Thugs, spies and vigilantes: community policing and street politics in inner city Addis Ababa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


The implementation of community policing schemes and development programmes targeting street youth in inner city Addis Ababa, intended to prevent crime and unrest, has resulted in an expansion of structures of political mobilization and surveillance of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the party that has ruled the country since 1991. Yet the fact that the government managed to implement its programmes does not imply that the ruling party was entirely successful in tackling ordinary crime as well as political dissent. As neighbourhoods continued to be insecure, especially at night, the efficacy of the ruling party's politicized narratives on community policing and crime prevention was questioned. An appreciation of the shortcomings of government action on the streets of the inner city raises questions about the extent of the reach of the EPRDF's state into the grass roots of urban society as well as about the ways in which dissent is voiced in a context where forms of political surveillance and control are expanding. This paper investigates these issues in order to contribute to the study of the Ethiopian state and to the broader debate on community policing and crime prevention on the African continent.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)444-465
Number of pages22
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jul 2014