This research explores a classic predicament of authoritarian leaders—the need for a strong security force to deter opposition alongside a fear of the threats that a strong force could pose. By providing a unique view into the security services in The Gambia under President Jammeh (1994–2017), it argues that fostering uncertainty was the key tool in maintaining control of the armed forces. It situates this approach in the context of wider theories of institutional arbitrariness. The research demonstrates how unpredictability was operationalized through multiple, overlapping practices targeting both the structural level and routine aspects of military life. It also looks at international opportunities as an avenue to mitigate some of the negative effects of pervasive uncertainty in the forces. The research provides new insights into the internal dynamics of state security forces by drawing on data newly available after The Gambia’s democratic political transition of 2017. This includes interviews with members of the forces, testimonies from the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission (TRRC), court martial transcripts, and other government reports.
Dwyer, Maggie (2023) The Role of Unpredictability in Maintaining Control of the Security Forces in the Gambia, African Affairs 122 (486): 147–166.