This research addresses the wider topic of decolonization and state-building in francophone West Africa by analyzing Guinean, Ivorian and Voltaic decisions in building their national militaries from 1958 to 1973. The three countries were all part of French West Africa, but took different decisions after independence. The differences reflect the agency of African actors, but the international environment also affected the construction of new states. Hence, this study analyses how the former colonial power and the Cold War environment influenced African decisions. The analysis concentrates on four aspects of statehood –autonomy, sovereignty, legitimacy and governance – which reflect the change from the status of a colony to an independent state. First, the study analyses how autonomous the countries were in making their decisions. It argues that foreign actors could not dictate the defence policy in any of the countries, because the decisions made often did not correspond with the interests of foreign powers. Second, the research discusses African decisions in developing national military capacities. Colonial structures, foreign assistance and threats perceived influenced the development of national capacities, but the proliferation of military coups led governments to weaken national militaries. Thirdly, the thesis describes the transition from the colonial security system to national military. Fourth, the dissertation analyses how the armed forces were controlled and governed. It concludes that the military coups in neighboring countries alerted African presidents to the threats the soldiers posed and led presidents to announce plots to neutralise opposition and to create a counterforce to the military.