Archive: An IMPI for Africa


There is a growing consenus that NEPAD needs a bodyguard regiment, or to lend a word from the Zulu language, an “impi” to protect and support it.

Towards an Indigenous Military Peace-building Initiative for Africa:
A Proposal[i]
Dulce Bellum Inexpertis[ii]
Leon Engelbrecht,
June 28, 2002
The New Partnership for Africa`s Development (NEPAD) is arguably the most important socio-economic plan ever to emerge from Africa. The programme, which links aid to good governance, has been widely hailed. NEPAD itself makes it clear that major preconditions for its success include peace and security on this troubled continent. Peace is more than the absence of war and security requires more than socio-economic aid and development. If NEPAD is to be viable, let alone sustainable, the role of African militaries in allowing this will have to be acknowledged and defined.    
There is a growing consenus that NEPAD needs a bodyguard regiment, or to lend a word from the Zulu language, an “impi” to protect and support it. It is proposed that such an Indigenous Military Peace-building Initiative (IMPI) be established to accomplish this objective by:
n      Professionalising and right-sizing Africa`s armed forces, paramilitaries and militias, and
n      Divorcing its military, gendarmerie and intelligence services from any unhealthy influences on national politics and the economy by ensuring appropriate civil-military relations through security sector transformation and continuous education.
It is proposed that any IMPI include at least the following four programmes. Interrelated, each could play a critical role in making an IMPI a success. They are:
n      Establishing a continental Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme to team African militaries regionally[iii] as well as at the continental level and allying them with outside powers committed to the African Renaissance,
n      Establishing Reserve components in every African military and gendarmerie,                
n      Establishing Reserve Officer Associations along the CIOR[iv]-model to service Reserve and retired officers belonging to these components, and 
n      Establishing military universities along US- or Swedish-pattern to train professional Reserve and Regular officers. The Citadel, Norwich and the Virginia Military Institute, all august educational institutions in the US, could serve as role models.
An IMPI would also require a number of ancillary programmes. These could include:
n      Establishing an “African Dialogue,”   
n      Publicising the concept and its programmes, and  
n      Establishing a pool of skilled Reserve and retired regular officers to support the initiative and its programmes.
NEPAD is primarily an socio-economic development programme for the African Union (AU). As such, defence issues play a negligible role in that programme as it stands. The primary link between NEPAD and any IMPI lies in paragraphs 54.1 and 73 of the NEPAD document.[v]
Paragraph 54.1 puts forth a “peace and security initiative” – peace and security being one of the preconditions for development. Most of the initiative consists of “soft” security endeavors. The military only seems to come in as lead agency under the single line reading “Peacemaking, peacekeeping and peace enforcement. Elsewhere it is clearly intended to play a secondary role, generally to the foreign affairs establishment.
Paragraph 73, the document`s conclusion, calls inter alia for the “commissioning of a committee of foreign ministers” within a specified period “to review capacity building needed for peacekeeping structures at both the regional and continental levels.” What could be better than an IMPI?
The AU and IMPI
NEPAD is neither an organisation nor a new structure. Africa`s curse is not a shortage of multilateral organisations but a plenty of ineffective structures. It is therefore important to emphasise that NEPAD is a business plan or agenda for the AU, not a competitor.
It is widely acknowledged that NEPAD will only succeed if Africa is at peace and if her people are secure. It is for this reason that it has been proposed that the AU establish a Peace and Security Council to act as a peer review- and conflict resolution mechanism. This mandate will no doubt require the council to manage a number of sensible, realistic projects with clear objectives, deadlines and funding. What could be better than an IMPI?
Why accentuate the “indigenous?”
From the onset of the colonial era up to very recently Africa had very little influence on and even less say about its fate. Its defence and development was the responsibility of its colonial masters – who were not above squabbling among themselves and conscripting Africans to fight each other in their name. When African states nominally became independent from the 1960s not much changed. The peace and security agenda remained externally driven and social-economic progress became the preserve of the development set, particularly the Bretton Woods institutions, their subsidiaries and their many clones.
Ownership is important. What makes NEPAD unique is that it is an African solution to African problems. In other words, NEPAD for the first time moves the development debate beyond the usual externally imposed panaceas by stipulating what the continent`s people thinks they need to move ahead. NEPAD signals Africa`s true emancipation from outside interests. It would be ironic then to leave the peace and security agenda in the hands of non-Africans.
IMPI, in common with NEPAD, must be based on rational self-interest. Participating in NEPAD is self-evidently in the interest of every African—as should be involvement with an IMPI. However, it is a truism that politics all too often tends to the destructive rather than constructive and politicians to the irrational rather than the rational.
