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Professional Military Education

A Cross-Cultural Survey

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Edited By Duraid Jalili and Hubert Annen

This book brings together non-Western viewpoints on military pedagogy and professional military education (PME). In doing so, it seeks to provide a counterbalance to the predominantly European and North American bias found within the research field, as well as generating new insights on Latin American, African and Asian pedagogical commentaries and critiques. The collection contains essays from PME researchers and practitioners across fourteen countries, on subjects including large-scale educational reform, civil-military and academic influences on military pedagogy, internationalisation, cross-cultural collaboration, and interoperability within military education.

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Analysing the Challenges Facing Military Education in Francophone Sub-Saharan African Countries

Lieutenant Colonel Mahammad Moumin

Analysing the Challenges Facing Military Education in Francophone Sub-Saharan African Countries

Abstract: This chapter seeks to illustrate the difficult course faced by military educators in francophone African countries in balancing national autonomy and trans-national collaboration. It highlights how military forces in Africa face a broad range of threats, including transnational terrorist groups and human trafficking networks. It then demonstrates how these forces also face a number of budgetary and human resource deficits that affect the development and implementation of educational policies necessary to secure their territories. This has led to a partial reliance on a number of foreign-funded colleges and training activities. In order to avoid dependency on such systems, the chapter contends, militaries in francophone African nations must consider a number of options, such as better staff rotations and military exchange programmes.

Keywords: PME, military education, Djibouti Armed Forces, terrorism, peacekeeping, military expenditure, staff college, ENVR

Introduction

In the 21st century, it is inconceivable to be commissioned as an officer or to become a non-commissioned officer without attending a military education institution for a set period of time. This process of educating and training military personnel has been given many different names, including:

“adult education, professional military education (PME), joint professional military education (JPME), voluntary education (VOLED), continuous learning, continuing education, lifelong learning, organization knowledge, and adult learning” (Gleiman and Zacharakis, 2016, p.82).

Historically, the tradition of military education dates back to the 18th century. Ignoring the oldest functioning college, the Royal Danish Naval Academy (founded in 1701), early academies were often created to train officers for artillery and engineering branches. Key examples of this include the Royal Military Academy of Woolwich (1741) in Great Britain, and the ←159 | 160→École Royale du Génie in Mézières (1748) in France. It was in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, however, that most early Western European military academies were created. This was catalysed by the continued impact and threat of the Napoleonic wars, and resulted in the formation of institutions such as the Royal Military College (1800) in Great Britain, the Kriegsakademie (1801) in Prussia, and the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr (1802) in France.

In Africa, by comparison, the evolution and institutionalization of military education was and still remains highly variable, depending on the particular needs of each nation and the relative influence of foreign governments within those nations. In some countries such as Ghana, military colleges were formed soon after national independence as part of a political emphasis on military autonomy and Africanization (Hettne, 1980, pp.175, 178), whilst other countries have only recently found the capacity within their military and governmental structures to support professional military schools. Taking this sharp contrast between continents as a starting point, this chapter analyses and explains the challenges that French-speaking countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are facing in terms of military education. In order to do this, the chapter outlines some of the key security challenges facing these countries, followed by the challenges facing military education itself. It will conclude by proposing some potential solutions for the way ahead.

African Security Challenges

Since the 1950s, the African continent has been a theatre for various security challenges such as terrorism, armed rebellion, illicit drug trafficking and human trafficking. Decades before the infamous terrorist attacks on 11th September 2001 in the United States, terrorism was profoundly shaping African security and politics, from the Mau Mau Rebellion against British government rule in Kenya in the 1950s, to the uMkhonto we Sizwe’s guerrilla campaign against the apartheid government of South Africa.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, however, terrorism in Africa has evolved significantly from its origins as an alternative and often secular means of achieving national independence or political equality. Using the examples of the Sahel region, the Democratic Republic of the Congo ←160 | 161→(DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), it is possible to see how terrorism has developed into an increasingly complex range of intra- and inter-national factions, with diverse and sometimes competing objectives, fluctuating allegiances and resources, and varying levels of internal cohesion.

