Nigeria

Islamist fighters race near the Mauritania-Mali border

Islamist fighters in Mali. (Photo: Magharebia)

The Sahel has seen the most rapid growth in violent extremist activity of any region in Africa over the past 2 years. The region is also a nexus of criminal networks and illicit trafficking and has experienced a rise in farmer-herder violence. The Sahel, moreover, has the fastest population growth rate on the continent, despite being among the poorest and facing some of the most fragile environmental conditions. Consequently, migrants from the Sahel constitute a significant share of those trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. All the while, emerging democratic institutions are trying to gain traction in the region. Here is a selection of Africa Center work on the region.

Spotlight

African Militant Islamist Group Violence Maintains Record Pace, though Slowing

July 27, 2021

The contours of African militant Islamist group violence are shifting, though maintaining a record pace of havoc resulting in an average of 14 violent events per day.

Spotlight

32 Million Africans Forcibly Displaced by Conflict and Repression

June 17, 2021

Africa continues to experience expanding and record levels of forced displacement—a result of predatory governments, political fragmentation, and violent extremist groups.

African Youth Engaging in Peace and Security

Spotlight

African Youth Engaging in Peace and Security

By Peter Biar Ajak
April 29, 2021

Despite challenges of unemployment, corruption, entrenched political leadership, and political violence, many African youth have found constructive avenues to promote peace, effective governance, and reform.

Spotlight

Nigeria’s Diverse Security Threats

By Mark Duerksen
March 30, 2021

Nigeria faces an array of security challenges beyond Boko Haram. Distinguishing these threats and understanding their socio-geographic contours is essential for adapting customized solutions.

Spotlight

The Nigerian State and Insecurity

February 17, 2021

Nigeria faces a plethora of security challenges ranging from violent extremism, to farmer-herder conflict, banditry, a revived secessionist movement, police repression, piracy, and attacks on oil infrastructure, among others. In this roundtable discussion, experts representing diplomatic, scholarly, and practitioner perspectives discuss the links between these security challenges and Nigeria’s patronage-based state institutions. Key themes were the need to rethink the structure of the Nigerian state, identify means of strengthening national identity, harness the aspirations of youth to advance governance reform, create more accountability within the security services, and avoid the militarization of every security challenge.

Confronting Nigeria’s Kaduna Crisis

Spotlight

Confronting Nigeria’s Kaduna Crisis

By Olajumoke (Jumo) Ayandele
February 2, 2021

Escalating violence in Nigeria’s North West region requires applying lessons from the fight against Boko Haram, including the need for community outreach and adapting the use of the Joint Military Task Force to unique local threats.

Spike in Militant Islamist Violence in Africa Underscores Shifting Security Landscape

Spotlight

Spike in Militant Islamist Violence in Africa Underscores Shifting Security Landscape

January 29, 2021

A surge of violent events by militant Islamist groups in Africa, led by escalations in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin, sets record and widens instability.

Militant Islamist Group Highway Attacks in and around Borno State

Spotlight

Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Target Nigeria’s Highways

December 15, 2020

A rise in highway ambushes by Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa pose a growing threat of isolation for Borno State’s 4 million residents.

Boko Haram Violence against Civilians Spiking in Northern Cameroon

Spotlight

Boko Haram Violence against Civilians Spiking in Northern Cameroon

November 13, 2020

Northern Cameroon has experienced the sharpest spike of Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad Basin over the past 12 months, namely in the form of attacks on civilians.

Spotlight

#EndSARS Demands Nigerian Police Reform

November 10, 2020

Nigeria’s largest protests in a generation are calling for police and governance reforms—and expose long-delayed initiatives to enhance professionalism and oversight of Nigeria’s police.

African Militant Islamist Groups Set New Record for Violent Activity

Spotlight

African Militant Islamist Groups Set Record for Violent Activity

July 21, 2020

African militant Islamist groups have demonstrated a decade of nearly uninterrupted growth in violent activity, though the focus of this has shifted over time. Militant groups in the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, and Mozambique have exhibited the sharpest increases in violent activity over the past year.

