In many African countries civil-military relations are reversed. The military takes control of the population and the machinery of state. This study, from the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), documents the evolution of the 2002 draft Code of Conduct for Armed and Security Forces in Africa (CoC). It argues that the democratic control of armed and security forces depends on the military becoming more developmental and humanitarian. It must respond directly to the contemporary security needs of the populace.
Since the end of the Cold War, a body of overlapping normative instruments has been developed that seek to protect the gains of democracy and prevent the destabilising effects of a return to autocratic rule in African states. The draft African CoC is part of this emerging body of frameworks for addressing politico-security challenges. Demilitarisation remains central to democratisation on the African continent. However, a CoC facilitates the infusion of democratic norms, such as transparency and accountability, into the exercise of state power.
The evolution of the draft African CoC exposes the challenges confronting the codification and implementation of normative frameworks in Africa. These include:
- insufficient consultation among stakeholders resulting in a crisis of ownership and weak implementation;
- the lack of a visible driving force to sustain the momentum for the adoption and implementation of the draft CoC;
- too great a focus on the question of military takeover, at the expense of a broader agenda for democratic use of the armed and security forces; and
- undemocratic provisions within the draft CoC, which need further qualification and clarification.
The prospects for codification and implementation of normative frameworks in Africa depend on the governance environment and quality of leadership, both military and civilian. For a viable code to be drawn up, the following points should be considered:
- the adoption of a subregional (as opposed to continental) approach, since frameworks emerge more easily where there are common security challenges;
- the identification and encouragement of specific governments and organisations that could act as ‘sponsors’ within each sub-region;
- the generation of a sense of ownership through consultation;
- contemporary security dimensions in Africa, such as the role of non-state actors (including armed militia, private military and security companies, and mercenaries); and
- the prevalence of increasingly sub regional concerns, such as the proliferation of roadblocks, mass refugee movements, corruption in the military and the challenges of post conflict reconstruction.