It should be said that generalizations about the African continent risks over-simplifying the already complex topic of SSR. Nevertheless, there are certain common characteristics in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) post-conflict countries, which allow for a broader framework.
The SSR programs need to take a holistic approach, promoting good governance at all levels of the state. By focusing on security forces, donor countries hope to create a spillover effect. The spillover can work both ways, and that is why I believe SSR’s focus on good governance in the security sector is mutually reinforcing with its work on the human and institutional capacity building agenda.
For the SSR project to be successful it needs to be focused on the army’s functioning, and what happens around the army. This renders a sensitive matter even more sensitive, as it has to deal extensively with cultural practices and local authorities. Previous efforts by France and Belgium for example, had focused on capacity building through training and equipping forces. The Security Sector Development (SSD) program (devised by the Netherlands) put more emphasis on democratic governance and the philosophical aspect of such reforms
Burundi is a very interesting case study for several reasons. First, the Netherlands started a SSD Program in 2009 and have taken a ground-breaking approach to SSR which might hold the keys for a successful program at the African Union (AU) level. Second, Burundi is probably one of the most difficult countries in which to conduct an SSR program. The repeated ethnic violence since they were first registered in 1965, its long lasting civil war, the land scarcity, the poor economy, the regional instability, and the military omnipresence make it a wide reaching case study. Third, the current failure of the SSR project and the Burundian state as a whole provides many lessons to enhance the quality of the concept. Lastly, to add some symbolism, the AU adopted the ‘non-indifference’ stance following the Rwanda genocide; the crisis in Burundi is directly linked to that in Rwanda given the high interconnectedness of the two countries at the time.
However it must be said that although the Rwanda genocide changed mentalities from non-intervention to non-indifference, it applies solely to crisis situations, not to prevention of conflicts. Burundi is becoming the last of many examples, which could illustrate this statement. The creation of a framework for the security sector interventions and the drafting of policies have not been met with concrete efforts to implement such initiatives. Plus, even if such efforts were made, the lack of funds would have prevented any concrete actions to take place. Another challenge for the AU to overcome is the cooperation with the various RECs (Regional Economic Community). As we have seen, each region has decided to address security sector problems in their own fashion.
If we take this into consideration and look at the Burundian example, we can identify the various actors and their role. The AU should concern itself with high-politics. Using its political weight and expertise to solve outstanding political problems and guarantee the cooperation of the receiving country. The RECs on the other hand, should take the role of program and project managers. Their cooperation on economic issues should serve as building bloc, doing away with the critical phase of trust building. Plus their proximity, both physically and often culturally should encourage fast progress. Lastly, if RECs become responsible for program implementation, this should create incentives for all countries within the region to cooperate once one country showed the benefits this could entail in the long run.
The process approach of SSD is not incompatible with the structure of the AU and the RECs. The biggest challenge next to those cited above is coordination and flexibility. The length of a coherent efficient SSR program imposes a certain flexibility and an ability to navigate between all stakeholders.
*The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not represent those of The Political Analysis.