A Developmental Role for Militaries in Africa: The Peace Engineering Corps Solution?

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In many African states, the military is one of very few technically capable large institutions. Based on interviews with pan-Africanist intellectuals and security experts, this article shows how a “Peace Engineering Corps” concept could be operationalized by putting suitably trained professional military units to good use for civil-military cooperation and domestic development work. Such PECs would harness the military’s logistical, technical, and administrative capabilities in support of the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), providing environmental remediation, civil infrastructure expansion, and natural disaster response services. Western militaries could empower African partner forces in this regard by tailoring security assistance missions towards establishing and developing PEC capabilities, thereby supporting development, peacebuilding, and regional security efforts. We also note the potential for a pan-African civilian uniformed Peace and Development Corps, distinct from military PECs, in peace-building and economic development.

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Senegal is viewed as one of the most stable countries in Africa. Many have hypothesized that this is a product of Senegalese culture, Sufi Islam, and/or French trusteeship. This article contends that Senegal has avoided civil wars and coup d’état due to a critical juncture in civil-military relations in 1962, where political and military elites avoided a violent confrontation, which prevented the politicization of the Senegalese armed force (SAF). This created a new path dependence of Armée-Nation ideology, allowing for the SAF to develop a ‘military enclave’ – a strong army in a weak state. Over time, the SAF developed bureaucratic-institutional competence that contributed to state-building, improved militarily effectiveness, all without being a threat to the state or society. This deep case study - based on fieldwork and interviews with military personnel - into Senegal provides a new theoretical conception of what it means to be militarily effective, while suggesting that much of the sociological and political science literature needs to consider how a patrimonial state can have pockets of effectiveness, even in the military. Finally, for comparative purposes, and to draw out causal mechanisms, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) are utilized as a way of showing how agential strategies by political and military elites in Senegal was (and has been) a crucial reason for harmonious civil-military relations (CMR) in Senegal, enabling the SAF to be militarily effective.
  • Interview
Interview, Colonel Mathias Rogg, director of GIDS, Hamburg, January 2020.