The military, civil society and democracy in Zambia: Prospects for the future
While there is a growing tradition of civil society activism in Zambia, the role of civil society in civil-military relations remains unclear. This paper, authored by Lee M Habasonda, examines the opportunities that exist for civil society to help strengthen civil-military relations as part of the country’s current democratisation process. The most important task that faces Zambia’s civil society is the building of partnerships with the government and military that help ensure the subordination of the military to civilian control.
Civil society organisations in Zambia are established to:
- actively address the varied and complex needs of society;
- establish mechanisms by which governments and the private
sector are held accountable to the public;
- promote pluralism and diversity; and
- protect and strengthen cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic and other identities.
The military faces the challenge of adapting its traditional culture (particularly of secrecy) to the new era of democratic reform in the country. Civil society bears the responsibility to develop and facilitate partnerships that address entrenched stereotypes about military and civil society.
An analysis of current civil-military relations in Zambia shows that:
- despite the existence of a national reform process, there is still little acceptance of the need for public scrutiny of the military;
- many civil society groups view government as a source of political authority, rather than as a partner that can be influenced;
- elected representatives do not appreciate the value of input from civil society groups;
- while the Ministry of Finance currently involves stakeholders in national budget discussions, civil society has not exploited the opportunity to become involved in this process; and
- while democracy activists currently lobby for more government accountability, they have yet to address the accountability of the military. Widespread reports of military favouritism of certain ethnic groups, nepotism, allegiance to the ruling party and politicisation of the armed forces need to be addressed.
A collaborative relationship between civil society and the military could be instituted in the following areas:
- Defence Policy: Civil society involvement in the formulation of the country’s defence policy would result in a policy that is better understood and supported by citizens.
- Defence Budget: Civil society should seek to broaden the defence budget process to include public discussion of political, social and economic factors that impact government allocation of resources to the military.
- Civil society activists should apply pressure to make necessary reforms of any existing non-professional practices of favouritism, recruitment and inappropriate politicisation of the military sector.
Two specific vehicles for increased civil society involvement in defence and military affairs are:
- Development of a Ministry of Defence team that includes civil society actors and the military, defines the role of armed forces in a democracy and discusses more transparent defence/military processes; and
- Expansion of the current National Capacity Building Programme for good governance to include discussion of democratisation issues as they impact the military establishment.
Author: Lee M Habasonda
Source: Habasonda, L., 2002, 'The military, civil society and democracy in Zambia: Prospects for the future', in Ourselves To Know: Civil-Military Relations and Defence Transformation in Southern Africa, eds.Williams,R., Cawthra,G. & Abrahams,D., Institute for Security Studies, South Africa, pp. 227-238.