This study examines Belgium’s involvement in Central Africa over the last two decades, with a particular focus on the role of the Belgian Defence. The objective is twofold: on the one hand to analyse Belgium’s changing policies towards its former colonies during the last twenty years, and on the other hand to take an in-depth look at the military collaborations on the ground and establish an empirical and practical take on what role they fill, how they function and what aims they achieve through interviews and field observations. The analysis is made through the adoption of a transformative approach which includes evolutionary explanation factors, such as national political-administrative history, culture, and style of governance and static factors like national polity features, visible in constitutional and structural factors.
The author argues that the divided nature of Belgian internal politics, which is noted both in its polity features and its political-administrative history, influences its foreign policy towards Central Africa in an inconsistent manner. This is exemplified in the absence of a long-term strategy for the region. Yet, Belgium shows a strong desire to remain involved in the region, which, in the absence of a comprehensive and coherent strategy, results for the most part in a variety of one-dimensional short-term projects. It is recommended that Belgium, as one of the most trusted partners in the region, exploit its expertise in a more efficient manner and develop long-term three-dimensional projects, involving the three D’s (Defence, Diplomacy and Development), which would both benefit the reform processes under way in the partner countries, and Belgium’s visibility in the latter.