Community policing and the politics of local development in Tanzania

Cross, Charlotte (2014). Community policing and the politics of local development in Tanzania. Journal of Modern African Studies, 52(4) pp. 517–540.



This paper explores how the concept of ‘community policing’ has been understood and implemented in Tanzania. Whilst community policing is locally considered to be a very effective means of preventing crime and improving neighbourhood safety, the extent to which it constitutes a more accountable, responsive or ‘democratic’ form of policing, as assumed by proponents, is questionable. Based on research conducted in the city of Mwanza, this paper explains these outcomes in terms of continuities between forms of popular mobilisation that developed during Tanzania’s socialist one-party era, and particularly the co-optation by the ruling party of sungusungu vigilantism, and understandings of the role of citizen participation in local development today. However, this paper suggests that as multiparty political competition becomes increasingly competitive, the sustainability of this model of community policing may be undermined, as citizens challenge the notion that they are obliged to provide resources for development directed from above.

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