The most successful militaries around the world hold a few things in common. They have high standards, they constantly look for ways to improve, and they place ethics at the center of all missions. In a word, they are professional.
Fostering a climate of military professionalism is the challenge. It is complicated by the fact that many nations have histories marked by political turmoil, ethnic conflict and corruption.
African militaries are rising to the challenge of instilling professionalism throughout their ranks. Some notable examples include:
- Investing in staff colleges and centers of excellence: The number of staff colleges in Africa has grown steadily since 2000 with Botswana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda among those opening new institutions. The African Conference of Commandants, founded in 2007, has led the way in harmonizing training and promoting information exchanges among staff colleges.
- Merit-based promotion: Many African militaries are working to end the corrosive practice of filling their upper ranks with a single ethnic group. Militaries gain strength and credibility with the public through diversity.
- Embracing oversight: The South African National Defence Force has taken the lead in appointing a military ombudsman. This person, who is outside the chain of command, investigates all complaints lodged against the Armed Forces.
- Ending corruption: Unethical behavior can undermine the confidence of civilians and can siphon security resources needed to defend the country. Initiatives that let citizens report corruption and a military justice system that swiftly punishes those found guilty help enhance professionalism at all levels.
These and other measures allow a culture of professional excellence to take root in security forces. A driven, adaptive and persistent leadership push at the most senior levels also is required for professional excellence to grow and be sustained over time. Increasing the ranks of professional African security forces is necessary to achieve peace and security on the continent.
U.S. Africa Command Staff