In the Sahel region, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has presented a serious threat to countries including Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal. Although Boeke (2016, p.930) concludes that AQIM’s “objectives and ideology […] indicate a strategy of terrorism rather than insurgency” and that “the evidence does not support the accusation that AQIM is a criminal organization with a religious façade”, the evolution and merger of AQIM from the Front de Libération Nationale’s initially secular struggle for Algerian independence (Baken and Mantzikos, 2016, pp.320–321) has led to continued debates over its status.

In the DRC, there exists a broad spectrum of insurgents and rebel groups whose objectives have ranged from overthrowing the government, to “defending the national integrity and inviolability of the Democratic Republic of the Congo against foreign forces” (Verweijen, 2016, p.58).1 Many of these terrorist groups blur the lines between state and non-state actors by imitating the uniforms, governance practices, language and organizational hierarchies of the official armed forces (FARDC) (Ibid., pp.56–57). Despite the support of United Nations peacekeeping forces (MONUSCO) since the 1990s, the government’s “confused mix” of military action and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, has not only failed to restore peace and security but may even have stimulated further armed mobilization (Ibid., pp.73–74).

In the CAR, various armed groups control vast areas of the country and exploit local resources to fund their illicit activities. Out of these armed groups, it is worth highlighting two recently prominent insurgent forces that significantly impacted both the civilian population and government policy in the CAR. The first group, known as the Séléka, is an ←161 | 162→alliance of broadly Muslim insurgent groups created to fight the government of General Bozizé, leading to the appointment of the Séléka leader Michel Djotodia as president of the CAR from March 2013 to January 2014. The second group is the Anti-Balaka, which claims it was created to protect Christians against the Muslim insurgents who seized power. Both insurgent groups are notorious for the weak control they have on their respective combatants and have been accused of numerous war crimes against the civilian population (e.g. Human Rights Watch, 2013; Bouckaert, 2014).

Although this scenario may seem clear-cut, some commentators contend that security measures (including the UN Mission in the CAR) have failed to eradicate national insecurity “in part from focusing on Séléka and Anti-Balaka clashes and atrocities – two supposed entities that never truly existed as such and that have by now melted into long-held inter-communal tensions” (Mehler et al., 2016, p.1). Indeed, more recently, these two groups have been accompanied by a range of criminal militias predominantly composed of Muslim Fulani herder groups. In addition to these ‘native’ groups, the CAR has been used as a base by rebel groups from neighbouring countries such as the DRC and Uganda. For example, despite the intervention of the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) and the provision of logistical, equipment, humanitarian and advisory support by the United States (Arieff et al., 2015, pp.9–13), the infamous Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has used the CAR as a safe haven. During this time, they have been accused of committing acts of violence and crimes against the civilian population (Anderson et al, 2016).

Mali is another example of a weak state confronted with well-armed and well-organized insurgents. In 2012, the Malian defence and security forces were defeated in the north of the country and lost vast areas of territory to a coalition of insurgent and terrorist groups. The insurgents had taken advantage of the fall of the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi by acquiring weapons and personnel to the extent that they were better equipped and manned than the Malian forces attempting to contain them (Nossiter, 2012).

International and transnational criminal groups are also taking advantage of weak states that are unable to secure and control their territories. ←162 | 163→Since 2008, South American drug cartels have adopted West Africa as a key route to transport cocaine to Europe (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2008, p.13 and 2016, xiv, pp.38–39). This transit zone for criminal organizations includes countries such as Senegal, Mali and Niger, as well as vast areas of the Sahara Desert. In addition to drugs, the influx of African refugees and migrants fleeing for economic, social or political reasons, has led to extensive human trafficking networks that seek to profit from transporting migrants from their home countries to Europe (Smith, 2015). This journey ends with death so frequently that thousands of Africans have perished in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara (Yardley and Pianigiani, 2016).

