Police forces of Sahel States commit to the fight against corruption

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Corruption challenges the very legitimacy of the State. The scourge of corruption within the police force itself constitutes a serious threat to efforts to combat organized crime and illicit drug trafficking. Within the Sahel region, a study from the Afrobarometer (2013) has revealed on average 71% of respondents feel that some or most police officers are corrupt.

To meet this challenge, UNODC organized a meeting in Niamey, Niger, on 13 and 14 October 2015, bringing together Deputy Director Generals of the National Police, Judicial Police Officers and Directors of National Police Schools as well as heads and representatives of national institutions contributing to the fight against corruption from five Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Senegal). Specialized judges in economic and financial crime, and representatives of civil society were also present to discuss the issues of corruption and the police.

At the opening of this regional workshop, the Director General of the National Police of Niger Mr Boubacar Souley, reiterated his "firm commitment to fight tirelessly against corruption in [his] institution." The Secretary-General of the Interior Ministry said that "the sub-region is facing the worst form of crime: terrorism" and that "the fight against this widespread scourge can only be effectively conducted by staff that is honest, dedicated, professional and well equipped." He also recalled that corruption "is a major factor of instability and a threat to the peace."

Participants at the end of the conference
Participants at the end of the conference

The Regional Representative of UNODC, Mr Pierre Lapaque, expressed concern about impunity in the face of corruption, "too often we still see a lack of investigation and prosecution of individuals involved in acts of corruption." He stated that "the fight against corruption must take a more prominent place in both policing and judicial activities in the Sahel region."

During the two day workshop, the participants shared their experiences on two main themes: cooperation between the police and the national institutions for the fight against corruption, and on the fight against corruption within the police.

The UNODC Anti-Corruption Adviser for West Africa, Mr Samuel De Jaegere, presented the current efforts to fight against corruption in the Sahel region. The Director of the Judicial Police of Rwanda, Mr. Theos Badege, also attended the meeting and shared the experience of Rwanda in the fight against corruption, including within the forces of the National Police.

At the end of proceedings, the participants endorsed a statement in which they, among others, proposed "(1) to strengthen cooperation between national institutions for the fight against corruption and the forces of the National Police; (2) to consider strengthening national institutions in the fight against corruption by granting judicial police powers and powers of prosecution before the courts; (3) to support the national police academies to develop training modules on integrity and the fight against corruption; (4) support advocacy at the national level to improve the living and work conditions of police officers; (5) to support internal and external oversight bodies of the National Police to strengthen discipline and apply the appropriate penal sanctions; (6) to develop and strengthen partnerships between national police forces and civil society in the fight against corruption and (7) to promote information and awareness campaigns for the benefit of the public with involvement from the media and key figures." Finally, they proposed "to extend the activities against corruption to other national security forces and to law enforcement officers."

In addition to this regional event, Mr Pierre Lapaque met the Prime Minister of the Republic of Niger, HE Mr. Brigi Rafini, the Minister of Interior, HE Mr. Hassoumi Massaoudou, the Minister of Justice, HE Mr. Marou Amadou and the new Ambassador of France to the Republic of Niger, HE Mr. Marcel Escure.

The Regional Representative thus stressed the importance of the fight against corruption, the effects of which are devastating not only for the State but also for the whole sub-region, especially when this occurs within the police force, the supposed guarantors of law and order.

As the official guardian of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and as a contributor to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, UNODC routinely delivers capacity building exercises aimed at curbing corruption across sectors and industries. This particular conference was made possible thanks to the support of the government of Austria.