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The process and level of military intervention in the states of tropical Africa, 1960-1971 Latouche, Daniel


Recent studies on political development and military institutions have tended to explain political intervention by the armed forces of developing countries by examining either the organizational characteristics of the military establishments or the development context in which these military establishments operate. This study presents the view that while corporate factors may explain the process of intervention in the short run, changes taking place in the social, economic and political environment can best explain the level of military intervention existing in a specific country. After the presentation of a brief survey of the literature and the elaboration of an analytical grid, Part II of this study surveys the major organizational transformations which have affected African military forces and which can serve to explain their decision to intervene actively in the political process. This historical reconstruction of the process of military intervention led to an explanation which stresses the vulnerability rather than the strength of African military organizations as the major reason for their involvement in politics. Because of the nature of their output, their recent creation and the permeability of their boundaries, African military organizations are shown to be easily threatened by changes taking place in their environment. Military coups occur when a military organization decides to use its institutional weight to modify its environment so as to insure its corporate survival. Part III of this study investigates by a quantitative methodology some of the changes taking place in the economic, social and political environment of Tropical Africa to determine if they can be correlated with the present level of military intervention in these states. Six major environmental changes were identified (economic development, social mobilization, political participation, party institutionalization, government penetration and social conflict) and operationalized through the use of factor analysis. The level of military intervention was operationalized by examining the extent to which a military establishment breaks out of its organizational boundaries to occupy roles outside those normally associated with its defence function. Data on the level of military intervention was collected for each year of the 1960-71 period and then aggregated into a final index of military intervention for the 32 states of Tropical Africa. Three analytic techniques were then used on these data. By simple bivariate correlation it was established that the level of military intervention was positively associated with the level of internal conflict and of party institutionalization in a given society. Levels of government penetration and of political participation were also associated with the dependent variable, but in a negative way and at a less significant level. When step-wise regression analysis was employed, the same results emerged. Furthermore, the six independent variables taken together explained 40 per cent of the variance in the level of military intervention. Using the technique of dependent analysis developed by Boudon, it was established that only the level of social conflict made a direct and substantial contribution to the level of military intervention. The influence of the other variables was apparently dependent on this last variable. In conclusion, it is stressed that the process of military intervention is amenable to an organizational and historical analysis and that the characteristics of the socio-political environment in which a military establishment operates can make a significant contribution to an understanding of the level of military intervention existing in the states of Tropical Africa.

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