In the last decade, civil-military relations in Africa have reflected the new political frontier taking hold of the continent including democratic governance and the de-legitimization of military interventions and disengagement from politics. Particularly, the role of the military in making democracy an enduring reality on the continent has become the subject of great debate in West Africa.
As part of a year-long celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of independence, the Senegalese armed forces organized a conference in Dakar on Nov. 8-11 to examine civil-military relations in West Africa to discuss the linkages with good governance and democratization and the model of the army of the region. More than 200 participants representing the 15 countries of the Economic Community of West Africa States and Mauritania were in attendance. The conference focused on the roles and responsibilities of the armed forces in pursuing and sustaining peace and development in West Africa.
Dr. Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ Chair for Civil-Military Relations, one of the presenters at the conference, reviewed the history of civil-military relations in Africa in general and in the region in particular. He noted that democracy, as a concept, has always been indigenous to Africa and that the role of the military in pre-colonial African political culture was confined to security and not governance and politics.
Dr. Houngnikpo elaborated that the wave of militarism that swept the region shortly after independence is not congruent with traditional African cultures. He concluded his remarks by presenting effective ways in which countries in the region can enhance civil-military relations and reduce the likelihood of military intrusion into politics.
In the end, a selected group of participants, including Dr. Houngnikpo, paid a courtesy call on President Abdoulaye Wade (front row, fourth from right in photo) who expressed his pleasure to have Senegal hosting such an important gathering.