Contemporary civil-military relations in the Sahel


The relationship between a country’s armed forces and its government is a crucial indicator of the quality of its democracy and its degree of political stability. The SWAC Secretariat’s most recent  West African Paper analyses civil-military relations in six Sahelian countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal). Over the last 30 years, these countries have seen a shift toward more civilian oversight in political affairs. However, democratic institutions remain fragile. In Chad and Mauritania, the armed forces remain the pre-eminent political actor. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, sections of the armed forces refuse to accept civilian rule. The Sahel as a whole continues to struggle primarily with domestic security threats. The stabilisation of precarious security situations and the promotion of democratic institutions should be seen as two sides of the same coin. Partners should, therefore, continue to provide military assistance to the Sahel while fostering civilian oversight and democratic reform. Accountability and transparency are key to preventing the erosion of civilian oversight in military affairs. “Any Western support for Sahelian armed forces should ensure that money is spent in accordance with verifiable criteria and that those criteria are made public,” the author concludes.


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