Security sector reform

This project will approach the fundamental variability that argues the realities of the African context, this will account for many of the limitations (if not failure) of efforts to reform the security sector and its governance systems. The core hypothesis of this research project is the formal and informal systems overlap, interrelate, and interpenetrate at a complex level, which will showcase the networks are not mutually exclusive but should rather be seen as embedded in each other. The term ‘hybridity’ will be used in this context to capture the intersection of formality and informality.

This research in partnership of the Academy for Peace and Development (APD) and the African Security Sector Network (ASSN) will conduct a research on hybrid security orders of Somaliland.

Research objectives

Five major objectives is this research project;

  1. First, we are identifying and analyzing the process between ‘formality’ and ‘informality’ security. This will help us clarify the network process in which decision-making and the power system is distributed within the African security sector.
  2. Second, the clarification of the role in which the non state/non formal / customary security institutions ( community security organs, militias, vigilante groups, etc) play in between the interactions and interface of these formal security institution of the state.
  3. Third, a better understanding of the ‘real economy’ of security provisioning in the hybrid security system (A system which is characterized by the existence of multiple non-state providers of security, as the state shares ‘authority, legitimacy, and capacity’ with other actors, networks and institutions that transcend the formal/informal division.) and the inclusion and exclusion associated with such system in particularly the role of gender and sexual orientation, where the notion of ‘double jeopardy’ may apply.
  4. Fourth, we will investigate whether the concept of ‘hybrid security system’ cannot be more than an analytical tool (which explains functions and dysfunctions in African security systems) and become a guide of action. We want to establish whether ‘hybridity’ in a broad sense can deliver a strategy that can build an effective security system.
  5. Lastly, an overarching objective of this proposal is to contribute to strengthening the (weak) research and evidence based of SSR (security sector reform), and addressing the many ‘research gaps’ in the discipline. But also simultaneously building the research capacity of civil society groups and research institutions involved in the project, and thereby their ability to engage issues of security sector reform and governance in their respective countries.

Core Research Questions


  1. How is informality embedded in formal institutions, how does it influence the way the latter functions, and with what implications for reform efforts?
  2. How do non state/non formal/customary security actors interact with and seek to influence (openly or covertly) the formal security institutions of the state?
  3. How do political elites and other power-brokers instrumentalize security institutions to consolidate their grip on power and negotiate the contradictory political terrain between formal and informal orders?
  4. What is the impact of hybridist on the security and entitlements of citizens in African states and in particular, on populations in situations of vulnerability, social exclusion and inequity? Who benefits from hybrid security arrangements, to what degree, and in what contexts?
  5. How do international actors, with their own political and geopolitical agendas, norms and standards, tap into and/or influence hybrid African security systems, and how do their interventions affect the balance of power within both formal and informal spheres?
  6. How does one build viable and accountable institutions in a context characterized by hybridist and informality? Indeed, how do oversight mechanisms work in situations where parallel channels of political influence and of distributing resources are in operation, and organized around informal networks and traditional relationships? Can the concept of hybridist provide a new sensibility regarding the idea of legitimate and accountable authority, or does it wholly undermine this as a possible goal in the region? How (if at all) can oversight mechanisms ‘work with the grain’ and be reinforced through informal mechanisms?

In addition to the core research questions identified above, the following subsidiary questions (as well as others to be indentified) will provide additional guidelines for the field research:

  • Uunder what conditions do informal governance institutions contribute to or undermine the success and legitimacy of security sector reform processes?
  • How does SSR function to address –and transform– embedded cultural and political resistance to principles of gender equity?
  • How can civil society organizations work effectively in an environment saturated by informal actors and channels of influence?
  • In what ways do criminal and other networks spread and fund insecurity? When do they instead offer certain limited forms of protection? What is the nature of the relationship with ‘legitimate’ security institutions, both formal and informal?


Proposed by the African Security Sector Network (ASSN)