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FOR 2757 (2019 - 2023)

Subproject F: Social Anthropology

Local Self-Governance for the Provision of Security: Vigilantes in Burkina Faso

This subproject studies local self-governance in the realm of security. The research focuses on vigilantes in the West African state of Burkina Faso. Vigilantes are emerging in response to increasing criminality in rural and urban areas. The project compares two different formations of vigilantes: hunters (Jula: dozo) who invoke a centuries-old tradition, and “self-defence groups” (groupes d’auto-défense) or “guardians of the forest” (Mooré: koglweogo), who have emerged more recently. The subproject explores the vigilantes’ activities, ways of self-legitimization and reciprocal liminations. The rapid expansion of koglweogo is an effect of the political transition since 2014, when a popular uprising ended Blaise Compaoré’s regime after 27 years. The state is currently faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, official law enforcement has been understaffed for a long time. Therefore, the government supports forms of local policing. On the other hand, vigilantes undermine the state monopoly on the use of force. They levy arbitrarily fixed fines, inflict corporal punishment and torture, and carry firearms in spite of a prohibition. Moreover, there have been confrontations between dozo and koglweogo. Therefore, a debate over vigilantism is currently playing out in the public and in the media.This subproject asks whether forms of regulation and intervention by vigilantes are substitutive, subsidiary, complementary or contrary to state regulation. Do vigilantes constitute new forms of power ‘beside the state’ or of civil society? What is the relationship of the individual vigilante groups with each other and with official law enforcement? The project also asks how vigilante groups are organized internally, how they legitimate their activities and to what extent they are seen as ‘local’ and legitimate on the ground. The subproject’s aim is a differentiated understanding of the occasions, forms and legitimations of local self-governance and self-organization within a post-colonial African nation-state that represents the limited reach of statehood which is the common ground of this research group. Both empirical case studies contribute to a greater precision or a modification of concepts such as ‘weak state’, ‘governance’, ‘civil society’ and ‘vigilantism’.