Violent extremist organizations have expanded their ambitions, capacities, and geographical reach into the Sahel and West Africa, creating an arc of instability across the region. Boko Haram, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and other militant groups present a continuing threat to the stability of the region. As they come under increasing pressure from regional and international security forces, their future evolution is uncertain, but they have proven their ability to adapt and rebound in the face of previous setbacks. The Africa Center’s Benjamin Nickels joined a panel experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies to discuss the continuing challenges facing the Sahel.
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Abdisaid M. Ali reviews the mainstreaming of Salafist ideology in East Africa and the polarizing impact of this more exclusivist interpretation of Islam.
Violent Extremism and Instability in the Greater Horn of Africa: An Examination of Drivers and Responses
Violent extremism is expressed in myriad ways throughout the Greater Horn of Africa, but some contributing factors span the region. Long-term problems with socioeconomic marginalization, unemployment, and poor infrastructure have combined with evolving demographic shifts, refugee flows, and environmental degradation to expand the population vulnerable to extremist messages. Systemic corruption also alienates citizens from their governance institutions. To build resilience to radical messages, East African countries must build tailored solutions in partnership with the private sector that include seemingly disparate elements such as service provision, community engagement, and literacy building.
Internal and external actors in Libya have pushed varied, divergent agendas, and the country has been unable to form a unified political system. Criminal and violent extremist groups have flourished and begun to monopolize black market activities. If their economic control hardens, it may persist beyond the eventual formation of a government and make a Libyan government more difficult to finance and stabilize in the long run.
Four of the eight ‘provinces’ or wilayat of the group’s self-declared caliphate are located in Africa Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria. While there are questions about the group’s ability to direct affiliates in a unified and coordinated campaign, those who have declared loyalty to ISIS have adopted its signature brutality. Efforts to counter violent extremism... Continue Reading
Africa hosts a disproportionate level of conflict compared to other regions in the world. Since 2011, there has been an upsurge in fatalities attributed to violent Islamist extremism, mostly as a result of Boko Haram. Nonetheless, other types of political violence are still responsible for more incidents and higher levels of casualties than Islamist extremist violence in Africa. These conflicts often result from high youth unemployment and lack of political inclusion. Thus, while countering violent extremism should remain a security priority, governments must also put adequate effort toward improving accountability and capability to provide inclusive security and economic opportunity for citizens.
The classic approach to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) is faltering in an environment that now includes violent extremism and transnational mercenaries. Countering violent extremism and de-radicalization must be integrated within DDR. As has been seen by the number of well-educated and middle-income recruits to violent extremist organizations, DDR must refocus its goal from socioeconomic reintegration to social cohesion as a precondition to sustainably reintegrate former fighters.
Part 1: Identity Part 2: Faultlines Part 3: Extremism Part 4: Boko Haram Part 5: Strategies for combating extremism Part 6: Military professionalism Part 7: Maritime security Part 8: Governance The date was June 11, 2009. Nearly 20 unarmed Boko Haram motorcyclists were fatally shot by police for refusing to wear safety helmets. The episode... Continue Reading
Part 1: Identity Part 2: Faultlines Part 3: Extremism Part 4: Boko Haram Part 5: Strategies for combating extremism Part 6: Military professionalism Part 7: Maritime security Part 8: Governance Extremist interpretations of Islam by marginalized communities in Nigeria have strong resonance as an avenue to address perceived injustices and economic inequalities. The dangers of... Continue Reading
Ethiopia is witnessing an expansion of the Salafi movement. The Ethiopian government has increasingly interpreted Salafism as extremist movement that is seeking political power and Islamization of the state. However, Salafism is a religious organization whose ideological roots support detachment from public and political life. This misdiagnosis has prompted a misguided campaign by the Ethiopian... Continue Reading
Although Burkina Faso has remained relatively peaceful and stable in an insecure region where violent extremism has undermined security, structural challenges within the country—such as endemic corruption, religious tension and chronic underdevelopment—render the country vulnerable to extremism. The Burkinabé government, civil society and stakeholder states should seek to nurture resilience by promoting development and community... Continue Reading
As the terrorist threat continues to evolve in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, the Africa Center through its various programs continues to bring together African, American and European civilian and military professionals to discuss its dimensions and possible solutions. Countering violent extremism On February 24–27, 2014, the Africa Center convened African Union (AU), United States... Continue Reading