The question of the professionalization of the Ivory Coast army, is a subject which for several decades remains thorny. Indeed, after several politico-military crises , Ivory Coast reconstructs quite slowly on still fragile foundations. The commentators of the national context, tend to separate the advent of a professional army from the stabilization of the country. How to build a professional army, when the causes of the politico-military crises which shook the country, are partially taken into account in the resolution of those crises? The multiple breaches of the Ivory Coast soldiers tarnished their image, then contributed to the bad governance of the defence sector (Transparency International Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index 2013, Ivory Coast ranked High risk). The massive insufficiently qualitative recruitments, operated during and after all these crises, the last one of which was the one of 2010, came to dissolve the achievements of the 70s and 80s which were relevant years for the Ivory Coast army until the military coup of 1999. The FANCI (Armed Forces of Ivory Coast), were a model up to the 90s because they embraced professionalism and republican values.
President Ouattara, in his diverse speeches intended for the armies, always emphasized the professionalism and the necessity to build an ” emerging army “. He constantly warned the Republican Forces of Ivory Coast (FRCI since 2011, former FANCI), as for their behaviour which have to be the reflection of discipline, public-spiritedness and republican values. He also reminded to the servicemen, their place in society as guarantor of freedom and territorial integrity. Furthermore, he reminded them that their duty is to serve the nation. Besides, from all the troubles which undermine the armies, corruption, abuses and political instrumentalization remain the most fought but still active concerns.
We cannot consider the professionalization of the armies without defining it. What thus a professional army? The professionalization of an army, is its profound qualitative transformation at the staff level. This transformation aims at improving the national defence sector, to make it an effective and reference tool. Professionalization comes along with a reconsideration of staff (reduction, rejuvenation, feminization, training, careers, academic route, etc.), to adapt itself to new missions and realities. In most of the cases, the professionalization of the armies is a consequence of an evolving and revised defence policy. The example of France in this domain is edifying in many respects, despite the multiple controversies which ensued from it. Professionalization thus emphasizes the capacity building of servicemen and women. Training is at the heart of professionalization also called “career army”. To say things simply, by choosing the professionalization of an army, a State chooses quality through training and technicality. Professionalization brings answers to endogenous needs (low levels of education and training), as well as exogenous ones (new threats like cyberwar, terrorism etc.) which require specific skills and new answers, adapted to reality and its new challenges.
In Ivory Coast, the professionalization of the armies has a implementation framework which is since 2011, the Security Sector Reform (SSR). Indeed, this vast qualitative transformation of all the actors of the security sector, towards a better governance, integrates specific reforms for the armies, aiming at professionalization. The illustration of this current professionalization is the capacity building of the officers and the non-commissioned officers since a few years as well as the creation of specialized units (CCDO, Special forces, etc.) to tackle specific threats. Historically, the professionalization of the armies in Ivory Coast, knew four major periods:
1/ From 1970 till 1990: the period of construction and consolidation of the armies. For this period, the armies had their hour of glory and the question of the professionalization was of the exclusive competence of the Ministry of Defence.
2/ From 1990 till 2002: the period of upheavals (military coups) and unprecedented political instrumentalization. There also, the Ministry of Defence was the unique actor of a possible professionalization.
3/ From 2002 till 2010: the period of the major discussions on defence or the stammerings of the professionalization. For this period, the leading actor of professionalization became because of the political context, the Prime Minister’s Office, chairing the Workgroup on the Refoundation and the Restructuring of the Armies ( GTRRA). This workgroup gathered all the actors of national defence, to propose a new defence policy accompanied by a plan of professionalization and of reunification of the conflicting parties ( FANCI / FAFN).
4/ Since 2011: the Presidency of the Republic, through the National Council for Security, coordinates the professionalization of the armies, the base of which was in 2012, the Workgroup on the Security Sector Reform (GTRSS), think-tank on the aforementioned reform and its implementation. The FANCI merged with the FAFN, became FRCI in 2011.
This short historic reminder, highlights a major evolution, in the appropriation of professionalization at the national level. From the Ministry of Defence ( 1970-2002 ) through the Prime Minister’s Office ( 2002-2010 ) to find itself at the Presidency (2012-) nowadays. The professionalization of the armies was never decreed officially but it is implicitly quoted in all the reference texts, such as the political agreements since 2003, the national security policy as well as the national SSR strategy. There were thus several attempts to make rational ” the professional army ” in Ivory Coast, but we are not at a time of assessment because it is only since 2011 that this project was really conducted.
Once this brief inventory of the professionalization of the armies in Ivory Coast achieved, it seems more than necessary to remind some of the challenges that faces the implementation of a professional army:
1/ The consideration of sociopolitical prerequisites is a priority in the professionalization of the armies. So the issues connected to national reconciliation and post-crisis stabilization, must be resolved to guarantee a successful professionalization. Let us not forget that the cement of an army is its cohesion. As such, the army owes in particular, to be a model of tolerance and to reflect the nation in its diversity. The germs of the discord and conflict have to disappear.
2/ An exhaustive review of the professionalization of the armies is more than necessary. Indeed, in spite of the attempts of professionalization and the multiple realized audits, what about the achievements? Where are we with this professionalization? What are the weaknesses and strengths of the initiatives up to here? It is urgent to conduct an evaluation of the professionalization of the armies in Ivory Coast so as to update the existing data. For instance, the Ministry of Defence announced that the armies went from 15000 men in 2011 to 23000 today. How is this increase of staff part of an efficient professionalization plan? Is this increase as qualitative than it is quantitative?
3/ The formulation of a strategic program for the professionalization of the armies is imperative. On this point it is good to remind the urgency of an in-depth reflection regarding the professionalization of the armies on the horizon 2025. This strategic program will take into account studies already realized on the subject, will identify the key areas of this professionalization and will translate into an action plan, the retained actions for that purpose.