Journey to Extremism in Africa: Pathways to Recruitment and Disengagement

Gathering of militants on Mali-Niger border. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Security-driven responses to violent extremism ignore what drives individuals toward extremist groups and what leads to disengagement. Poverty, inequality, high unemployment levels, illiteracy, ethnic divisions, and poor governance—particularly human-rights abuses perpetrated by government security forces—tip individuals toward extremist groups. But unmet promises, disillusionment, economic incentives also drive people to defect from such groups. Behaviorally informed approaches—like amnesties and other government incentives—have better results than punitive ones such as imprisonment. Ensuring accountability, rule of law, and civilian participation, may be more successful at defeating extremist groups than a kinetic approach.

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Security Topics:  Countering Violent Extremism