In addition to this, many African countries have been unable to adequately protect endangered animals from the transnational poaching trade that has decimated certain species for their skins, ivory, bones or horn. One example of this involved poachers from Sudan passing through the CAR to attack and kill elephants in a reserve in Cameroon (Neme, 2012). African countries in general, including French-speaking ones (with the exception of Chad), have been broadly unable to address the security challenges associated with this increasing spectrum of transnational threats.

To respond to African capability gaps, the international community has mandated several peacekeeping operations to protect the population, to restore peace, and to create the conditions for political and social reconciliation. Take for example the United Nations mission in the DRC, designed to assist in creating the conditions of peace and security required to allow the rebuilding process of the country. Originally designated as a UN “Mission”, this was authorized by UN Security Council Resolution No.1279 in 1999 and then reformatted into its current form as a “Stabilization Mission” by Resolution No.1925 in 2010 (United Nations Security Council, 1999 and 2010). Individual countries, such as France, have also embarked on military intervention to prevent this situation worsening. Operation Serval in Mali (2013–2014) and Operation Sangaris in the CAR (2013–2016) are two recent examples. Besides France, other countries such as the United States have built and maintained strategic military bases in countries such as Niger and Djibouti (Müller-Jung, 2016).

←163 | 164→

Military Education Challenges

As shown, there are many factors that influence the various insecurities in the region and, to address them all, more than one solution is needed. However, military education remains one of the most important instruments for this, as it helps provide future leaders with the personal and professional abilities required to develop solutions to these insecurities. In order to reach a point at which this can occur, military education in francophone African countries must overcome certain shared challenges that prevent them from implementing the policies necessary to create and build military education institutions and, therefore, to provide the training required for the full spectrum of military personnel.

The first challenge is linked to the fact that such countries are trying to respond to competing demands in an environment of limited financial means. As noted by Huus (2013), the “cost of attending four years at West Point is estimated at $200,000–$250,000” per student. This cost seems significant, yet in real terms it constitutes 0.000038 % of the total military expenditure of the U.S. Armed Forces, which in 2013 (the same year as Huus’ article) totalled over $650 billion (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2016). As shown in Tab. 10.1, as a means of contrast, if we were to apply this same spending ratio to the total military expenditure of African nations in 2013, then the cost of providing one student ←164 | 165→with four years of education at the officer-cadet level would vary from just over $3000 to under $10.

Tab. 10.1: Relative cost of providing one cadet with four years of education in Africa as a percentage of total military expenditure, in contrast with West Point.

<$3000

Algeria

$1000–$3000

South Africa; Morocco; Angola;

$500–$1000

Nigeria;

$250–$500

Chad; Tunisia; Kenya; South Sudan;

$100–$250

Botswana; Gabon; Uganda; Zimbabwe; Zambia; Namibia; Congo; DRC; Ethiopia; Cameroon; Côte d’Ivoire; Tanzania;

$30–$100

Rwanda; Swaziland; Benin; Mauritania; Mali; Mozambique; Burkina Faso; Ghana; Guinea; Senegal;

$10–$30

Sierra Leone; Lesotho; Burundi; Madagascar; Togo; Malawi;

>$10

Gambia; Cape Verde; Seychelles; Liberia; Guinea-Bissau; Mauritius;

Although this is a clearly artificial method of predicting the finances available to educate African officers, it highlights the difficulties faced in creating globally competitive military education in countries that do not have the same level of economic resource available to invest in military education institutions. One obvious factor surrounding this is the fiscal reality that any governmental increase in military budgets in general and military education budgets in particular must come from cuts to other government institutions and programmes. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore, that in the 2013 fiscal year the six countries featured at the bottom of the table received collectively around $1.9 million of direct U.S. funding for military education and training programmes (U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State, 2013) – equivalent to 2.1 % of their total, national military expenditure.

