African Armies Governance: An expected transformation

Last year I wrote an article emphasizing the climate of uncertainty which prevailed within several African military institutions in particular Chad, Ivory Coast and Somalia, to take only these examples. Several countries being in phase of reconstruction because of successive military and political crises, know difficulties rebuilding their armies and maintaining a certain cohesion or often an exemplary discipline. Gambia, Mali and Burkina Faso, are examples of country among which the armies for diverse reasons, remain fragile in spite of all the efforts of current reconstruction.

One must recognize that, the largest number of countries which armies are fragile, is because of internal crises and because of political manipulation of the military tool. The political instrumentalization for purposes of positioning, remains the main cause of the diverse unrests but you should not either hide the insufficiency of governance of these armies. The case of Chad reminds us of how much the non-payment of bonuses due to soldiers who intervened within a UN framework, is an aberration regarding  the governance of the defense sector. Worse, the Chadian President requested the international financial support, to support the actions of his soldiers in Mali within the framework of the fight against terrorism and it was the object of no reaction. Let us not forget that Chad remains one of the most committed countries in the fight against terror.

How do these countries manage not being able to settle arrears of bonuses promised in a context or an other one? How do they manage not to anticipate these unrests within the armies being regularly transformed into mutinies? It seems that the weaknesses of these countries are at the level of the governance of their armies. A Coherent and active governance of the Defense sector effectively allows to anticipate major crises such as mutinies. The governance of the Defense sector rests essentially on the bodies of the armies in charge of governance, which are  the inspection and control services, contributing to the stability of the military institution. Besides another mechanism of anticipation and governance of the Defense sector is the National Assembly which through democratic control of the armies, provides coherent governance of the military and alerts on possible deficiencies to consider. In fact this is about a major gouvernance watch device based on internal mechanisms to the armies (inspection and control) but also over external mechanisms (Civil society, NGOs, National Assembly, etc.) to anticipate crises which can destabilize the concerned countries.

So, the transformation of African armies on the basis of a sincere commitment of the decision-makers, is imperative more than ever. The general unrest of the armies which very often is only an accumulation of dysfunctions from inheritance, must be handled frontally with realism and political courage. When it turns out to be necessary, a simple revision can settle this discontent through a Security Sector Reform (SSR), in the worst case, a revival (dissolution and reconstruction) of the armies is inevitable. In any case, a brave political will matched by a consequent defence budget, determines the success of such an initiative, wether it is about restructuring, revision, or dissolution with the aim of reconstruction.

Outside the African continent, several countries experimented the dissolution of the armies with mixed results (Costa Rica, Haiti and Panama). For Costa Rica and Panama, the effort was put on a well equipped police force and Defense agreements, as for Haiti, which had dissolved its army in 1996, reconstruction was engaged since 2014. We thus recommend on the basis of this observation of general unrest of the African armies, that the African Union ( AU) can convene an emergency meeting to examine this thorny question and to establish an African special program for armies reconstruction of countries wishing it. This program could be financed by the AU countries themselves but also with the bilateral and multilateral cooperations. Finally, A fund raising campaign could support this vast continental program.

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