Record 29 Million Africans Are Forcibly Displaced

Spotlight

Record 29 Million Africans Are Forcibly Displaced

June 24, 2020

An additional 4 million Africans were forced from their homes due to conflict and repressive governance in the past year, continuing an upward trend since 2011.

COVID-19 and Africa’s Displacement Crisis

Spotlight

COVID-19 and Africa’s Displacement Crisis

By Wendy Williams
March 25, 2020

The spread of the coronavirus in Africa is intersecting with the continent’s population displacement crisis. Protecting displaced persons and migrants will be key to reducing the overall rates of transmission.

Spotlight

Threat from African Militant Islamist Groups Expanding, Diversifying

January 18, 2020

Militant Islamist groups in Africa set a record pace of activity in 2019, reflecting a doubling of militant Islamist activity from 2013. Expanded activity in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin underscores diversification of threat from Somalia.

African Migrant Flows Reshaping Security Challenges in Africa

Spotlight

African Migrant Flows Reshaping Security Challenges in Africa

December 18, 2019

The dynamism of clandestine African migration flows continues to present criminal and violent extremist groups opportunities for exploitation.

Record Number of Forcibly Displaced Africans Likely to Grow

Spotlight

Record Number of Forcibly Displaced Africans Likely to Grow

July 10, 2019

With Africa's population expected to double by 2050, the rapid increase in the number of forcibly displaced Africans of the past decade will continue to expand unless key drivers are reversed.

Fronts Fluctuate in Battle against African Militant Islamist Groups

Spotlight

Frontlines in Flux in Battle against African Militant Islamist Groups

July 9, 2019

A surge of attacks in the Sahel coupled with declines in activity by Boko Haram, ISIS, and al Shabaab reflect the constantly shifting threats posed by militant Islamist groups in Africa.

Security Priorities for the New Nigerian Government

Spotlight

Security Priorities for the New Nigerian Government

February 25, 2019

From Boko Haram to farmer-herder conflicts, ethno-religious tensions, separatist movements, urban crime, and national identity, Nigeria experts size up the security priorities facing the Buhari government in its second term.

Militant Islamist Group Activity in the Sahel Rises

Spotlight

Militant Islamist Group Activity in the Sahel Rises

October 29, 2018

Expansion of violent events linked to an array of militant Islamist groups in the Sahel highlights the growing scope of security challenges facing this region.

Africa’s Unresolved Conflicts a Key Driver of Food Insecurity

Spotlight

Africa’s Unresolved Conflicts a Key Driver of Food Insecurity

October 17, 2018

Conflict is a central factor in the geography of Africa’s food insecurity. The acuteness of this insecurity deepens the longer a conflict continues.

Militant Islamist Groups in Africa Show Resiliency over Past Decade

Spotlight

Militant Islamist Groups in Africa Show Resiliency over Past Decade

June 28, 2018

A time-lapse review of violent episodes involving militant Islamist groups in African since 2010 provides insights into the evolution of these actors over the course of this decade.

Spotlight

World Cup Dreams Shape Africa’s National Narratives

June 28, 2018

Since Egypt’s appearance in the inaugural 1930 World Cup, African countries’ performance in the tournament has been a source of pride and national identity.

Kibera slum with condos in the background

Publication

From Urban Fragility to Urban Stability

By Stephen Commins
June 12, 2018

The growing share of Africa's urban residents living in slums is creating a further source of fragility. However, integrated urban development strategies that link local government, police, the private sector, and youth are strengthening social cohesion and enhancing stability.

Spotlight

More Activity but Fewer Fatalities Linked to African Militant Islamist Groups in 2017

January 26, 2018

Militant Islamist group activity in Africa continues to be highly context-specific. Those with strong local ties have shown considerable resilience, while ISIS has struggled to gain traction in the Maghreb.

