The phenomenon of civil task forces is increasingly worrying governments in Sub-Saharan Africa. Born to protect communities isolated from terrorism and crime, today they have become a threat
The phenomenon of civil task forces joining or replacing the army and the police to guarantee security, is growing in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTC) operates in Nigeria, the Arrow Boys of Teso in Uganda, the Zende Arrow Boys in southern Sudan and the Kamajors of Sierra Leone. Most of these groups started as volunteers campaigning against Isis, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram terrorists or against militias. Some in the past had the support of the state, now they are loose dogs. Their “hunting” terrain is mainly remote areas, sparsely populated and with limited security resources. These paramilitary forces were initially viewed with great enthusiasm by local communities. But then the situation changed.
In Nigeria the population is afraid of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTC). This, despite formally contrasting Boko Haram, is accused of various crimes and violations of human rights
Especially in Nigeria, the population begins to be afraid of these armies without art or part and wonders if they are defenders of the people or outlaws. In fact, despite his initial results, the CJTF which is opposed to Boko Haram, is accused of serious violations of human rights, rape, torture, armed robbery, theft, murder and harassment. Furthermore, while reporting successes against terrorism in the northeast, the opaque activities of many of these young people have become uncontrollable by the government itself. Clashes with Nigerian security forces are frequent. A few months ago, five members of the Task Force were killed by soldiers in a checkpoint, bothered by their insistence on inspecting trucks loaded with ammunition they were escorting. Sometimes, furtherome, it seems that the CJTF has also played a double game. Indeed, some of its members have been accused of helping Boko Haram by spying on military operations.
In Sub-Saharan Africa there is a growing opinion that training and arming civilians to combat terrorism and crimes was a mistake. There is a risk that these mini-armies will be used by others, or that they will act autonomously by imposing their laws on the communities they had to protect
The government of Nigeria and those of the countries involved in the phenomenon therefore raise many questions about the validity of involving civilians and training them in the fight against terrorism. In this context there is a growing front of people who believe it was a mistake. This as real micro-armies like task forces, armed and trained, could be useful not only for the communities, but for anyone who is willing to pay. From politicians to criminals, to drug traffickers and smugglers, to Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and Isis. Not to mention that the individual formations, also thanks to the particularities of the areas in which they are present, cannot be excluded and decide to operate independently, imposing their law on the communities they originally had to protect.