West African Papers

The West African Papers series explores African socio-economic, political and security dynamics from a regional and multidisciplinary perspective. It seeks to stimulate discussion and gather information to better anticipate the changes that will shape future policies. The series is designed for a wide audience of specialists, development practitioners, decision makers and the informed public. Papers are available in English and/or French, and summaries are available in both languages. Initiated by the Sahel and West Africa Club (SWAC) to highlight and promote West African issues, the work presented is prepared by its Secretariat, Members and partners, other OECD departments, related international organisations, associated experts and researchers.

English Also available in: French

Contemporary Civil-Military Relations in the Sahel

The paper examines the evolution and the contemporary state of civil-military relations in the francophone Sahel (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal). In a first step, the paper traces the emergence of excessive political influence of the armed forces (praetorianism) in the Sahel. Out of these, only Senegal has remained under civilian rule since independence. The other countries have experienced military dictatorship at some point. Over the last thirty years, the Sahel has seen a shift toward more civilian oversight in political affairs. In Chad and Mauritania, however, 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 second part examines the various challenges and tasks the armed forces in all six countries have been involved in over the last two decades. Although these challenges differ substantially across the six individual countries, the Sahel as a whole continues to struggle primarily with domestic security threats. The paper concludes with guidelines designed to foster civilian oversight and democratic reform.


Keywords: civilian-military relations, armed forces, dictatorships, Sahel, West Africa, praetorianism
JEL: N47: Economic History / Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation / Economic History: Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation: Africa; Oceania; D74: Microeconomics / Analysis of Collective Decision-Making / Conflict; Conflict Resolution; Alliances; Revolutions; F5: International Economics / International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy
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