African Security Sector Network (ASSN)

The African Security Sector Network (ASSN) is a pan-African network of experts and organisations working in the area of Security Sector Reform (SSR). Founded in 2003, the network is headquartered in Accra, Ghana, with regional hubs in Addis Ababa, Johannesburg and Nairobi.

ASSN exists to facilitate progress towards the achievement of effective and democratically governed security sectors across Africa. It pursues this mission by working to strengthen the capacities of African governments, national security institutions, parliaments, intergovernmental organisations and civil society groups to undertake and own SSR programmes.  The organisation also strives to expand the concept of African SSR through sustained research, publication and training.

Telephone: +233-30-251-0515
27 Kofi Annan Avenue
North Legon, P.O. Box AF 2457 – Adenta
Greater Accra Region
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Policy and Research Papers

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ASSN Newsletter July 2012

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African Security Sector Network (ASSN) Quarterly | June 2015

ASSN Quarterly is published by the African Security Sector Network. It highlights the activities of the network, as well as other developments in the fields of Security and Justice Reform, both in Africa and beyond. 

In this June 2015 Special edition, a wide range of issues and developments are covered, such as: the hosting of the first Africa Forum on Security Sector Reform by the African Union in November 2014, the East Africa Energy Infrastructure Security Forum held in Nairobi, the wrapping up of the Project on Gender Mainstreaming in the Ghana Security Sector led by WIPSEN-Africa, and the publication of the Partner's Summary of the above-mentioned Africa Forum on SSR on Security Sector Reform trends and challenges in Africa.  

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Security and safety from the bottom up: hybrid security governance

This Think Piece prepared by Niagalé Bagayoko for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa addresses the implications of hybrid security for Security Sector Reform (SSR).  After presenting the challenges institutions operating alongside or within nominally formal political institutions bring to SSR, the author calls for better identifying the interactions and interpenetrations of formal and informal networks that constitute as a whole “hybrid security orders”.

In order to build a better understanding of all the actors, particularly informal actors, who have an influence on the security sector at large and can thus affect SSR processes, the author proposes some entry points: to map out the informal actors and the informal norms, solidarities, and networks in the security sector; to build capacity to orient their activities towards supporting SSR; to help develop empirically grounded programmes and policies; and to help in the design of oversight as well as monitoring and evaluation processes.

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ASSN Quarterly Newsletter Nr. 6 January 2013

ASSN Quarterly is published by the African Security Sector Network. It highlights the activities of the network, as well as other developments in the fields of Security and Justice Reform, both in Africa and beyond.

Below are some of the highlights in this edition:

  • The African Union Launches a Programme to Build its Security Sector Reform (SSR) Capacity in partnership with the European Union, the United Nations and the ASSN
  • A Stakeholders' Meeting on Lessons Learned in Kenyan Police Reforms, organised in Nairobi by the ASSN's Regional Hub for East Africa and the Great Lakes Region
  • A Roundtable on Security Sector Expenditure Reviews, organised by the World Bank and the International Security Sector Advisory Team (ISSAT)
  • Southern Africa Launches a Revised Strategic Plan on Defence and Security
  • Papua New Guinea Develops a National Security Policy (NSP)
  • Various updates about the Security and Justice Sector-related activities of individual members of the ASSN network, as well as the inauguration of the ASSN's new Interim Executive Committee and profiles of some of the ASSN's newest members 
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ASSN Quarterly Newsletter of the African Security Sector Network July 2013

Welcome to yet another edition of the ASSN newsletter, this one marking ten years of the organisation's existence. The ASSN was founded in 2003 to promote the harmonisation of efforts of African organisations and institutions involved in Security Sector Reform, Transformation and Governance. These objectives are as urgent as ever. Political events across the continent suggest that the role of security actors remains a challenge. Most recently, events in Egypt with their ripple effect across North Africa and the Middle East have the world guessing about the eventual outcome. International interventions have had to be undertaken in addressing the spread of violence in the Sahel region, and in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At the same time, more optimistically, a pattern of citizens insisting on the rule of law, and settling political contestation through the ballot is emerging. The holding of elections in Mali, Guinea, and Zimbabwe over the coming weeks and months is a sign that violence is rejected by a critical mass as the answer to Africa's political problems. Integral to this wave of thinking is deep consideration about the principles that ought to govern the relationship between the security sector and the citizens of a democratic country.

