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.
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
Magisterial USAID study
Unleashed by globalisation’s dark side and the collapse of communities, radical Islam and the alt-Right share a common cause
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.
The importance of micro-local contexts in preventing and countering recruitment by violent extremist groups
Interview with militancy doyen Thomas Hegghammer on the hidden culture of poetry, music and storytelling that sustains jihadis
Why do people decide to sacrifice their own lives in acts of extreme violence against others?
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.
Why press-ganged rebels fight on rather than surrendering at every opportunity
Weekly blog covering politics and religion in the Sahel by Alex Thurston
On combating extremism
Excellent overview on what we know about Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism
Unless we understand the powerful cultural forces behind the turn to violent extremism, we will fail to address the threat
Excellent overview of the inherent weaknesses of CVE – like does it work?
What it says on the tin – a stab at making CVE fit for purpose
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
The West’s obsessive focus on combatting ideology has produced no quantifiably positive results
Ignore the crazy title – useful article on the challenge of DDR in the context of counter-insurgency
A readable look at the Aarhus model for deradicalising extremists
The Sahel/Lake Chad region
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
A deep multimedia dive exploring the inter-connected crisis
Even before the Boko Haram crisis, the Lake Chad region was one of the poorest in the world
The rise of vigilante groups, and the potential for problems in the future
The G5 is an experiment in a region crowded by sometimes-competing military initiatives
Exploring DDR in Niger and Nigeria
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.
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
Most up to date analysis by some of the best researchers
An up-close account of the Nigerian army’s failure to come to grips with the insurgency
ISWAP’s attempts to redefine its relations with the civilian population could make it a long-term threat to regional stability
The future of the war turns on whether the military can definitively claim control of the countryside
The combination of exclusivism and grievance has provided the ideological framework for Boko Haram’s violence
Crucial study by Mercy Corps into what motivated young people to join Boko Haram
Mercy Corps second ground-breaking study on Boko Haram
Hundreds of people, including children, have died following their detention in horrendous conditions at Giwa barracks military detention centre, Maiduguri.
The first serious study of Boko Haram from way back in 2010, and it’s still relevant
Perceptions of children born of conflict-related sexual violence and women and girls associated with Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria
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
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.
How Boko Haram frames its struggle and the appeal of its message
Academics jousting over the roots of Boko Haram
A useful multi-layered analysis of the Malian conflict
A focus on regional security masks the root cause of the Malian crisis
Good overview of the crisis, which argues that dialogue is part of the answer
How Malians experience and understand security, and the impact of the perceived ‘absence of the state'
How rebellion spread from northern Mali and erupted in the country’s central region
Interviews with 63 youths formerly engaged in 'jihadist' groups challenge preconceived ideas about violent extremism in Mali
The government should work toward a partnership with religious authorities to enable them to play a stabilising role, argues the ICG
The struggle against Boko Haram in south-eastern Niger is increasingly sharpening local conflicts over access to resources
Interesting look at people’s perceptions of extremism and democracy
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
The government and international partners should embrace development policies that take into account the local population’s resilience strategies, says ICG
The government needs to relaunch trade, improve public services and reintegrate demobilised militants.