African Armies Must Be ‘Agile and Easy to Maintain’

AMISOM Forces In Somalia
AMISOM Forces have distinguished themselves in Somalia

AFRICANGLOBE – The African armies of tomorrow must be designed to be light, agile forces that are costly to train in the short term but easy to maintain in the short and long term, Lt-Gen Andrew Gutti, force commander of the African Union (AU) mission in Somalia, told the Land Forces Conference on Wednesday.

Since conscription has almost been phased out in all African countries, he said governments on this continent faced the challenge of providing the necessary quantity and quality of labour resource to meet the military demands of African peacekeeping and specialised intervention forces.

Lt-Gen Gutti said large armies were increasingly becoming expensive to maintain. Soldiers were demanding better wages and forming trade unions to put pressure on state resources.

Since most of the future wars would be fought by states in coalitions or within the international and regional security peace and security architectures, he said he believed that African armies should be “designed with correct posture in terms of personnel and equipment so as to make them inter-operable with their allies.

“This will significantly reduce the cost of war as resources will be shared as duplication, redundancy and wastage are eliminated.

“Future armies should be lean, agile, technologically enabled (and) manned by educated people who are well motivated,” he said.

He added that a force must reflect a realistic balance of investment from available and future resources. This logic dictated that if people were cheap, the foot soldiers — the infantry — would predominate. However, if a population was small but comparatively rich, armour or artillery rather than foot soldiers would predominate. Another scenario was that if labour was expensive, states could face a situation where a standing force was less armed, since the price of arms production was high.

He said the AU mission in Somalia — an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the AU with the approval of the United Nations — has observed in many recent military engagements that possession of modern sophisticated equipment did not necessarily lead to victory.

“And that is because every single force, anywhere in the world is constructed in accordance with the purpose: a defence and security policy and a military doctrine, which demands certain amounts of troops and material of specific qualifications, that all interlock into a coherent force.

“The greater the coherence, the greater the chance of the force succeeding in battle,” he said.

Maj-Gen Topply Mulambo Lubaya of the Zambian Forces said modern African armies needed to possess and operate large numbers of equipment of different sizes and complexity to maintain their effectiveness both in peace and war times.

However, the costs incurred in purchasing and subsequently maintaining the equipment in a high state of operational combat readiness at the required levels of availability was enormous.

He said the unfavourable global fiscal environment was a burden when decisions relating to equipment modernisation needed to be taken. “Defence budgets of most African countries have been declining causing a ‘procurement holiday’, which will result in greater risks for the first battles of future wars.”

“Our goal, as we put together an equipment sustenance and maintenance strategy, should take into account the reality of defence spending as it rises and falls over time,” he said.

He acknowledged that most African armies could not afford to equip and sustain their entire forces with the most advanced equipment because of the constrained fiscal environment.


By: Hopewell Redebe