At the time of writing Africa and its offshore islands are host to 54 nation states. It is an unfortunate reality that many of these states are wracked by internal turmoil and some others are locked in armed conflict or cold political stand-off – often over vague colonial era border delimitation – with their neighbours.          
African states are also widely differing in their levels of political and economic development. Resources and demographics are unequal and many borders blithely drawn at the Conference of Berlin in 1884-5 do not correspond with Africa`s ethnic boundaries.       
Mixing these ingredients is a recipe for conflict that will keep parts of Africa in turmoil for the foreseeable future. Was this not so the peace and security required for NEPAD to take root and flourish would already be in place.
Not all of Africa will support NEPAD all the time and threats to the continent`s peace and security will periodically arise. It is these threats that an IMPI should seek to prevent, defuse or defeat by gradually establishing a pan-African network of partner states appropriately supported by their European, Asian and North American associates.          
Crawl, Walk, Run
Too often programmes and initiatives are started with fanfare, only to disappear without even a further whimper. It is therefore proposed that any IMPI start as a small, perhaps informal, pilot project, only involving a number of selected, interested, African states and like-minded European, Asian and North American partner governments. Success invites company and the initiative can be formalised and/or enlarged on a bi- or multilateral military-to-military, ministry-to-ministry or state-to-state basis as required. It is strongly urged that the initiative not set out to recreate NATO on the African continent or duplicate the AU.
Hard currency goes along way in most parts of Africa. Using an incremental approach, not much funding will at first be required. As IMPI programmes and initiatives develop each can be funded as required.  
Initial funding should focus on further publicising the initiative through specialised as well as commercial media channels. This must be reinforced by personal visits by IMPI advocates to targeted individuals in Africa and elsewhere and holding seminars – open and closed (as appropriate) – to further debate and develop IMPI and its programmes.   
Programme 1: Establishing an African PfP
A number of African countries are already interested in introducing an African PfP based on the proven NATO recipe, which since 1999 has had both a training and an operational component.
But an African PfP will foremostly have to be a partnership of African states dedicated to the eradicating armed conflict from the continent. Outside partners can only play a supportive role. NATO`s PfP is focussed on integrating a number of states that either want to join the alliance or at least operate along side it. Therefore, a more appropriate model to study would be the ongoing greater integration of European militaries by the creation of the German/Netherlands Corps, the Eurocorps (which includes a longstanding Franco-German brigade) and efforts to create a 60,000-strong EU rapid-reaction peacekeeping force.
An African PfP would also provide an opportunity to integrate various existing initiatives such as the French RECAMP (a Programme for the Reinforcement of Africa`s Peacekeeping Abilities), the US successor to ACRI (African Crisis Response Initiative) and Britain`s BMATT (British Military Assistance and Training Team) projects into a more focussed whole. It will also allow Africa to take charge of the agenda and to formulate the continent`s defence and security requirements. How much remains to be done can be seen in the reported absence of any African participation in a meeting in Paris, in late June (2002!) by the three powers to further “fine-tune” and harmonise their programmes. 
While an African PfP will initially have a training focus, well-trained, thoroughly-prepared operating forces will later be available to carry out armed interventions, peace enforcement and similar operations anywhere in Africa under an United Nations, African Union or other, appropriate, mandate.               
Due attention must also be given to including paramilitary police/gendarmerie and construction troops in the programme. While overwhelming military power is a non-negotiable requirement for a successful intervention or peace enforcement operation, peacekeeping is not an armed forces core competency. The focus is on pacification, disarmament, refugee repatriation and stabilisation – functions requiring a policeman`s helping hand not a soldier`s iron fist. The military`s focus here should be providing proper combat service support. During both peacekeeping and the concurrent initial phase of post-conflict reconstruction the military can further assist by providing the troops and the means to repair infrastructure and resurrect local government. This was common during World War Two when so-called “town majors” were appointed to govern towns and repair the damage until civil authority could be restored and take over. While it has now become common to leave this task to relief and aid agencies, this has not always been successful or wise.             
Proposed Plan of Action
n      Little is generally known in Africa about the NATO PfP and its Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Even less is known about the EU`s programme and the existing multinational formations within NATO and the EU. A necessary first step to establishing this programme should be to study the European prototypes.
n      Afterwards, a charter setting out the drafters` vision and the programme`s objectives and goals must be designed and approved.
n      Next, a programme of action must be drafted and approved by participants. In common with the NATO programme, this should provide for multilateral training exercises along existing RECAMP lines; the establishment or strengthening of African training centres-of-excellence with a joint faculty along the lines of the former Anglo-Nordic peacekeeping school in Harare; and, the exploitation of training opportunities at military or civil institutions for promising students in Africa, Europe and North America.                 
n      Once trained and prepared, forces will be available for operational duty.
n      Finally, the programme must be expanded to its logical conclusion.
