The European Union and Security Sector Reform in Africa: a Leader in Theory, a Laggard in Reality?
The nature of security challenges in Africa being inextricably linked with a deficient security sector, Security Sector Reform (SSR) emerged as a relevant concept to address security and governance issues at the same time. In this context, the European Union (EU) emphasised in its discourse the need to reinforce the link between security and development to meet the objectives of peace, security and stability in Africa. Compared to states and international organisations, the EU can be considered a priori as a leader in the field of SSR. First, it has a wide range of policy instruments at its disposal covering the whole spectrum of SSR (army, police, justice, good governance). Second, the EU sustains a ‘post-modern’ approach based on security through transparency and interdependence, which allows it to overcome the traditional bilateral state relations.
In view of this comparative advantage in theory, the main question addressed in this paper is whether the EU actually is a leader in practice in promoting SSR in Africa through a coherent use of its policy instruments. A close analysis of the EU’s engagement in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Guinea-Bissau will reveal numerous impediments, regarding inter- and intra-pillar coordination as well as a lack of political commitment, preventing the EU from dealing comprehensively with SSR. The EU’s approach is also constrained by the fact that enforcing a ‘post-modern’ rationale in ‘pre-modern’ states is perilous when the recipient state is unstable or unwilling to implement a reform process.
Hence, the EU is still a laggard or an actor ‘in the making’ in the field of SSR. It lacks greater coherence and consistency between its policy instruments, mainly because of its fragmented pillar system based on separate competences between the Community (first pillar) and the Council (second pillar) which created a gap between a development and a security-oriented community. It also needs stronger political commitment from the Member States in order to operationalise the SSR concept, notably by supporting more intensively EU SSR missions in Africa. Overall, the EU needs to elaborate one strategic vision (something that the Lisbon Treaty, if ever ratified, could contribute to achieve) in order to overcome its theoretical, institutional and political obstacles.