ACSS Senior Leaders Seminar Concludes its First Week

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 06/14/2011

Dr. Assis Malaquias, Academic Chair for Defense Economics, and Dr. Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations

The Africa Center’s Senior Leaders Seminar continued its successful first week on Tuesday, June 7, 2011 with a session titled Political Trends and Challenges in Africa. Dr. Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, the Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, immediately stressed the study of African history in understanding and finding solutions for current challenges. For instance, through the study of history, one can find that Africans had a form of democracy in their tribal systems; the kings of many tribes had checks and balances as well as a need to ensure the legitimacy of their rule. He voiced optimism that Africa can continue to make strides towards democratic systems, since there were pre-colonial antecedents.

Dr. Houngnikpo cautioned, however, that “elections alone do not equal democracy.”

The second plenary session of the day was titled Economic Trends and Challenges. The presenter, Dr. Assis Malaquias, is the Chair of Defense Economics at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. He immediately set about explaining the economy of Africa before and after the recent economic crisis. Unfortunately, the crisis interrupted the best decade for African economies since independence. Africa is recovering from the global economic crisis, but growth rates still remain too low to ensure that Africa will meet the Millennium Development Goals.

On Wednesday, June 8, Dr. Mathurin Houngnikpo presented a plenary session on Human Security and Democratic Governance of the Security Sector in Africa. Dr. Houngnikpo’s presentation was largely concerned with civil-military relations in Africa and the submission of national militaries to their civilian governments. Stating “the army is an extension of the state, not visa-versa,” Dr. Houngnikpo criticized contemporary abuses of power by African militaries contending that modern African armed forces are descendent from colonial era institutions that are ill suited to providing the necessary human security to civilians. Dr. Houngnikpo also highlighted the dangers that corruption, nepotism, and the privatization of the military pose to democracy, civil-military relations, and national security strategy. To meet the challenges of reforming and establishing democratic control of African security institutions, Dr. Houngnikpo proposed the use of constitutional, legislative, and budgetary mechanisms to restrain military independence. Dr. Houngnikpo finished his presentation emphasizing the need for civilian governments to craft a National Defense Strategy that comprehensively identifies the tools available to the state, evaluates security threats, and determines the national interests and goals of the people.

The series of thought provoking and insightful presentations continued Thursday morning, June 9, with panelists Dr. Robert H. Dorff and Dr. Medhane Tadesse presenting a discussion of Security Strategy Development and Security Sector Reform, respectively. The two parallel discussions transitioned well from Dr. Houngnikpo’s presentation the day before, with Dr. Dorff and Dr. Tadesse providing greater detail as to the objectives of National Security Strategy development and the principles and objectives of Security Sector Reform. Dr. Dorff, the General Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research at the Strategic Studies Institute, began the session by presenting strategy as the balancing of objectives (ends), concepts (ways), and resources (means). He continued by defining National Security Strategy as “the overarching strategy of a nation-state as it pursues its interests through the application of the instruments of power.” Dr. Dorff emphasized that a state’s security strategy must not be static, but a dynamic process that can adapt to shifting conditions in the strategic environment as well as react to strategic choices made by other actors in the system.

Dr. Tadesse, who is the Senior Security Sector Reform Advisor to the African Union, criticized the security concepts of the past and discussed the post-cold war paradigm shift that laid the foundation for modern security sector reform. Following World War II, the military served only to protect against external enemies, sedition, and civil unrest. The modern military, however, must provide for human security including the freedom from fear and want. To meet the growth of individual/human security, African security sectors must be reformed to address poverty, violence, and the state itself as threats to the individual. Security sector reform must be conducted at the citizen, community and government (national) level, yet Dr. Tadesse strongly emphasized the role regional cooperation plays in successful reform.

Thursday discussions concluded with an intriguing plenary session on Africa’s Peace and Security Architecture, presented by panelists Dr. Issaka Souaré, Senior Researcher for the African Conflict Prevention Programme at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, and Mr. Rashidali Beekun, a representative of the African Union. Dr. Souaré began by identifying the institutional structures that make up Africa’s Peace and Security Architecture, highlighting the role played by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union. The Council, established in 2003, is composed of fifteen members regularly rotated among African countries. Other pillars of the peace and security architecture are the African Standby Force, the Panel of the Wise, the Continental Early Warning System, and the Peace Fund. Dr. Souaré concluded with a warning that Africa’s Peace and Security Architecture was threatened by a lack of dedicated experts and military attachés to assist the Council as well as persisting financial issues. (To date the majority of funding comes from the European Union and other non-African sources.)

Mr. Beekun finished up the session with an informative presentation drawing on his experiences with the African Union’s peacekeeping forces in Darfur. Mr. Beekun stressed the need for African contributions of well-trained police officers, stating that his experiences in Darfur illustrated their utility in bringing about a comprehensive reduction in tensions.