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The Military in African Politics  

Maggie Dwyer

Interstate conflict has been rare in sub-Saharan Africa and militaries often do not fit the image of a force focused on external threats. Instead, they have often been heavily engaged in domestic politics, regularly serving as regime protection. For many militaries on the continent, the continued internal focus of the armed forces has been shaped by practices under colonialism. One defining feature of African militaries’ involvement in politics is the coup d’état. From the 1960s to the 1980s coups were the primary method of regime change, making the military central to the political landscape of the continent. By the start of the 21st century there were far fewer direct attempts at military control of African states, yet militaries continue to influence politics even under civilian leadership. While there are differences in the role of militaries based on the unique circumstances of each state, there are also general patterns regarding new missions undertaken by armed forces following the end of the Cold War. These include peacekeeping, counterterrorism, and humanitarian assistance, all of which generally involve international partnerships and cooperation. Yet these missions have also had domestic political motivations and effects.

Article

Uruguay: No Country for a Military?  

David Altman and Nicole Jenne

Scholars have paid little attention to the Uruguayan armed forces, an institution that has never been fully entrusted with the country’s external security. This is explained by Uruguay’s geographical condition as a buffer state, sandwiched between South America’s biggest countries, Brazil and Argentina. The power differential with either one of them has rendered the prospect of a viable defense futile. Accordingly, those who have studied the Uruguayan military concur that it has traditionally had difficulties finding a place and recognition within the state and society. Throughout its history, the military has been a rather weak institution mostly subordinate to democratic control. After the creation of Uruguay in 1828, it took several decades until a truly national military was established. The late 19th and early 20th century represent an exception in the country’s history as the armed forces underwent a modernization process backed by government resources. Military professionalization consolidated civilian control. Yet, soon after, the strengthening of democratic institutions and a high degree of social stability maneuvered the armed forces into a position of political neglect. This changed rather abruptly in the late 1960s, when a severe social, economic, and political crisis drove the ruling elites to call upon the armed forces to restore order. The military launched a coup d’état in 1973 and remained in power until 1985, when a negotiated transition put an end to the dictatorship and the U.S.-supported National Security Doctrine. Subsequent democratic governments gradually reestablished civilian control and reduced the budget and size of the institution. However, given the stigmas from the dictatorship, together with the traditionally low esteem in which the military has been held, politicians have been slow in taking on necessary reforms in the military and defense sectors. Political neglect has allowed the armed forces considerable autonomy in military and defense policymaking, due to lack of civilian involvement. The decision to have the armed forces participate in UN peacekeeping—since 1992, Uruguay has almost consistently been among the top peacekeeping contributors per capita—has provided solutions to a number of pending questions regarding the role of the armed forces. Participation in peacekeeping allows for financial resources to supplement military salaries and acquisition funds. It provides the armed forces with a mission and has brought them closer to the civilian foreign policy elite. Yet, Uruguay still seems to wonder whether the country wants to have its armed forces.

Article

Rwanda: Civil–Military Relations  

Marco Jowell

The army has been a central part of Rwanda’s political system from the precolonial period until the early 21st century and is intrinsically part of the construction and politics of the state. Civil–military relations in Rwanda demonstrate not only the central features of transitioning a rebel group to a national defense sector but also how some states construct their armed forces after a period of mass violence. Since the civil war and genocide in the early 1990s, the Rwandan military has been the primary actor in politics, the economy, and state building as well as in regional wars in central Africa and the Great Lakes region. Practical experiences of guerrilla insurgency and conflict in Uganda and Rwanda, postconflict military integration, and the intertwining of political and economic agendas with the ruling party have shaped civil–military relations in Rwanda and have been central to how the Rwandan defense sector functions. Contemporary Rwandan civil–military relations center around the two elements of service delivery and control, which has resulted in the development of an effective and technocratic military in terms of remit and responsibilities on the one hand, and the creation of a politicized force of coercion on the other hand. The military in Rwanda therefore reflects the pressures and dynamics of the wider state and cannot be separated from it. The Rwandan army is thus a “political army” and is part and parcel of the political structures that oversee and govern the Rwandan state.