Programme 2: Establishing Reserve Components
The value of including a Reserve Component into armed forces and gendarmeries is well established.
Proposed Plan of Action
n      It is not the intention to preach to the converted, only the unconverted. Fact sheets and media articles should be employed to reach as wide an audience as possible on the virtues of establishing such components.
n      An omnibus programme must be designed and approved on how to establish a Reserve Component, starting with how to handle initial interest by a state. It is recommended that the initial meeting following the expression of such interest be conducted by specially briefed attaches in the country concerned or by members of the specialists pool referred to above.
n      While the military culture is near universal, public culture is not. A specific plan covering all the practical, legal, administrative and military aspects will have to be tailored for every state participating in this programme. Appropriate support will have to be provided by IMPI partners during this process. In this context, the US state National Guard-to-PfP-partner-programme that for example twins the New York Army National Guard with, say, Estonia in providing funding and support as well as participation in joint exercises deserve highlighting.      
Programme 3: Establishing ROAs
Reserve Officers Associations have been around for generations in Europe and the US and have become especially powerful in the latter. As pools of living military expertise they serve their countries well while providing members, both Reserve and retired officers, with many valuable ministrations. The role that ROAs can play in promoting liberal-democratic civil-military relations cannot be under-estimated.       
Proposed Plan of Action
n      Again, it is not the intention to preach to the converted, only the unconverted. Fact sheets and media articles should be employed to reach as wide an audience as possible on the virtues of establishing such components.
n      Highly qualified experts are available to draft and guide an all-encompassing programme on how to establish such Associations and make then sustainable. As already mentioned, countries do differ in outlook and modus operandi and plans will require country-by-country customisation. Experts skilled in this aspect should be contracted as appropriate.
Programme 4: Establishing Military Universities
It is proposed that at least such universities be established on the continent, one per region. These institutions should academically focus on training scientists and engineers – of which Africa has a dearth – to world standards. In addition to the academic programme these institutions should also offer a compulsory US Reserve Officer Training Corps-style programme so that graduates are presented with both a bachelors degree by the university and a Reserve Officers commission in their national armed forces. The goal of this programme is to provide each region with a steady supply of military-professional young officers, the bedrock of a successful armed force. 
Faculty should be drawn from both Africa and abroad and students should be selected by competition as well as nomination. The institution`s funding should be a combination of partner grants, user-nation dues and sponsorship. Students should be obliged to repay their nations in kind (through a fixed period of military- or public service, proportionate to the study period) for the education received. It is anticipated that many graduates will accept regular commission in their home armed forces or gendarmerie. It is expected that most will later follow a distinguished career in the public service or private sector. As such, it is expected that this programme will play a major role in building a new Africa.       
Proposed Plan of Action
n      The establishment of this programme will have to be preceded by careful study and consensus-building, if it is not too fraught with controversy. Consensus and signed agreement will have to be achieved on many issues before teaching and learning will begin. They include: Funding, the academic and the military curriculum, student selection and numbers, eligibility for commissioning, the location of the institutions, and so forth.
n      Once agreement is reached plans must be drafted and approved to set up the institutions and “get down to business.”
n      It is essential that once established, the universities remain sustainable. This will, in itself, is a major undertaking.
Ancillary Programme 1: Establishing an African Dialogue
There is no shortage of international forums, including those with a North-South bent. However, a more specifically defence-orientated forum bringing together continental military officers, defence department officials, diplomats and selected guests from the EU and NATO might be useful.
A prototype already exists in the form of the French National Higher Institute for Defence Studies` (IHEDN) annual Focus on the Continent Africa (FICA) conference. This conference brings together equal numbers of senior military officers, defence and foreign affairs officials to discuss the attainment of peace and security in Africa. It may be time to move that debate to its home continent.
The idea of is not new. NATO has now for some time been in dialogue with its Mediterranean neighbours, including some long the North and West African coasts. NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson of Port Ellen on April 29 addressed a gathering at the Royal United Services Institute in London on the reasons why that dialogue was important to his institution and had to be expanded. Virtually all the reasons stated were as applicable to Africa as to whole as to the parts already included.[vi]
Proposed Plan of Action
n      African as well as NATO and EU member states need to be urgently engaged on the need and virtues of creating an African Dialogue.
n      Once established such a forum should be kept as non-bureaucratic and non-academic as possible, while engaging in frank and honest debate on where Africa stands and where it is, or should be, heading.