Saleh Bala

Spotlight

Advancing Military Professionalism: A Discussion with Brig. Gen. Saleh Bala

October 20, 2017

In an interview with the Africa Center, retired Brig. Gen. (ret.) Saleh Bala discusses the role that training, procurement, and international partnerships play in advancing military professionalism.

Spotlight

Al Shabaab Remains Virulent as ISIS Shifts to Egypt

October 18, 2017

A quarterly update of a map tracking militant Islamic group activity in Africa as compiled by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Al Shabaab has been involved in over half of all violent events related to militant Islamist groups in Africa in the first three quarters of 2017 (987 of 1,827 total).

Spotlight

Africa’s Population Displacement Reaches Record Levels in 2017

August 15, 2017

Africa’s humanitarian crises have continued to worsen in 2017. Twenty million Africans have been displaced from their homes and 44 million are acutely food insecure.

Africa's Militant Iislamic Groups as of June 2017 900x600

Spotlight

Setbacks and Realignments: The Continuing Evolution of Militant Islamist Groups in Africa

July 20, 2017

A review of violent events involving militant Islamist groups in Africa over the past year reveals a mixed picture, with some groups showing increased activity and others diminished. This variance underscores the importance of local factors affecting each context.

An Armed Forces for the Defence of Mozambique boarding team member searches a simulated illegal fisherman during Exercise Cutlass Express 2013. (Photo: US Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Chad Thompson.)

Publication

Criminality in Africa’s Fishing Industry: A Threat to Human Security

By André Standing
June 6, 2017

Conflicts of interest within Africa's fisheries sector enable unsustainable exploitation by foreign fishing firms and undercut the political will needed to build more robust surveillance and prosecutorial capacity.

“To be an effective leader, you must want to empower those following you,” says General Martin Luther Agwai in an interview with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

Spotlight

Ethical Leadership in Practice

May 19, 2017

“To be an effective leader, you must want to empower those following you,” says General Martin Luther Agwai in an interview with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

Africa's militant islamic groups - as of apr 2017

Spotlight

Map of Africa’s Militant Islamist Groups

April 26, 2017

A review of militant Islamist group activity in Africa over the past year reveals considerable variation and a geographic concentration.

Map of Africa’s Active Militant Islamist Groups as of November 2016

Spotlight

ISIS’s Future in Africa after Iraq and Syria

March 20, 2017

ISIS has affirmed its intention to expand operations into Africa, but a review of militant group activity on the continent suggests that it will be challenged to do so.

Africa's Food Crisis

Spotlight

Acute Food Insecurity and Conflict in Africa

February 17, 2017

Nineteen African countries are facing acute levels of food insecurity. Ten of those countries are experiencing internal conflict.

A Fulani man herds cattle in northern Cameroon

Spotlight

Africa’s Pastoralists: A New Battleground for Terrorism

By Kaley Fulton and Benjamin P. Nickels
January 11, 2017

Islamist terrorist groups in the Sahel and Sahara are attempting to exploit pastoralist grievances to mobilize greater support for their agenda, write Kaley Fulton and Benjamin Nickels.

Evolution of Militant Islamist Group Activity in Africa

Spotlight

The Evolution of Militant Islamist Group Activity in Africa 2010–2016

January 10, 2017

The geographic spread and frequency of violent events linked to militant Islamist groups in Africa has expanded steadily since 2010, with a peak in 2015. Eight African countries now regularly face attacks by an assortment of militant Islamist groups.

Amani Africa II exercise

Spotlight

Emerging Patterns of Intra-African Security Assistance

By Paul Nantulya
December 7, 2016

While discussions of security cooperation often focus assistance from wealthy countries, intra-African assistance has become a major focus of multilateral efforts in crisis management and stabilization.

Map of Africa’s Active Militant Islamist Groups as of November 2016

Spotlight

Map of Africa’s Active Militant Islamist Groups

November 16, 2016

A review of militant Islamist group activity in Africa over the past year reveals considerable variation and a geographic concentration of most of these actors.