One key repercussion of this lack of funding is that African military institutions face difficulties attracting and retaining instructors and faculty members with the level of experience required to provide the highest quality training. This challenge is further affected by limitations in terms of human resources for those countries engaged in national or international operations. In this situation, greater priority is given to assigning military personnel to units engaged in active operations instead of military education institutions. The Joint Military Academy of the Republic of Djibouti, for example, has faced continued problems with human resources due to the deployment of 2,000 troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia since 2011 (African Union Mission in Somalia, n.d.).

In addition to staff, such institutions require high quality equipment. Indeed, infrastructure and equipment remain the core tools that influence the quality of military training, and the ability to fulfil the old adage “train as you fight and fight as you train”. The Joint Military Academy of the Republic of Djibouti, for example, is a 10-year-old institution that currently lacks a swimming pool, gymnasium and even a library.

Whereas most francophone African countries possess academies that provide basic training for junior officers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs), there exist some exceptions such as Gabon and Comoros who rely on foreign academies to train their officers, and Djibouti where ←165 | 166→there exists no NCO academy. Moreover, whilst some countries have the capability to deliver basic and even advanced infantry courses (due to their relatively low cost), a significant number still lack branch schools, junior and staff colleges, and naval and air force academies. Exceptions to this can be found in the continued development of Ecoles Nationales à Vocation Régionale (National Schools for Regional Vocation -ENVRs), in which:

“The host country provides location, buildings, resources and supervision necessary for general running of the school. France provides technical support and expertise in training curricula. In return, the host country agrees that the school welcomes students from other African countries whose transportation and training fees are sustained by France.” (Anon., 2012, p.11)

These schools are designed to train military personnel from francophone countries instead of sending them to France. As noted by Lieutenant General Clément-Bollée (2012, p.3), “the sixteen national schools, supported by the DCSD, train now each year nearly 2,400 African students from across the whole continent.” This network of schools has increased local access to training in areas such as peacekeeping, engineering, logistics and aviation, in a range of schools including the basic infantry school in Thiés (Senegal), junior staff college in Libreville (Gabon) and the senior staff college in Yaoundé (Cameroon).

Although, the contribution of these schools cannot be denied, they are only partially able to fulfil the high demand for training. For instance, the junior and senior staff colleges train on average one or two students from each country per year. In 2014, over 15 years since its creation, the junior staff college of Libreville had trained 500 officers from 21 countries, which is an average of 1.6 officers per year and per country (Anon., 2015, p.9). These figures do not respond adequately to the needs of francophone countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Even though African militaries in francophone nations can generally rely on similar institutions in other countries (such as France and Morocco), there are no specific guarantees that places on these courses will be offered to a particular country every year. Having officers trained in different countries can also affect the cohesion among those respective officers’ corps.

Moreover, although francophone countries started exchanging students on a bilateral basis very early on, there are far fewer examples of exchanges ←166 | 167→between faculty members. Such examples are often one-way exchanges. For example, Moroccan instructors are present in Djibouti’s military academy, whilst Djibouti does not send instructors to Morocco. This lack of faculty exchange has hindered the ability for francophone military education institutions to harmonize curriculum and to share best practice. This is also hindered by the absence of a dedicated multilateral organization or discussion forum for francophone institutions (such as the Partnership for Peace Consortium or the African Conference of Commandants).

Beyond the level of the junior and senior staff college, there exist very few military training institutions at the higher level of the senior War College. Out of 47 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, only Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Sudan and Tanzania possess a ‘National Defence College’-level institution, with Uganda currently in the process of developing such an institution. Moreover, no francophone countries possess a War College to train senior military at the strategic level. Instead they rely on foreign institutions to fill this gap. It should be noted, however, that because of the size of their respective armed forces and because foreign assistance may be sufficient to train officers at this level, one could argue that many francophone African countries do not need this kind of institution.

The Way Ahead

As has been shown, there exist a wide range of operational, financial and socio-political challenges for military education in francophone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. These obstacles exist both at the national and multi-lateral levels. In order to address the situation, such countries have to implement effective military education policies and programmes at the institutional level. Specifically, they must take measures not just to consolidate their existing military education programmes, but also to increase the quality of the training.

