Marking a new chapter in military cooperation, the French Army has recently introduced its first staff officer training program for African officers. This development transpired in the Military Schools of Draguignan, spearheaded by General Marc Conruyt.
The idea for this training program came to light more than ten years ago by General Bertrand Ract-Madoux. He remarked on the decline of French influence in Africa, attributing it to the reduction of training programs for African officers due to economic constraints. The consensus was that training was an effective tool for cultivating influence and enhancing crisis response.
Addressing Past Shortcomings through Increased Training
Historically, issues such as those experienced in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger have raised questions as to whether increased training could have prevented such situations. General Thierry Burkhard, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, acknowledged that forming lasting partnerships with African nations is a complex task. It demands flexibility and a clear understanding of each country's unique needs.
The French Military Programming Law 2024-30 considers these factors. The law outlines an array of measures designed to rectify past mistakes, one of which is the expansion of training opportunities for foreign military personnel. These training programs are not limited to officers but extend to non-officer roles, and are open to military personnel from any country.
Existing Collaborations and Future Intentions
Already, the French Army has initiated partnerships with African prytaneums through its four military high schools. Additionally, the National School of Active Non-Commissioned Officers has welcomed a minimum of 14 African students, planning to double this number in the coming year. Saint-Cyr Military Academy has joined the initiative, having offered nine seats to student officers from African partner countries. A frame exchange program with Ivory Coast's Armed Forces Academy is also in progress.
A Step Further: Staff Training for African Officers
The inaugural officer's staff training course open to African countries was held on November 15 at the Military Schools of Draguignan and included a mix of French officers and officers from several African countries. The course spans over five weeks and is led by two high-ranking African officers from Ivory Coast and Senegal, reflecting the partnership between the militaries.
The first 30 officers to join the course hail from a diverse set of countries: Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Gabon, Guinea Conakry, Madagascar, Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Chad, and Togo.
These joint training activities from high school to higher education level serve a dual purpose. They not only build mutual trust, but they also establish a real interoperability between the French Army and partner armies.