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Research Report

Understanding African armies

David Chuter
Florence Gaub
Taynja Abdel Baghy
Aline Leboeuf
José Luengo-Cabrera
Jérôme Spinoza
Copyright Date: Apr. 1, 2016
Pages: 75
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-4)
    David Chuter and Florence Gaub
  2. (pp. 5-8)
    Antonio Missiroli

    Over the past few years, a significant and growing share of CSDP missions and operations has been devoted to training and capacity-building in fragile countries and regions in Africa, from the Horn to the Great Lakes, from the Sahel to the Gulf of Guinea. While this shift in focus and emphasis reflects the challenges that the EU and the wider international community are increasingly confronted with in Africa, it is a fact that the efforts put into such activities have produced very modest results so far.

    It is therefore legitimate to wonder what is going wrong, and why. Is it...

  3. (pp. 9-14)

    Africa is more than just the world’s second largest continent; the shared history of its billion plus citizens, living in any of its 54 states and 10 non-sovereign entities have turned it – like Europe – into a political construct, too. Over the last century alone, Africa has seen both political turmoil and unprecedented economic and human development, which have affected not only its citizens but also its neighbours and indeed the globe. Today, 23 international and regional peace missions are deployed on and offshore the continent, highlighting the enmeshment of African security with global security.

    African armed forces are...

  4. (pp. 15-24)

    As with other military organisations, African armed forces are defined first and foremost by their tasks and by the means of which they dispose to accomplish them. As we have seen, theoretically, their missions do not differ much from those of armed forces elsewhere: ensuring state security, and protecting population and territories from external threats. And, as with any effective military force, they would be expected to have a coercive capacity, a defined structure, discipline, order and efficiency to achieve these goals.

    African armies differ greatly in terms of size and budget, ranging from a very small defence budget of...

  5. (pp. 25-36)

    Although created primarily for war, African armed forces have been repeatedly involved in politics too. This has taken different forms, ranging from the staging of military coups to ‘self-demobilisation’, from active to passive support for a political party, to the absorption of former civil war parties into their ranks. Just as African societies have undergone different types of political conflict, African military forces have too. In highly politicised environments, neutrality was and is hard to maintain for an institution nominally bound to the state only.

    With an often superior (if not always unrivalled) capacity to exercise force, the military can...

  6. (pp. 37-40)

    Both external donors and African states want Africa’s militaries to continue to develop, yet the resources to make this possible are often not currently available, and may not be available in the future. Some states such as Algeria and Angola have been able to use their natural resources to create militaries which are at least notionally effective, but it is clear that revenues which may fluctuate significantly from year to year are not a reliable basis for long-term planning.

    It is therefore likely that African militaries will continue to vary considerably in terms of their competence and professional skills. For...

  7. (pp. 41-44)

    So the risk is that African countries enter the third decade of the century with forces that are ill-adapted to meet their security challenges, while various donors (and African leaders themselves) may continue to regard the formation of European-style units, and an EU-style peace and security architecture, as priorities. It is already clear that for many African countries, the essential components of their military capability will be tied up in the ASF, leaving little scope for efforts to be deployed elsewhere.

    Insofar as there is a way of preventing this, it probably lies less in the provision of more money...