Ancillary Programme 2: Publicity
Any IMPI will require a major and sustained publicity drive to reach and convince all natural participants and the public at large that such an initiative is both necessary and worth the cost. Tired as we may be of the “guns versus bread” debate, we need to remain engaged or concede the field to those opposed to military spending, no matter how reasonable.
Proposed Plan of Action
n      Publicising the need for an IMPI through articles, opinion pieces and letters to newspapers, journals and other publications,
n      Sponsoring an IMPI writing contest, and
n      Sponsoring subscriptions to appropriate journals for example for African Parliamentarians, officer cadets and young officers.   
Ancillary Programme 3: Establishing a skills pool
The skills pool will in effect be an “eminent military person`s group” dedicated to selling an IMPI and its programmes at all levels and assisting as required, when required. Their skills will be especially valuable in assisting in the drafting of the legislation required to establish, for example, the reserve components. Many in this group will also be well placed to help write constitutions for ROAs and acting as patrons and advisors. It is imperative that members of this august group be of the right calibre.

[i] This proposal was originally commissioned by a group of African and other defence advisors in Pretoria to better inform them of how they and their governments could support Africa and NEPAD militarily. The interest followed two articles published in the African Armed Forces Journal in August 2001 and February 2002 in which a number of suggestions were explored. While the document has been met with widespread welcome, the drafter`s experiences at the 3rd Focus on the Continent Africa conference of the French National Higher Institute for Defence Studies (IHEDN) in Paris during June as well as feedback received from participants who saw the original, has made a revision necessary. It is hoped this revision will remove some wooly thoughts and clarify some vital points.      
[ii] Erasmus. “War only appeals to those who have no experience of it.”
[iii] In this document “regionally” refers to southern, western, eastern and northern Africa.
[iv] CIOR: Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers. For more information, visit
[v] For more information visit
[vi] See the full text at “So why and how does the Mediterranean matter to NATO?
“The first reason is, of course, its potential for instability. It is simply a fact that many crises that have affected NATO have in one way or the other originated in and around the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean region is thus a legitimate part of NATO’s area of security interest, although it is clearly no longer the “Southern Flank” it was during the Cold War.
“The second reason why the Mediterranean matters is terrorism. Clearly, terrorism is not a specific Mediterranean phenomenon. Nor is it confined to any particular religion.
“But the Mediterranean region, because of its many unresolved political, social and religious questions, is particularly prone to this menace. And without a coherent strategy to combat terrorism, neither the NATO Allies nor their Mediterranean neighbours can be truly secure.
“The third reason why the Mediterranean matters is because it encompasses the Middle East. The anti-Iraq coalition in the Gulf War ten years ago showed that the relationship between Arab states and those of the Western community by no means has to be adversarial. Yet without a breakthrough in the Middle East peace process, a major obstacle to normalising Western relations with the Arab world will remain.
“The fourth reason is proliferation. Several countries in the Mediterranean region are widely believed to be acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The example of Iraq, a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, demonstrates the difficulties of preventing a determined government from acquiring such weapons. And Iraq is only the distance of a short-range missile from the eastern Mediterranean.
“The fifth reason is energy security. 65 per cent of Europe’s oil and natural gas imports pass through the Mediterranean. Some 3,000 ships cross the area every day. Major pipelines connect Libya and Italy, and Morocco and Spain. And major work is in progress to open up the energy reserves held in the Caucasus and Central Asia.
“Against this background, the notion of energy security is taking on a whole new meaning. Not only the importing nations in the West share a strong interest in a secure and stable environment, but also the Mediterranean region’s energy producers, as well as the countries through which their oil and gas transits.
Economic disparities and their close connection to migration are the sixth and final reason why I think the Mediterranean region matters to NATO. There are serious economic and demographic disparities between Europe and the Mediterranean: simply put, a rich North and a poor South. Since 1986 the per capita income in Middle East and North African countries has fallen by 2% annually. At the same time, the population growth rate in this region is 2.5% per year.
“The results are obvious: high unemployment rates, particularly among a politically frustrated younger generation, and, consequently, migration. About six million immigrants from the Maghreb region currently reside in the European Union. This fact alone underscores that the Northern and Southern shores of the Mediterranean cannot be artificially separated.
“These fact also makes clear why the European Union is reaching out to our Southern neighbours.”