Article from ROAPE Volume 23 Number 69
Military Regimes: The Gambia, Sierra Leone and Liberia
A significant group of military interventions, especially in West Africa, has been carried out not by disaffected senior officers, but by junior officers and NCOs - the militariat, occupying a class position within the army analogous to the working class within society as a whole. Such interventions are directed as much against the senior officers as against the political elite to which they are closely linked by clientelist ties. Despite this, and the populist rhetoric adopted by the militariat when first in power, the regimes they install have failed to adopt social transformative goals, or create new mobilisational political structures. Comparison of Liberia under the PRC (1980-89), Sierra Leone under the NPRC (1992-96) and the Gambia under the AFPRC (1994 ) shows that instead the regimes are marked by violence and instability, and in two cases by the outbreak of civil war. Corruption and human rights abuses have been commonplace, and the regimes have failed to strengthen state capacities, to restore military discipline, or to create new social and political institutions. This underpins their reluctance to relinquish power voluntarily. These characteristics are attributed to the lumpen culture of the militariat, to its subversion of military discipline, and to the decay of political and social institutions under the precursor regimes. As the Gambia suffered to a lesser degree from all three of these, it shares the features of the militariat to a lesser degree than Liberia or Sierra Leone.