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Why African armies are sacrificed for the benefit of praetorian guards?" Inquiry"

Pretorianism is defined in political science, as the militarization of certain elite forces, for the protection of the State. A state which in general resolves itself to its leader, who often surrounds himself with a cohort of warriors of his ethnic clan to consolidate his power. The praetorian guards in this view are opposed to the armed forces which are built for the protection of the nation and not for a man and his political power. The praetorian term comes from "praetorium", which designated the headquarters of the Roman legions, which later became the close guard of the emperor.

The weak institutionalization of African states, has allowed clans to flourish, and once they reach the ruling position, they have often used pretorianism to protect their power. Thus, the first military coup in Africa, which took place in Togo, on January 13, 1963, against Sylvannus Olympio a democratically elected president, will emulate many more to come.

The African civil society being often disarmed against the praetorian guards, and the civil dictatorships in general, falls back on the army sometimes, bringing it support in coups which are often considered rightly or wrongly as a chance of return to a more democratic institutional order of the state while guaranteeing civil peace and social progress. This was the case in Upper Volta, which became Burkina Faso, where several coups d’état since 1966, had either neocolonial or anti-imperialist ideology, such as Sankara, who took power on August 4, 1983 to free his country from imperial neocolonialism. He will be overthrown On October 15, 1987, assassinated during a coup in which Blaise Compaoré, judged more in phase with the Western neocolonial forces will take power. It should be noted, however, that the fall of Maurice Yaméogo in 1966 helped the confiscation of power by a military junta, replacing each other in coups, often bloody. The return of a civilian to power will not intervene until November 2014 with the fall of Blaise Compaoré, half a century later. The coup of the former Praetorian guard of Compaoré to re-establish a militarist order, will fail precisely because of a greater professionalization of the army, and its firepower, superior to the praetorian guard. A military might Which was upgraded during the 2000s, to meet the eventual demands of the war in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire.

To avoid falling into a situation where their praetorian guard, would be less trained, and little armed the leaders of countries like Cameroon have since despite tribalizing the army, and infiltrate it, by agents loyal to them, have created an elite force which has the clout of an army. The increase in military spending in this country, is not only due to the security situation with murderous infiltrations in the northern part of the territory by Boko Haram, but to a certain will, to consolidate an aging political power and to foresee a confiscation of power, by the seraglio that has managed the country since the artificial independence of 1960.

In general, the presidential guards are over-equipped and trained by foreign consultants, who are Handsomely paid, some even integrating the command structure of these elite forces as in Cameroon, with Israelis like Mayer Heres, Retired Israeli army general, he succeeded his compatriot Abraham Avi Sivan, who died in a plane crash whose circumstances remain unclear. Mayer Heres is the commander of the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), the best equipped and best trained force in Cameroon.

Foreign instructors are mercenaries, who are often specialists in counterinsurgency, both civilian and military. They have a know-how in the management of popular crises and urban guerrillas. Abilities that amply support the maintenance of autocratic regimes, such as the one of Yaoundé, Libreville or Brazzaville. These mercenaries of another era in general are placed above the regular army officers. They have direct access to the supreme commander of the armed forces, and may even influence the careers of some senior army officers.

In 2013, General Mayer Heres had objected to the co-optation of Colonel Joseph Nouma, to the post of commander of the presidential guard of Cameroon, preferring to place one of his men of confidence, Raymond Beko'o Abondo. However, the two senior officers still belong to the same ethnic group, as this is also one of the main characteristics of these praetorian guards, were Rulers are surrounded by their ethnic clan.

Heads of State ensure that regiments with firepower are controlled by relatives, Leaving other staff less secure with more prestigious and juicy headquarters, but less sensitive from a security standpoint. The high degree of corruption of the regular armies, is also generally tolerated not only to have leverage against the corrupt military, in case they come to aim higher, but also and above all to boggle them and keep them away from political jousts. A tactic which unfortunately in the case of the Congo had turned against Marshal Mobutu, his corrupt army, unfit to fight, was unable to face the insurrection of Laurent Désiré Kabila.

The unorthodox practices of mercenaries and their wards, do not always remain in the silence of the gag on armed forces. In 2009, an Israeli NGO led a campaign to denounce the support of Israeli military instructors, to the Cameroon security forces, who dressed in uniforms still marked "Tsahal" had fired in Yaoundé And Douala on civilian populations, during the famine riots in February 2008, killing more than 40 peoples.

