The relationship between civil society and the armed forces is an essential part of any polity, democratic or otherwise, because a military force is after all a universal feature of social systems. Despite significant progress moving towards democracy among some African countries in the past decade, all too many African militaries have yet to accept core democratic principles regulating civilian authority over the military. This book explores the theory of civil-military relations and moves on to review the intrusion of the armed forces in African politics by looking first into the organization and role of the army in pre-colonial and colonial eras, before examining contemporary armies and their impact on society. Furthermore it revisits the various explanations of military takeovers in Africa and disentangles the notion of the military as the modernizing force. Whether as a revolutionary force, as a stabilizing force, or as a modernizing force, the military has often been perceived as the only organized and disciplined group with the necessary skills to uplift newly independent nations. The performance of Africa's military governments since independence, however, has soundly disproven this thesis. As such, this study conveys the necessity of new civil-military relations in Africa and calls not just for civilian control of the military but rather a democratic oversight of the security forces in Africa.
'Scholars of civil-military relations in Africa are grappling with key issues of democratic governance and the proper role of the military in democratic transitions on the continent. Mathurin Houngnikpo's book brilliantly highlights the contradictions of that process which is engendered by both history and context. This book is a valuable addition to the growing literature in this field, and for many years to come, will become a standard reference for scholars seeking a deeper understanding of civil-military relations in Africa.' Julius E Nyang'oro, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA 'Recent military coups in Niger, Guinea and elsewhere remind us that despite transitions to democracy the armed forces remain key actors in African politics. This interesting book offers a cogent analysis by an African scholar of their continuing influence in the continent and of how they can be brought under greater democratic control.' Robin Luckham, University of Sussex, UK 'Guarding the Guardians is a thoughtful and well-researched book… By raising important questions and offering sensible recommendations, Houngnikpo advances the current civil-military relations literature.' Journal of Modern African Studies 'This well-planned and well-documented book (41 pages of bibliography) can be strongly recommended, not only to military and civilian leaders and civil society organisations, but also researchers and students in the fields of political and military sciences and conflict studies.' African Journal on Conflict Resolution 'The book’s contributors analyse civil-military relations in Africa and thus it is relevant to historians, economists, sociologists, political scientists and students of military affairs as well as those interested in Africa at large. The contributors succeed in their goals, for the book makes it clear that military intervention in Africa under whatever guise is an anti-democratic move.' Political Studies Review