The Political Role of the Military: An International Handbook

By Constantine P. Danopoulos; Cynthia Watson | Go to book overview
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Cobie Harris

The military structure of the African sub-Saharan states was designed by the colonial powers for the sole purpose of subjugating and repressing African people in order to protect and advance their own interests. In the white-settler, colonial states of Kenya, Zimbabawe, and South Africa, the analytic separation between the military and civilian spheres was purely artificial. The military was a partisan, rather than an impartial or neutral, actor whose primary function was to protect the white citizenry from external aggression, which in turn helped to support the political hegemony of the white minority.

The paradigm of a colonial military based on the elimination of all non-British opposition to colonial rule left an indelible imprint on the shaping of the post- colonial relations between the civilian population and the military. The major challenge facing newly independent African states was how to transpose a partisan-structured and colonial military into a neutral professional army. In sub- Saharan Africa this problem was particularly critical because the military was the main provider of employment and also one of the few major organizations in society that was organized to defend the soldiers' ideal and material interests. The military's pursuit of its ideal interest, namely, to maintain their esprit de corps and organizational integrity, and its material interest, to garner sufficient resources to pay soldiers and purchase military supplies, has not achieved significant economic development in Africa. The inevitable result has been an intense rivalry between Africa's civil and military authorities over the utilization of their society's wealth.

This chapter focuses on the interaction between civil and military power in Kenya. Specifically, it addresses how the constellation and evolution of power between these two social forces have prevented direct military intervention.

Historically, Kenyan civil-military relations can be divided into two periods: (1) the seventy-year colonial period beginning in 1895 with the conquest and


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