Accepted paper:

Foreign interventions in building the national armed forces in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Upper Volta 1958-1974

Authors:

Riina Turtio (Sciences Po Paris )

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyzes how foreign military aid affected the development of national armed forces and postcolonial political structures in francophone Africa, and describes how the Cold War environment and the ambitions of the former colonial power influenced Ivorian, Guinean and Voltaic defense decisions.

Paper long abstract:

The purpose of this paper is to analyze how foreign military aid affected the development of national armed forces and postcolonial political structures in francophone Africa. It describes how the Cold War environment and the ambitions of the former colonial power influenced Ivorian, Guinean and Voltaic defense decisions from 1958 to 1974. The case studies reflect the importance foreign actors had in providing equipment, training and expertise to newly-established national armed forces. This bought foreign actors considerable influence vis-à-vis to local political and military elites. Nevertheless, foreign military assistance also affected local social dynamics - forging relations between the soldiers, citizens and politicians. Military aid contributed to political systems where decision-making was extremely centralized to few individuals, and where state coercive power amply exceeded its revenue collecting capacity or the strength of its political institutions. Personal control over the means of coercion was further reinforced by purposeful fragmentation and subsequent competition between different agencies. Soldiers' advancement depended on their access to training courses overseas, which soon became a source of patronage. However, often the training received abroad did not correspond with officers' functions and service conditions back home. This led to increasing dissatisfaction among the ranks. Consequently, the case studies demonstrate that often even the most well-intentioned initiatives of outsiders caused inadvertent and reverse results. The paper concludes that assessing the impact of foreign interventions is difficult, and often poor results can be connected to misconceptions of local social structures or the failure to engage local actors to shared objectives.

panel P050
A bottom-up perspective on military intervention in fragile states