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Benin - Military Doctrine

Benin faces minimal external threats to its own security, and the military does not have any recent operational experience against other forces. The military primarily operates in peacekeeping and border control roles.

Between 1963 and 1972 there were six military interventions, or military coups in Dahomey. These terms sound impressive and the number sounds significant. Using these numbers and terms Dahomey appears as a worthy contender for world championship. But a closer examination of the role of the military in Dahomey may alter this image.

For an American, the participation of military in politics, in whatever form, through whatever means, for whatever reason, is unacceptable. To a proponent of democracy civilian rule, however authoritarian, seems potentially democratic; military rule however moderate, is seen by definition as authoritarian. Civilian regime connotes the rule of law; military rule connotes force. Military at all times must be submitted to civilian control. For a proponent of democracy the essence of civility is the neutralization of brute force that, in light of past history, the military represents.

On 28 October 1963, Colonel Christoph Soglo, Commander of the Dahomean Armed Forces, appeared in front of cheering crowds in Cotonou and declared that the army had taken over, the government of President Maga was dissolved and the first Constitution of independent Dahomey was suspended. On 26 October 1965, a day after President Maga returned from an official tour in the Far East, it was clear that the demonstrations would turn violent if Maga stayed in power, and that the North would rebell if any of the other two civilian leaders succeeded him in the Presidency. On the same day truckloads of Northern archers arrived in Cotonou to confront the southern demonstrators and the soldiers if necessary.

Colonel Soglo's declaration on October 28 was made after two days of consultations among President Maga, Vice-president Apithy, Trade Union leaders as well as Colonel Soglo and Lieutenant Colonel Aho, who was the second highest ranking officer in the Dahomean military after Soglo. The military takeover was not a sudden event, no army units were mobilized, no fire was shot. Thus the salient feature of the "October Revolution" was not the military intervention, but the strikes, demonstrations and counter demonstrations. The military did not step in to stop civilian rule, but to stop an eruption of violent ethno-regional conflict. In October 1963 there existed a real threat of civil war between the North and the South.

The November 1965 military intervention was again due to the attempt of consolidating power, now by Apithy as well as by Ahomadegbe. Ahomadegbe asked Apithy to resign from the presidency. He refused, and Ahomadegbe decided to remove Apithy himself. He donned a military uniform and wanted to lead an army detachment to remove Apithy from the Presidential palace. Colonel Soglo met Ahomadegbe accidentally in the outskirts of Porto Novo and was angered by the sight of him in uniform. Soglo returned to Camp Guezo in Cotonou,the major military camp, called together the senior officers and together they decided to demand the resignation of both Apithy and Ahomadegbe. On November 29, 1965 they both did resign.

The fourth coup came two years later in December 1967. By this time several junior officers were promoted in the ranks who were critical both of the military conduct of the two senior officers as well as of their handling of the affairs of state. Exactly one month after the December coup the young officers published a timetable of measures to be taken before return to civilian rule by June 16, 1968, i.e. six months after the takeover.

By 1968 the military "matured" to institutionalize itself as a political factor. No doubt the role of the military in neighboring Nigeria, at this time already in the midsts of the Biafra war, as well as the role of the military in other African states, may have influenced the Dahomean officers' position and attitudes as much as the internal situation in the country.

The next time came in December 10, 1969, sixteen months into Zinsou's presidency. The leader of the coup was again Maurice Kaoudate now as a Lieutenant Colonel. This was the first coup, the first military intervention in the classic (western?) sense. Here the military was not opted in, for there was no special government crisis. Here force was used, the President's car was sprayed with bullets, and uninjured, he was forcefully pulled out, from the car and flown from the nearby Cotonou airport to Natitingou, Kouandate's hometown.

On May 7, 1972 the Presidency rotated fromt Maga to Ahomadegbe and on October 26, 1972 the civilian rule was terminated by the last military coup up to now.

American International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs reinforce civilian control of Benins military and development of professional, apolitical security forces that assure Benins domestic stability and its support for international peacekeeping. Benin was one of the first Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) partners; IMET and ACOTA programs allowed Benin to participate effectively in peacekeeping operations in Cote dIvoire, Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Haiti.





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