French civil–military relations are usually described as an example of subordination of the military command to political authorities. This subordination is the legacy of the mutual distrust inherited from the “events” in Algeria and, more specifically, the coups in Algiers in 1958 and 1961 that gave birth to the current Fifth Republic. With the end of the Cold War, civil–military relations have rebalanced to the benefit of general officers because of the increasingly technical nature of external interventions and the consolidation of interprofessional relations with diplomats and industrial networks, facilitating the return of some officers into decision-making circuits. After this functional reintegration, the antiterrorist framing, both outside of the country (Opération Serval in January 2013 in Mali) and within France’s borders (Opération Sentinelle , which followed the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris), seems to recast the military as the forge of the national community. The evolution of the political uses of the military forces in France shows how ambivalent the antiterrorist resources are in the contemporary civil–military game.
Since the independence of Niger in 1960, Nigerien armed forces have played a prominent role in the country’s history, either because of their recurrent “nonpolitical” interventions in the political arena or based on their involvement in the stabilization process of the Sahel and the fight against terrorism. Nigeriens have lived under civil, military, and authoritarian regimes, experienced four coups d’état (1974, 1996, 1999, and 2010), four political transitions, nine presidents, and have voted on seven constitutions. The Nigerien population lived under military rule for 23 out of 60 years following independence. Thus, Nigerien contemporary politics cannot be analyzed without a sound understanding of the Nigerien Army, how the institution became an “entrepreneur politique,” and how institutional, economic, and social factors may encourage the intervention of a nonpolitical institution in the political arena. Politics and the military are definitely connected in Niger. Each coup has had a different motive. The 1974 military coup is one of the many successful military seizures of power that occurred in Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. This first “praetorian” intervention resulted from intramilitary and domestic factors and lasted 17 years under the rule of Seyni Kountché and his successor Ali Saibou. The second intervention in politics occurred in 1996 and also resulted from institutional factors and the inability of the newly elected authorities to overcome their divisions. The 1996 coup d’état was a classic case: a time-limited military intervention using violence to convert itself into a civilian regime. In 1999 the army overthrew a military regime, whereas in 2010 militaries put an end to the democratically elected president’s shift toward authoritarianism. In 2010, the shift in the security situation in the Sahel marked the armed forces’ return to strictly military functions, such as national defense and security and providing support for external operations. Consequently, the security situation in the Sahel strip deteriorated and the major economic and social challenges of the poorest country in the world were neglected. This has led to recurrent political and social tensions that reinforce the fact that addressing the basic needs of the people is as, important as Niger’s security policy.
The relationship between the Colombian armed forces and civilian leaders within the state has been marked historically with the continuity of civilian control and the general avoidance of military coups or regimes. After a series of major civil wars during the 19th century, civil–military relations were guided by the need to preserve the power of economic and political elites, with the military consistently acting as a central pillar in the survival of this elite. Interestingly, in the context of civil–military relations in Latin America, Colombia has been a model of how a regime can pair formal “civilian control” with intensive levels of state repression and violence against opposing forces within civil society. This model has been maintained during periods of relative political stability as well as during periods of widespread internal conflict. Thus, illustrating the limits that formal institutional arrangements within the Colombian state have led to shifts in the behavior of its military.
Suriname is a multiethnic society (from African, Asian, and European countries, and smaller contingents of the original indigenous peoples) formed in colonial times. After 1863, a small colonial army detachment with conscript Dutch soldiers was stationed in Suriname. The colony was provided autonomy in 1954, except for defense and foreign affairs. The same army detachment was now open for Surinamese noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Independence was obtained in 1975; the Dutch transferred all infrastructure of the colonial detachment. Suriname’s political culture was (and partially still is) based on ethnic belonging and clientelism. After independence, the government started spending big money and rumors of corruption arose. The NCOs, headed by Sergeant-Major Bouterse, staged a coup in 1980. They appointed a new civilian government but remained in control though a Military Council overseeing government. After two and a half years it generated a strong civilian opposition, supported by the students, the middle classes, and the trade unions. In December 1982, the military arrested the leaders and tortured and killed them. Between 1980 and 1987, Bouterse, now a colonel, was the de facto president as leader of the Military Council. The generally leftist but zig-zagging military government disrupted the economy. “Colombian entrepreneurs” assisted with financial support. Economic and political bankruptcy prompted the government to organize elections. The “old ethnic parties” won the election in 1987, but the army leadership remained in power. A second coup, in December 1991, was settled by general elections six months thereafter; the same ethnic parties returned to power. Armed opposition had emerged in the Maroon region. The Army, backed by paramilitary forces, organized a counterinsurgency campaign during several years of civil war. The civilian government brokered a preliminary peace agreement, but Army Chief Bouterse continued the war. Eventually the Organisation of American States mediated, resulting in a formal peace. Bouterse and his staff were discharged and became businessmen and politicians. Consecutive civilian government strongly curtailed military budgets, personnel, and equipment. Instead, they strengthened the police. In 2005, Bouterse participated in the elections with a pluriethnic political platform. His party became the largest one in parliament. He won the presidential elections in 2010 and was reelected in 2015. A Military Tribunal initiated a process against the actors of the December 1982 murders. In November 2019, the Tribunal convicted him of murder and sentenced him to 20 years in prison, without ordering his immediate arrest. The National Army, after decades of neglect, was reorganized. It is in fact an infantry battalion equipped with Brazilian armored vehicles. Brazil, Venezuela, and India supplied some assistance and training. The Coast Guard is part of the Army, as well as the Air Force which has a couple of Indian helicopters. Of the 137 countries ranked in military strength by Global Firepower (2019), Suriname is positioned at place 135. On the other hand, the country has no external enemies, although there exists a dormant frontier dispute with Guyana since the late 1960s.