This paper uses qualitative field research from 2014 to examine community security initiatives as providers of security and insecurity in Gulu District, Northern Uganda, where state control is believed to be weak or absent after a two-decades long conflict. Community security initiatives are a type of “boundary institution” (Lund 2006)— non-state organisations that adopt responsibilities and symbols of the state. I use four months of ethnographic research on community security initiatives to explore the phenomenon of local security groups and what these tell us about the state-society relationship and the nature of public authority. I examine how the central state shapes the local legal and political environment, while also engaging directly with local security issues to produce what I term “institutionalised arbitrariness” as an efficient mode of governance. This study puts into relief what is understood as legitimate use of violence and what this says about the nature of the state-society relationship.
Tapscott, R. The Government has Long Hands: Community Security Groups and Arbitrary Governance in Uganda’s Acholiland. Justice and Security Research Programme, LSE, London, UK (2015) 24 pp. [JSRP Paper 24]