Female Congolese Fighters (Photo: Mai Mai Shetani/FDP, Buramba military base, Nyamilima, North Kivu, DRC)

Spotlight

Conflict in Africa: Why It Persists

October 27, 2016

After years of decline, conflict in Africa has recently been increasing. Paul Williams, Phillip Carter, and Ibrahim Wani provided insight on why conflict persists in Africa at a roundtable hosted by the Africa Center.

Spotlight

Militancy and the Arc of Instability: Violent Extremism in the Sahel

September 28, 2016

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. 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.

Spotlight

War and Conflict in Africa

September 21, 2016

Although the vast majority of conflicts in Africa today involve non-state actors, there has been a significant increase in state-based violence since 2010. While there is now a better understanding of the need to engage at multiple levels of society, leveraging the political will and resources to facilitate these deeper connections has remained a challenge.

A Nigerian police officer collects N20 from a driver

Publication

Governance, Accountability, and Security in Nigeria

By Oluwakemi Okenyodo
June 21, 2016

L’évolution du maintien de la paix africain

Spotlight

The Evolution of African Peacekeeping

By Michael D. Rettig
May 26, 2016

Africa currently hosts over 100,000 peacekeeping personnel. Contributions by African nations are rising and are more diversified—with some big exceptions.

Africa’s Active Militant Islamist Groups

Spotlight

Map of Africa’s Active Militant Islamist Groups

May 9, 2016

A review of militant Islamist group activity in Africa over the past year reveals considerable variation in the groups involved. Most are locally focused even if they have declared an allegiance to a global terrorist network. Activity has also been confined to a relatively few, concentrated areas on the continent. This map details the trends.

Spotlight

Boko Haram: A Growing Regional Problem

February 16, 2016

Spotlight

Boko Haram: An Evolving Emergency

February 9, 2016

Regional forces have begun to constrain Boko Haram, but tensions and a lack of coordination have hampered progress. On Capitol Hill, Africa Center Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Raymond Gilpin dissects the issue.

corruption free zone - kenya Photo: Babak Fakhamzadeh

Spotlight

Corruption: A Major Threat to Military Effectiveness

September 8, 2015

Corruption contributes directly to insecurity. It has a corrosive effect on combat readiness and effectiveness, undermining the ability to meet national security threats.

Spotlight

Nigeria’s Moment of Triumph

April 13, 2015

Gabon Navy

Publication

Combating Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

By Adeniyi Adejimi Osinowo
February 28, 2015

Left with nothing: Boko Haram’s displaced ©EU/ECHO/Isabel Coello

Publication

Mitigating Radicalism in Northern Nigeria

By Michael Olufemi Sodipo
August 31, 2013

Dr Hussein Solomon

Spotlight

Ask the Expert: Dr. Hussein Solomon on Radical Islamism in Africa

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
April 19, 2013

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AU Peacekeeper in Somalia

Publication

Islamic Militancy in Africa

By Terje Østebø
November 30, 2012

The rise in Islamic militancy in the Sahel, northern Nigeria, and the Horn of Africa has elevated attention to this evolving security concern. Hopes that Africa’s historically moderate interpretations of Islam would suffice to filter extremist views from gaining meaningful traction seem increasingly misplaced. More generally, understanding of this unconventional security challenge is often based more on speculation than informed assessment. Responses must avoid conflating distinct Islamist actors while addressing local level perceptions of disaffection and under-representation that underpin support for militants.

Boko Haram’s Evolving Threat

Publication

Boko Haram’s Evolving Threat

By J. Peter Pham
April 30, 2012

Support for Boko Haram among some of northern Nigeria’s marginalized Muslim communities suggests that security actions alone will be insufficient to quell the instability.

Africa’s Militaries: A Missing Link in Democratic Transitions

Publication

Africa’s Militaries: A Missing Link in Democratic Transitions

By Mathurin C. Houngnikpo
January 31, 2012

Institutionalization of democratic norms in Africa’s militaries often lags behind advances made in civilian institutions and civil society.