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Armies and Democracy in the New Africa: Lessons from Nigeria and South Africa

Authored by Dr. Steven Metz, Dr. Kent Hughes Butts.

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Brief Synopsis

In October 1994, the Strategic Studies Institute sponsored a roundtable on democratization in Sub-Saharan Africa. Particular attention was paid to the role the U.S. military and Department of Defense played in democracy support. This study developed from a paper presented at the roundtable. Dr. Butts and Dr. Metz reject the notion that the political culture of African states allows or even encourages military intervention in politics. Drawing on case studies from Nigeria and South Africa, they contend that if the fragile democracies in Sub-Saharan Africa are to be sustained, African militaries must be extricated from politics and take decisive steps toward the type of military professionalism seen in stable democracies around the world. U.S. national interests in Sub-Saharan Africa are so limited that the region will receive only a very small proportion of the human, political, military, and economic resources devoted to American national security strategy. This makes efficiency imperative. Dr. Butts and Dr. Metz argue that if U.S. strategic resources are used wisely in Africa, they can have the desired effect. In particular, the U.S. military can play an important part in helping African militaries professionalize. They close with concrete proposals through which the U.S. Department of Defense and the Army could more effectively support African democratization.

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