Domestic Insecurity in New Democratic Regimes: Sources, Locations, and Institutional Solutions in Benin

Working Papers

Published By


November 1996

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Given that organized violence within states is currently more widespread and destructive than war among states, many advocate expanding the concept of security to include elements of political and personal security at the domestic level. Since individuals generally look to governments to provide this security, deadly violence--whether by insurgents, polite forces, or criminal networks--can undermine the stability and legitimacy of state authorities. Unfortunately, democratization has accompanied increases in such violence in many parts of the world.

In a case study of contemporary Benin that has much broader implications, Bruce Magnusson argues that democratizing states must solve simultaneous and interrelated threats to public security in order to survive. At the level of the state, leaderships must safeguard democratic institutions from violent overthrow, particularly by disaffected militaries. At the level of society, democratic legitimacy rests on protection from criminality and from the arbitrary exercise of public and police authority. These challenges must be met jointly within a democratic constitutional framework: domestic order is key to averting military takeover, and likewise constitutionality provides the central guarantee for individual rights and civil liberties.

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