Central to this is a need to combine ambition with pragmatism. Ambition is required to drive change across military education institutions, and to create and communicate a sense of purpose and urgency to educational reform across the armed forces. Yet, pragmatism dictates that these countries will have to accept that any changes in military education ←167 | 168→will necessarily occur within the confines of limited financial and human resources. Whilst this does hinder progress, it does not preclude it. For example, militaries could significantly improve education at minimal cost by assigning and rotating their best personnel and those with recent operational experience to military training institutions.

In addition to factoring in the financial and human resources available, any such policies for improving education must ensure a balance between national autonomy and trans-national collaboration. Realistically, francophone countries must continue to take advantage of the ENVRs that are providing cost-effective training of good quality. Yet, equally each country must ensure that it does not rely on these systems. Whilst investment in national institutions for the sake of prestige must be avoided, the ability to support and develop autonomous military education programmes is the only the guarantee for a lasting and resilient military education system. This independence is not only a strategic priority but could result in increased ownership and stewardship that will impact beneficially upon the quality of education.

This capacity for autonomy and self-reliance would also provide a stronger foundation by which African francophone countries can then increase cooperation among themselves. Such bilateral or multilateral cooperation is vital for sharing best practices and benchmarking similar courses and can be achieved through multilateral organizations that foster and coordinate national measures to improve military education. It should be noted that there exist a range of options for francophone African military educators to integrate within larger communities. Key examples include the African Conference of Commandants; the peace support teams provided by the United Kingdom in Eastern and Southern Africa, which include yearly joint exercises among staff colleges (Muddiman and Chabinga, 2013); and programmes offered by the United States, such as the African Military Education Program (AMEP) organized by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

Despite the clear benefits of these pan-African organizations, their effectiveness is inhibited by two key issues. Firstly, the membership of such forums is comparatively limited. Out of the 21 countries in Africa with French as an official language, for example, only 5 have colleges represented at the African Conference of Commandants (i.e. Burundi, ←168 | 169→Gabon, Rwanda, Senegal, Cameroon). Secondly, greater benefit could be derived by having a dedicated forum for each level of military education (Anon., 2014, p.20) or, for countries with specific regional and linguistic links, enabling tailored research collaboration, curriculum benchmarking and faculty and student exchanges. One potential exemplar for this cooperation can be seen in the bilateral cooperation between the Ghanaian and Nigerian staff colleges, which includes faculty and student exchange programmes, harmonization of curriculums and joint exercises such as the ECOWAS Combined Joint African Exercise (CJAX) organized each year by both institutions (Adjei, 2016). Another exemplar of a region-specific programme can be seen in the multilateral meetings organized between military academies in the East African Community to strengthen inter-organizational cooperation (Yan, 2016).

Conclusion

Francophone countries in Sub-Sahara Africa are confronted with insecurity in a range of formats such as terrorism or criminal activities. They are unable to overcome them due to various factors, one of which is the inability to provide good quality training to their respective military personnel. A lack of financial and human resources are key elements affecting this inability to improve military education. These limitations are currently improved by access to colleges funded by non-African militaries. However, it is vital that nations seek to enhance their own educational programmes rather than relying on these systems.

As a small article, this chapter can only provide a limited analysis of military education in francophone countries and in sub-Saharan Africa more generally. This subject remains under-studied and more research is required to help better understand the problems and to propose tailored solutions for each country. However, even with a limited study it is possible to see that cost-effective solutions can and should be achieved by making changes to staff recruitment policies in military colleges, increasing bilateral and multilateral student and faculty exchanges, and expanding the number of colleges with memberships to pan-African or regional forums such as the African Conference of Commandants.

←169 | 170→

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1 All quotes which were originally written in French, have been translated into English by the author of this chapter. Although it has not been explicitly indicated which quotes were originally in French, the bibliography citation has retained the original publication language for all articles used within this chapter.