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Further reading on militancy

Ashley Gilbertson/VII Photo

The following is a guide to must-read articles, reports and research papers on militancy in the Sahel. It’s an ever-expanding library, but this is a useful resource to get you started – from overviews on extremism to country-specific analysis.

Understanding extremism

Journey to Extremism in Africa

Valuable data by UNDP based on interviews with 500 ex-jihadists in five African countries trying to understand their backgrounds and “tipping points” that led them to join extremist groups

Alt-Right or Jihad?

Unleashed by globalisation’s dark side and the collapse of communities, radical Islam and the alt-Right share a common cause

Women, Gender and Daesh Radicalisation

An exploration of the role of gender in IS recruitment. It challenges the narrative of women as “innately peaceful”, or as actors coerced into joining.

Not all Young People in Jihadist Groups are 'Radicalised Youth'

The importance of micro-local contexts in preventing and countering recruitment by violent extremist groups

The Art of Making a Jihadist

Interview with militancy doyen Thomas Hegghammer on the hidden culture of poetry, music and storytelling that sustains jihadis

War, Martyrdom, and Terror: Evolutionary Underpinnings of the Moral Imperative to Extreme Group Violence

Why do people decide to sacrifice their own lives in acts of extreme violence against others?

What Motivates ISIS Fighters – and Those who Fight Against Them

Accessible CNN report on the three crucial factors motivating extremists: a deep commitment to sacred values, the readiness to forsake family for those values, and the perceived spiritual strength of the group or community that the fighter represents.

Membership Matters: Coerced Recruits and Rebel Allegiance

Why press-ganged rebels fight on rather than surrendering at every opportunity

Sahel Blog

Weekly blog covering politics and religion in the Sahel by Alex Thurston

On combating extremism

Countering Violent Extremism

Excellent overview on what we know about Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism

Here’s What the Social Science Says About Countering Violent Extremism

Unless we understand the powerful cultural forces behind the turn to violent extremism, we will fail to address the threat

Shouldn’t YOU be Countering Violent Extremism?

Excellent overview of the inherent weaknesses of CVE – like does it work?

Making CVE Work

What it says on the tin – a stab at making CVE fit for purpose

Transforming violent extremism: A peacebuilder’s guide

Search for Common Ground draws on three decades of experience in transforming violent conflict in communities plagued by many of the same dynamics underlying violent extremism

“Defeating IS Ideology” Sounds Good, But What Does It Really Mean?

The West’s obsessive focus on combatting ideology has produced no quantifiably positive results

DDR in the Context of Offensive Military Operations, Counterterrorism, CVE and Non-Permissive Environments: Key Questions, Challenges, and Considerations

Ignore the crazy title – useful article on the challenge of DDR in the context of counter-insurgency

A way home for jihadis: Denmark's radical approach to Islamic extremism

A readable look at the Aarhus model for deradicalising extremists

The Sahel/Lake Chad region

Responses to Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Region: Policies, Cooperation and Livelihoods

No single factor explains the emergence and rise of Boko Haram in the region, but understanding the overall context is important to understanding the movement itself

Lake Chad: The World’s Most Complex Humanitarian Disaster

A deep multimedia dive exploring the inter-connected crisis

Crisis and Development: The Lake Chad Area and Boko Haram

Even before the Boko Haram crisis, the Lake Chad region was one of the poorest in the world

Watchmen of Lake Chad: Vigilante Groups Fighting Boko Haram

The rise of vigilante groups, and the potential for problems in the future

Finding the Right Role for the G5 Sahel Joint Force

The G5 is an experiment in a region crowded by sometimes-competing military initiatives

The Niger-Mali Border: Subordinating Military Action to a Political Strategy

The Nigerien government and its allies’ use of military force and non-state armed proxies to curtail jihadist groups along the Niger-Mali border is stoking intercommunal conflict.

The New Jihadist Strategy in the Sahel

Beyond Islamic ideology, AQIM and related movements have framed their message as one of fighting a neo-colonial enemy, and tailored their narratives to fit their local contexts


Boko Haram Beyond the Headlines: Analyses of Africa’s Enduring Insurgency

Most up to date analysis by some of the best researchers

‘Year of the Debacle’: How Nigeria Lost Its Way in the War Against Boko Haram

An up-close account of the Nigerian army’s failure to come to grips with the insurgency

Factional Dynamics within Boko Haram

ISWAP’s attempts to redefine its relations with the civilian population could make it a long-term threat to regional stability

Boko Haram’s New Tactics Imperil Nigeria’s Countryside

The future of the war turns on whether the military can definitively claim control of the countryside

‘The Disease is Unbelief’: Boko Haram’s Religious and Political Worldview

The combination of exclusivism and grievance has provided the ideological framework for Boko Haram’s violence

Gifts and Graft: How Boko Haram Uses Financial Services for Recruitment and Support

Crucial study by Mercy Corps into what motivated young people to join Boko Haram

Motivations and Empty Promises: Voices of Former Boko Haram Combatants and Nigerian Youth

Mercy Corps second ground-breaking study on Boko Haram

“If You See it You Will Cry”: Life and Death in Giwa Barracks

Hundreds of people, including children, have died following their detention in horrendous conditions at Giwa barracks military detention centre, Maiduguri.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict

The first serious study of Boko Haram from way back in 2010, and it’s still relevant

'Bad Blood'

Perceptions of children born of conflict-related sexual violence and women and girls associated with Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria

Nigeria: Women and the Boko Haram Insurgency

Women have suffered violence and abuse by Boko Haram, but they are not only victims. Their experiences should inform policies to tackle the insurgency and build peace

‘They betrayed us’: Women who survived Biko Haram raped, starved and detained in Nigeria

The Nigerian military has recaptured vast swathes of territory controlled by Boko Haram. But instead of “freeing” people who had been trapped in these areas, the military has carried out systematic abuse.

Ideational Dimensions of the Boko Haram Phenomenon

How Boko Haram frames its struggle and the appeal of its message


Going Beyond the Complexity of Mali’s Conflict

A useful multi-layered analysis of the Malian conflict

Mali is Becoming a Failed State and it is Not the Jihadists’ Fault

A focus on regional security masks the root cause of the Malian crisis

What Can Save Mali?

Good overview of the crisis, which argues that dialogue is part of the answer

Mali: New Study on Local Security Perceptions

How Malians experience and understand security, and the impact of the perceived ‘absence of the state'

Central Mali: An Uprising in the Making?

How rebellion spread from northern Mali and erupted in the country’s central region

Mali's young 'jihadists': Fueled by faith or circumstance?

Interviews with 63 youths formerly engaged in 'jihadist' groups challenge preconceived ideas about violent extremism in Mali

The Politics of Islam in Mali: Separating Myth from Reality

The government should work toward a partnership with religious authorities to enable them to play a stabilising role, argues the ICG


Niger and Boko Haram: Beyond Counter-insurgency

The struggle against Boko Haram in south-eastern Niger is increasingly sharpening local conflicts over access to resources

Understanding Trajectories of Radicalisation in Agadez

Interesting look at people’s perceptions of extremism and democracy


Cameroon’s Far North: A New Chapter in the Fight Against Boko Haram

As fighting between government forces and Boko Haram diminishes, a lasting peace depends on how the government deals with former members of the jihadist movement

Cameroon’s Far North: Reconstruction amid Ongoing Conflict

The government and international partners should embrace development policies that take into account the local population’s resilience strategies, says ICG


Fighting Boko Haram in Chad: Beyond Military Measures

The government needs to relaunch trade, improve public services and reintegrate demobilised militants.

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