Moreover, there is a genuine network of underground connections, between the African praetorian guards. The know-how learned through foreign mercenaries, is also vulgarized by an Africanization of the praetorian guard’s instructors. This is how the Angolans, were very active in the formation of the guard of President Gbagbo. A mistake that may have costed him his armchair, since French or Israeli soldiers of fortune, because of their background, remain very influential in the Western chancelleries and are often a bulwark against insurrections, wrought by the neocolonial forces, which use putsch, to influence economic policies of countries in the southern hemisphere. Thus they Create at the same time situations favorable to Western multinationals, which since then have a certain influence on the choice of the leaders of the democracies of the northern hemisphere. In this scheme the African armies are mercenarized, and used for the security of a handful of key figures and mercantile interests, not for the state as a whole, in regards to citizen and territorial integrity. The protection of the territory often obeys in priority to the strategic zones of exploitation of the resources, by the same entities.

In the logic of underground connections, sectarianism is not less negligible, the presidents of the Masonic confraternities, for example, occasionally give each other shots, using their praetorian guards and networks to support brothers in danger. This was the case of Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, who gave full support to the Ivory Coast rebellion, fighting under the banner of Alassane Ouattara. Ouattara later will give equal support to Compaoré, during the fall of his regime in 2014, providing him with asylum and citizenship. The post-electoral crisis of 2016 in Gabon saw the appearance in the streets of Libreville, of commandos from Congo Brazzaville. Sassou Nguesso of Congo and Ali Bongo, apart from the family ties that unite them, Sassou having been the father-in-law of the late President Omar Bongo Ondimba, father of Ali Bongo, are both notorious freemasons. Same for the exfiltration of the deposed president of the Central African Republic, Francois Bozizé, in August 2014 via Cameroon, where reigns another Freemason Paul Biya, whose networks had already welcomed Alfred Sirven a French Jew who was an influential member of the nebula France Afrique, during his cavalry to escape the French justice after the episode Elf Aquitaine in 1997. Alfred Sirven managed the black boxes (shadowy funds) of the French oil group, well established in the dictatorships of Central Africa, the man who knew too much died in 2005 taking into his tomb unsuspected secrets.

From the economic point of view, it is the resources of the country that feed the praetorian guards. Several key sectors such as health or education are neglected to prioritize praetorian guards. Even if several other shadowy trades, such as the unbudgeted use of resources, like oil in Gabon, Congo and Cameroon feed the black boxes for the purchase of weapons. The involvement of African economies in globalization, as extractive economies, that exclusively produce raw materials, from which they have no control over the price, the extraversion of the economy, and control by financial institutions such as the IMF, Put the African leaders before a situation of improvisation, of the politico-economic discourse. In front of international “donors” (Creditors) they are pupils subjected and applied, accepting all kinds of compromises, promoted by the liberal economy, because to disagree with the western establishment is bad for the protection of their armchairs. Consequently, when the results are bad, they choose to hold populist, ethnicist or xenophobic discourses to temper internal tensions. As Kako Nubukpo revealed in his book, Economic Improvisation in West Africa: From Cotton to CFA Franc, Paris, Karthala, 2011.

However, civil societies and African youth are increasingly connected to each other, and to international networks. The transfer of knowledge and movement of thought, Such as neo-pan-Africanism through the Internet, lead the latter to be more demanding on the alternation at the head of States and good governance, including the end of Western bondage contracts. Thus, the maintenance of the African kleptocracy with their pre-emptive management of the public goods and wealth of the country, requires the reinforcement of the military internal security fabric. However, if citizen mobilizations succeed in pushing back the military in their barracks, political parties cannot consolidate the democratic gains made against the praetorian guards, and often call the army to arbitrate crises, as the events in Burkina Faso show. But an ethnicized army, with carte blanche to manage prebends that bog it down, unfortunately remains very ineffective in the impartial resolution, of political conflicts in Africa. Thus, the regimes which have been able to prevent any military intrusion on the political scene, have been able to use interdependence with dexterity. The personal and subjective determinants of civil-military relations, appear more significant in most cases, than those that are structural and objective. " They are based on a clientelist strategy, of co-optation and redistribution, which consists in maintaining control over the military, through the coincidence of interests between the leaders, at the top of the civil and military hierarchy.

Heads of State in delicacy with democracy, develop Presidential guards independent of the military institution, which because of the geostrategic evolution, reverts to its fundamental missions, such as the defense of the territory. The current situation, of international terrorism contributing amply. Even if African presidents like in Cameroon seem to favor the sending on the ground of elite units, such as The Rapid Intervention Battalion, which at the same time is granted equipment that can surpasses the regular army, and especially gain a Capital experience, in combat situations. Thus, geostrategic new development in one way or another, also serves to give the best to the praetorian forces, built on criteria of loyalty, and ethnicity.

Hubert Marlin


Contribution: Roland Abina

Sources: Armed Forces in Francophone Africa Christophe Courtin, international consultant. François Boko, lawyer, international consultant and former Minister of the Interior Togo (2003-2005) GOLDSWORTHY D. "Armies and Politics in Civilian Regimes"

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