• November 13th, 2018
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Neutralising any coup plotting against a legitimate government: Democratic controls of civil-military relations in Africa

Columns, Comment
Columns, Comment

Charles Siyauya With the problematique contextual background of an African independent state where patronage, clientele, ethnic and personal wealth advancement are the basis which informs civil-military policy it becomes imperative to critically assess the options for democratic civil-military controls. It should be highlighted that in most states the supremacy of the constitution is subverted by one-man supremacy (succinctly captured in the presidential powers political jargon). The first typology civilian control of the military is where the head of state uses personal relatives and ethnic personnel to key command posts in the military. One clear example is that President Idriss Deby of Chad relied on his own ethnic group for his personal security. A variant is the appointment of presidential family members to key command positions in the military. An example is that of Ian Khama’s rapid rise through the ranks of the Botswana Defence Force. Numerous other examples are found in countries such as Kenya, Togo, Niger, and Equatorial Guinea. It is believed that such appointments keep the presidential hand in operational control of the military. However, Decalo warns that this policy of preferential recruitment into the military leads to the creation of a predominately ‘ethnic army’ and has the potential of destabilising the country. The most preferred by most African heads of state is the instrumental pay-off where control measure is used to ‘buy’ the loyalty of soldiers by maximizing material satisfaction relating to pay, privileges and other rewards. This control measure awards military officers with vast social economic benefits and allows the military to partake albeit corruptly in financial wealth accumulation. This will dissuade the political ambitions of officer corps as they will have the same benefits as the civilian politicians and thus will be eager to maintain the status quo. Examples are many: in other African countries senior military officers were allocated land grants for commercial purposes or selected for overseas diplomatic posts and training courses. The military officers have access to large tracts of prime farmland and are given preferential access to lucrative mining deals and business opportunities, which ward off personal political ambitions and allow the perpetual political survival of the ruling class. This type of control of the military is detrimental to democratic values of the nation as loyalty of the military is not to the state but to the governing clique of civilian authority. Third is the political or bureaucratic co-option where senior military officers and those in other ranks in most African countries have been co-opted into government or party circles and appointed to the boards of state-owned enterprises or as regional governors. In Tanzania, Namibia, Zimbabwe and other African countries there has been a regular transfer of officers from the armed forces to ministerial, diplomatic and party positions. This control measure ensures that the military sees opportunity in retiring from active service and enters into business where inadequate transparency is in place to promote wealth accumulation and social status. The other is ideological indoctrination – the intentional indoctrination of the armed forces with the ideological values of the governing party. This undermines the professionalism of the armed forces, which entails, among other things, political indifference and neutrality. Ideological indoctrination normally starts with the officer corps and then cascades down to private soldiers. The central problem with such ideologies is they may not have been designed in such a way to capture the national ideology or has become obsolete to the majority of citizens. A common example in African states is the liberation ideology which is always championed by liberation political parties like the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa, Swapo Party in Namibia and ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe. It is also a fact that the demographic state of these countries has changed with youths who never participated in the struggle now comprising the majority, and thus feel alienated by this doctrine which is being romped to the national military. Another control strategy over the armed forces pursued by African countries identified by Decalo is “systematic legitimacy”. It is believed that many African countries with civilian regimes have attained a noteworthy measure of legitimacy that has effectively sealed them from praetorian attacks. Decalo is of the view that a civilian regime that is widely seen and accepted by the society as legitimate likewise will be accepted by the military because they are also part of the society. This scenario is likely to prevent the armed forces from seizing power from the civilian authorities, because their regime enjoys wide popular support. Namibia’s civil-military relations in transition were influenced by the colonial, liberation struggle and independence periods discussed in this article, although we cannot characterize them as democratic. These periods were characterized by praetorian types of rule. Democratic civil control of the military in modern Namibia was primarily influenced by international actors that negotiated for the independence of the country. Although the country’s constitution, which provides for effective subordination of the military to civilian political authorities, is based on the principles of Western countries, it laid a firm foundation for Namibia’s success story. The UN also made considerable input in creating democratic civil-military relations in Namibia (United Nations, 2008). This was through technical and financial packages through UNTAG. This mainly focused on mainstreaming democratic relations, peace and stability in independent Namibia. However, the reintegration of ex-combatants and returnees was not fully realized, as within a decade after independence, disenchanted, unemployed ex-fighters engaged in demonstrations threatening peace and stability in the country. The government’s Peace Project aimed at affirmative job placement for ex-combatants mainly in the public service, and was a short-term relief measure as pockets of disgruntled and riotous unemployed ex-combatants continue to pose a security threat. We could argue that the government failed to put in place comprehensive reintegration mechanisms that would make those who could not be absorbed in the NDF productive members of the society. The failure by the government to provide support to facilitate the long-term reintegration of ex-fighters and returnees, besides the UNHCR’s immediate post-relocation assistance, caused serious hardships on segments of ex-combatants. • Extract from unsupervised, unpublished research paper by Charles Siyauya, titled: A coup d’état a mixture of dangers and opportunities: Lessons for Namibia. Views expressed in this article are not that of my employer or associates. Charles Siyauya holds a degree of master of arts in security and strategic studies, University of Namibia.
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