susceptibles d’apporter pour combler le décalage persistant entre l’alerte et la réponse.

Enfin, il conclut sur l’idée qu’au-delà des difficultés techniques et financières, le déficit d’alerte précoce et les délais de réponse, souvent trop longs, résultent aussi d’une culture de la prévention encore très théorique. Des pistes de réflexion sont proposées pour en permettre une meilleure opérationnalisation.

Afin d'accéder à l'analyse, Afrique de l'Ouest: Faire de la prévention des conflits la règle et non l'exception, veuillez suivre le lien.


Insécurité Maritime dans le Golfe de Guinée : Vers une Stratégie Régionale Intégrée ?

L’insécurité maritime se confirme comme l’une des menaces persistantes à la stabilité des États riverains du golfe de Guinée. En dépit d’une prise de conscience croissante et de la volonté politique d’y faire face, l’augmentation rapide des actes de piraterie a pris de court plusieurs pays de la région. L’absence d’un dispositif commun, relativement complet, de surveillance et de lutte contre la piraterie, limite encore la portée des initiatives prises par certains États, et qui ne couvrent pas l’ensemble de la région du golfe de Guinée. Une stratégie à long terme passe par la mutualisation des moyens, et par la coopération entre les trois organisations régionales, la CEEAC, la CEDEAO et la Commission du golfe de Guinée, ainsi que par l’implication d’autres acteurs du secteur maritime concernés par la lutte contre la piraterie dans la région.

Veuillez suivre ce lien sur l'Insécurité Maritime dans le Golfe de Guinée :  Vers une Stratégie Régionale Intégrée afin de lire la publication.



Security Sector Governance in Francophone West Africa

Experience shows that successful democratic transitions need to be underpinned by a security sector that is effective, well managed, and accountable to the state and its citizens. This is why it is so important to carefully examine security sector governance dynamics in contexts where security has often remained a 'reserved domain.' Understanding the issues and perspectives that divide political elites, the security sector, and citizens is the only way to develop security sector reform programs that are legitimate and sustainable at the national level. Through drawing on the close contextual knowledge of practitioners, researchers, and diverse local actors, this book supports this goal by analyzing security sector governance dynamics in each of the nine Francophone countries within West Africa. From this basis, strengths and weaknesses are analyzed, local capacities evaluated, and entry points identified to promote democratic security sector governance in the West African region. (Seri


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Un test pour la démocratie au Bénin

Les récentes élections législatives sans opposition au Bénin constituent une tentative de consolidation du pouvoir au détriment des acquis démocratiques. Le Bénin a longtemps été salué comme un « modèle de la démocratie » et ce jusqu’aux dernières élections législatives—puisque considérées comme une imposture par des observateurs indépendants—ont sérieusement ébranlé l’image que le pays s’était forgée au prix d’efforts considérables. Le 28 avril dernier, le Bénin a élu une nouvelle Assemblée nationale. Toutefois, en raison de nombreux obstacles de dernière minute placés par le gouvernement du président Talon, seuls les partis loyalistes ont pu présenter des candidats, aboutissant ainsi à l’élection d’une simple chambre d’enregistrement. L’opposition a boycotté les élections, entraînant un taux de participation très faible de 27 %. En réaction à des manifestations massives, l’armée a ouvert le feu sur des manifestants non armés, causant la mort d’au moins quatre civils.

Pour acceder  à l'intégralité de l'entretien, Un Test pour la démocratie au Bénin, veuillez cliquer sur le lien.

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