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Outsourcing security capacity building: The Guinea Bissau example

By John Amoda

SUNDAY September 12, 2010 NEXT on Sunday under its Brief’s carried a story on Angola’s intent to send military, police officials to Bissau to study, according to Angola’s army chief, “how to help the West African state to reform its troubled army”.

The report did not stop there. “We need to better understand their needs,” Francisco Pereira Furtado told state-run Radio Nacional de Angola after signing military agreement with Guinea Bissau Army Chief Antonio Indjai in Luanda. Officials said the goal was to help Guinea Bissau end the military coups and drug trafficking that have plagued the country for decades since both countries won independence from colonial power Portugal in the mid-1970s.

The strategic challenge in this agreement inheres in the very nature of the request. The question is under what conditions can security capacity building be outsourced? What are the assumed relationship between partners in the process of security planning and capacity building implementation? Can the subsisting relationship be that of contractor-client if security capacity building is in substance regime capacitiation as is the case with the Angola-Guinea-Bissau agreement?

There is much to be learnt from the United States regime change interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan about the contexts of defence agreements. An external power either occupies the country in need to undertake regime change security sector reforms or the receiving government accepts a de facto client and apprentice status to give the mentor-government a free hand to implement the capacity building reforms. Nigeria has this experience of a mentor-government in Liberia.

The question that this observation brings to the fore is how sovereignty issues are managed in the course of the process of mentor-government client government apprenticeship. This question arises because what is involved in military and police restructure is indeed the building or re-building of the state. And in this process of security restructure the mentor-government of necessity assumes the responsibility of state making party in order to repair, rebuild or begin the making of a state in the society unsecured by a dysfunctional or uncompleted state of the client government.

The challenge is no different from that of Cyrano de Bergerac who puts his words of love in the mouth of a representative sent to woo a lady on his behalf. The risk is that the lady may fall in love with the messenger. This is also the risk that a state created for a sovereign group by a friendly state may end up being a client state of the mentor-government. The question is: Can another sovereign make you a separate sovereign able i
n inter-state affairs to maintain the integrity of your sovereignty? Too often this question is not asked, let alone answered. The Third World is awash with defence agreements between more powerful and less powerful in international relations. The client governments eager to secure their regime at home are willing to enter into defence agreements for that purpose and yet still hope to engage in international security politics and diplomacy on the basis sovereign equality with their mentor-allies. Is this a case of the eating your cake and wanting to keep it?

These questions are confronted because of the nature of the problem. In the Angola-Bissau defence agreement, the request emerges from acknowledged facts of the insecurity of the Bissau sovereignty-stakeholders.

In immediate terms insecurity is diagnosed as organised crime, factional dissidence within the ruling groups; revolutionary opposition parties, internal or external, organised to overthrow the state and to establish new sovereignty in its place; and expansionist states in the process of empire building. Given the nature of issues of insecurity, can the security provider be effective without becoming an ally of the insecured, without becoming part of the internal politics of national security of the client government?

These questions juxtapose two options of relationships implied in external sourcing of security enableness, the bilateral and alliance relationships. The bilateral has its advantages; for it involves only two governments. But its domestic advantage has an international disadvantage, namely, the transformation of the domestic apprentice relationship role into an international clientist role.

The alliance defence agreement addresses this issue since the foreign policies of members of an alliance are harmonised in the very structuring of the alliance. In choosing the bilateral route instead of the African Union modality for effecting its security sector reform agenda, the Guinea-Bissau government must be presumed to have made its plans being clearly aware of the pros and cons of its security enhancement policy; it must be assumed to have appreciated the sacrifice in sovereignty in its bilateral relationships with the Angola government as of more domestic value through than its purported savings in sovereignty that can be achieved an African Union security sector reform.


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