After the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi and the increasing presence of al-Shabaab in nearby countries, Tanzania turned to community policing as a way of responding to the threat of violent extremism. But is it having the desired outcome? This new report, based on workshops and interviews with police, community leaders, and others, examines the challenges and potential of community policing in addressing Tanzania’s public safety and security concerns.


  • Given Tanzania’s proximity to Kenya and Somalia, where al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, and other terrorist organizations have expanded their presence, the spread of violent extremism in Tanzania is an issue of concern to regional security analysts.
  • The Tanzanian government sees community policing as the focus of its response to prevent and counter violent extremism.
  • While risks of violent extremism are acknowledged by community stakeholders, politically motivated violence, criminality, and conflicts over land use are viewed as more pressing security issues.
  • Local communities are concerned about the securitized response to violent extremism and the involvement of police and security forces in extrajudicial disappearances and executions of violence extremism suspects.
  • On the ground, the Tanzanian Police Force’s community policing initiative continues to be stunted by a lack of resources, inconsistent application, and an overemphasis on intelligence gathering.
  • The focus of the country’s community policing program on intelligence provided by informants risks co-opting ordinary citizens into a securitized response to violent extremism.
  • A lack of shared understanding between the community and police as to what constitutes violent extremism, along with a lack of trust in working together on a response, means that police efforts to prevent or counter violent extremism could aggravate rather than mitigate the problem.

About the Report

This report examines whether community policing as practiced in Tanzania can contribute to the prevention of violent extremism. Based on a series of community security workshops and more than sixty in-depth interviews conducted in the Morogoro, Tanga, and Zanzibar regions in July 2017, the report was supported by USIP’s Middle East and Africa Center.

About the Author

Lillian Dang has a decade of research and program management experience in conflict-affected and postconflict countries. As a senior program officer in USIP’s Afghanistan office from 2013 to 2015, Dang designed program interventions to promote the rule of law and to counter violent extremism.

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