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Protecting a democratic public space: maturing civil-military relations

This think piece, prepared by Boubacar N’Diaye and Eboe Hutchful (ASSN) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa, looks at the challenges and implications to improve ‘civil-military relations’ (CMR) for a better protection of a democratic public space. The document explains how, since the end of the Cold war, the academic field of CMR has gone into decline whilst SSR has been ascending. If CMR focused insufficiently on the micro-politics of security institutions, it is argued that SSR has not necessarily resulted in integrated approaches. SSR is thus particularly challenged in this sector, with weak budgetary and expenditure controls and corruption in the security sector. There is also a potential for reversals in current CMR, as has been demonstrated recently in Uganda and Congo-Brazzaville, where police, military and paramilitary forces were used to violently suppress protests. To engage in efforts to improve CMR in Africa, it is argued that it is important to identify states where efforts already started, under the leadership of a new generation of military leaders who are willing to embrace new roles and responsibilities for civilian institutions.

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The changing face of security provision: commercial security providers and the privatisation of security

This Think Piece prepared by Alan Bryden for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa explores the issue of private security. The paper highlights a lack of knowledge or understanding on the scale, activities, and implications of the private security industry in Africa. Private security provision, and the lack of knowledge on the topic, can affect Security Sector Reform (SSR) in a variety of ways: the state has an incomplete view of the actors providing security on the national territory, there is a blurring of roles and responsibilities between public and private security, private security can result in greater security for some while leaving insecurity to others, and security privatisation remains somewhat neglected in programmatic responses.

The author proposes some entry points to engage with private security and better understand the related issues. Fostering African research capabilities can further the development of an evidence base to increase the visibility of the issue, while developing the legal and policy frameworks on oversight and accountability is a step to control the growth and evolution of the private security sector. Furthermore, the author argues for supporting capacity building of security sector management and oversight bodies, for empowering civil society, and leveraging international initiatives to create momentum for change.

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Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa | Background Paper

Concept note Learning Lab ASSN OSF DCAF

Outdated legal frameworks, under-capacitated parliaments, and submissive judicial authorities fail to provide the oversight, transparency or accountability that is required to protect human rights and uphold the rule of law. 


What is difficult about SSR in Africa? On one level, the framing conditions are undoubtedly challenging. Change of the kind that SSR aims for is measured in decades – even generations – rather than the months or years that measure national political cycles or donor programmes. Moreover, in most contexts the resources to support transformational change have also been scarce, whether human, material, technical or financial. On a more fundamental level, SSR is highly political and context-specific. If it is treated as a technical process abstracted from national political, security, socio-economic and cultural realities, it will not succeed.

There are also undoubted weaknesses and gaps in current SSR approaches. Different understandings of what SSR involves and who it concerns have led to flawed interventions that bred mistrust and suspicion, including between national and international understandings of reform.

The fact remains that freer and fairer democratic societies require more accountable and more effective security provision. In spite of the factors that limit progress in SSR, experience has shown that important progress can be made when internal and external support for reform align at opportune moments for change. New legal architecture for state security provision, fairer and more inclusive security recruitment, broader-based access to justice, more efficient management and oversight, and increased public scrutiny of security affairs are examples of reform that mark valuable progress in security governance. Moreover, progress can materialise in unexpected and intangible forms; thus, some of the most catalytic changes in people’s experiences of security have flowed from apparently subjective shifts in attitudes towards things like more inclusive security policy-making, greater sensitivity to human rights in security provision, or a strengthened resolve among overseers to make the most of their legal authority.

The ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ drew on the experience of academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners in this field in order to explore these challenges and identify ways to move forward in spite of them. To support these reflections, this Background Paper provides a baseline understanding of SSG/R concepts, policies and practice. It then considers key challenges for SSR in Africa before assessing programming gaps and potential entry points for engagement. This Background Paper is complemented by six Think Pieces, which intended to help shape discussion during the different sessions of the Learning Lab.

Access all material related to the ‘Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance and Reform in Africa’ to find out more.

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Towards a regional agenda for security sector governance and reform: Opportunities and challenges for the African Union and ECOWAS

This think piece, prepared by Ornella Moderan (DCAF) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa, looks at the opportunities and challenges for the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the development of a regional agenda for security sector governance and reform. If major steps have already been made with the African Union Policy Framework on Security Reform (2013) as well as with the work of ECOWAS to develop a common normative framework, the transposition of theoretical standards into practice remains a challenge. Providing member states with multidimensional support also poses a number of questions in terms of their own mandates and capacities. The implications for SSR are outlined in the paper and these vary from contextualising international discourse on SSR to national ownership and regional support. Omella Moderan outlines various entry points for engagement, from fostering regional capacities for policy implementation to reinforcing AU-ECOWAS coordination.

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ASSN Quarterly Newsletter October 2012

This issue marks one year since the launch of The ASSN Quarterly. The inaugural edition was published in October 2011. Four editions have since followed, and this anniversary issue is dedicated to profiling the work of the Next Generation of African Security and Justice Reform (S&JR) scholars and practitioners. These are young Africans from across the continent who are already making a contribution in the pursuit of African participation and ownership of S&JR programmes on the continent. This edition also highlights the importance of leadership to development in Peace, Security and Justice by highlighting the contribution of the African Leadership Centre (ALC), a core institutional member of the ASSN that has been the foremost breeding ground for this Next Generation of S&JR practitioners and thinkers.

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Accountable and legitimate security through civilian democratic oversight and control

This think piece prepared by Sandy Africa (ASSN) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa explains that civilian democratic oversight and control is a necessary, though not exclusive, precondition for accountable and legitimate security. By civilian democratic oversight is meant the exercise of the mandatory authority of one body to hold another to account. The author argues that in countries experiencing armed conflict, the civilian democratic oversight of the security sector is weak or non-existent. There is a window of opportunity to engage in civilian democratic oversight when there is a cessation of hostilities but even then, the immediate challenges are peacekeeping and peace enforcement. A more realistic prospect happens when there is a conducive and decisive shift in the political conditions.

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Encouraging Open Debate: The Essential Role of Civil Society and Media in Good Security Governance

This think piece prepared by Fairlie Chappuis (DCAF) for the Learning Lab on Security Sector Governance in Africa aims at encouraging open debate on the essential role of civil society and media in good security governance as well as the challenges they face. Civil society, by which is meant all groups that engage in voluntary collective actions in the public interest, has an essential role to play in order to ensure that the security sector is accountable, transparent and responsive to the public.  The paper outlines common factors in a variety of African contexts which make society activism and media engagement challenging. It then gives a list of entry points for engagement and how these can help to align civil society and media values with the principles of democratic security governance, human rights and rule of law.

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SSR needs assessment of Somaliland CSOs

This study report provides an analysis and evaluation of the recent needs assessment of Somaliland Civil Society Organizations /CSOs/ on their engagement with SSR. The study also discusses Somaliland security actors and the ongoing SSR processes. In doing this, it will analyze the specific capacities and gaps of leading CSOs in SSR programming and policy development endeavors. On this note the study report indicates the areas of external support required, as well as the shortcomings to be addressed. Prominent among the study findings is the need for security literacy in Somaliland, the vital role CSOs can play which in turn requires training on SSR to few interested CSOs.

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