Jihadism and counterterrorism in sub-Saharan Africa

Thursday June 20, 15.30 - 17.00

Session 3, Auditorium 4, Eilert Sundt building

Chair: Lorne Dawson

Paper presenters

  • Medinat Abdulazeez Malefakis: The Military and Primary Data Sources; Rethinking the Need for a Fusion of Intelligence and Empirical Terrorism Research in the lake Chad Basin.     
  • Salma Abdalla: Lifting Global Jihad from Below: Understanding the Rise of and Response to Violent Extremism in Sudan
  • Vidar B. Skretting: Jihadism in Burkina Faso: Studying an Insurgency in the Making   
  • Loise Macharia and Marguerite Barry,The Long Road to ‘Recovery’: Kenya’s Terror Narratives    
  • Yvonne Rowa: Radicalisation Research in the Migrant Context: Mitigating Methodological and Ethical Challenges


The Military and Primary Data Sources; Rethinking the Need for a Fusion of Intelligence and Empirical Terrorism Research in the lake Chad Basin.

Medinat Abdulazeez Malefakis, Berlin Social Science Centre (WZB), Germany

This paper analyzes the ways in which military forces interact with, and utilize primary data sources in terrorism research. It builds on the premise that the military is the initial point of contact for primary source materials adopted for terrorism research such as testimonies from captured terrorists, rescued victims, arrested overt or covert sympathizers of terrorist groups. Most times also, terrorism researchers rely heavily on militarily transcribed data from counter-terrorism battle fronts.

Through much of these primary data, ideological leanings of terrorist groups are espoused, as well as emotional connections or vulnerabilities to terrorist inclinations. Simultaneously however, the question of whether the military can scientifically interrogate and corroborate primary sources, or ethnographically present empirical primary data from the battle field arises. Using the military and Boko Haram’s terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin as a contextual basis of analysis, this paper highlights an emerging requirement in terrorism research: the need to incorporate scientific empiricism into military intelligence gathering. This is necessitated to broaden the scope and increase the versatility of primary data sources used in terrorism research.

Lifting Global Jihad from Below: Understanding the Rise of and Response to Violent Extremism in Sudan

Salma Abdalla.  Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU)

This paper explores the rise and response to violent extremism in Sudan. It argues the growth of violent extremism in Sudan is not solely an extension of the global jihad movements; rather, it is a manifestation of domestic political and historical dynamics. The violent extremism official narrative in Sudan disassociates the country from violent extremism and portrays it as a recent and foreign phenomenon. This paper demonstrates that violent extremism is embedded in the Islamization project that was launched by the Inqāz regime—a military Islamist government that took power in 1989 with ideology that created the conditions for violent extremism to thrive.

This paper shows various narratives deployed by inqāz regime to disassociated the country with violent extremism. Further, the paper illustrates two Salafi jihadist movements that represents the home-grown grounds for the rise of violent extremism in Sudan, Tayār al-ᵓUmma al-Wāḥida (Pan-Islamist Movement) and JamāꜤat al-ᵓIꜤtisām Bi al-Kitāb wa al-Sunna (Society of Adherence to Quran and Sunna). The paper outlines the content and outcome of “intellectual dialogue” with extremists in the framework of the Sudanese de-radicalization program. This paper fills the knowledge gap in the effectiveness of de-radicalization practices in an “Islamized” state and a majority Muslim context.

Jihadism in Burkina Faso: Studying an Insurgency in the Making

Vidar B. Skretting, FFI (Norwegian Defence Research Establishment)

Long considered an island of peace in a troubled region, Burkina Faso has recently experienced a spate of jihadist attacks threatening to destabilise the country. From 2016-2019, attacks have increased at an alarming rate, featuring complex attacks on Western interests by groups based in Mali and a budding jihadist insurgency at home. Studying jihadism in Burkina Faso presents methodological challenges, as it involves a multitude of actors in a chaotic environment. Official communication from the jihadist groups is relatively sparse and the vast majority of attacks go unclaimed.

Moreover, local media reporting on terrorism is inadequate and sometimes misleading. This paper bases its analysis on a dataset of attacks compiled from online sources, in conjunction with a careful reading of media reports, government statements and jihadist propaganda, which provide insights into the strategies and trajectories of Burkina Faso’s jihadist actors. It gives an overview of key developments in the rise of jihadism in Burkina Faso, and shows that it emerged through an intricate interaction between regional extremist groups and domestic actors. Further, it argues that the insurgency, which was fueled in large part by local concerns, has increasingly become integrated into the regional jihadist nexus dominated by JNIM and ISGS.

The Long Road to ‘Recovery’: Kenya’s Terror Narratives

Loise Macharia, Marguerite Barry, School of Information Communication Studies, University College Dublin, Ireland.

For years Kenya has grappled with the threat of terrorism which has left many dead, scores injured and seen the growth of security programs and cooperation with the US and others in the so-called ‘war on terror’ (WOT) (Aronson, 2013). Terrorism affects many people globally, however the phases of response vary and happen at different stages (Netten et al, 2018). In the wake of attacks, media move quickly offering detailed analysis and commentary on technical specifics of terrorism and its responses.

Many studies focus on how the media portrays acts of terror (e.g. Spencer 2012, Reilly et al 2016), but less attention is paid to how media might move past trauma reporting and build resilience towards a return to calm (IFRC, 2016). This study focuses on the potential for media in building resilience towards the reinforcement of recovery (Rodgers 2017). Using analysis of print media coverage by Kenyan daily newspapers of the attack at Garissa University in 2015, we track phases of response and examine stories which illustrate attempts at restoration and recovery. Following a peace journalism approach (e.g. Beckett 2012, Shinar 2009) we aim to describe alternative terror narratives that counter its societal effects and support citizens.

Radicalisation Research in the Migrant Context: Mitigating Methodological and Ethical Challenges

Yvonne Rowa, The University of Adelaide

In recent times, international migration has provoked concerns over insecurity in refugee hosting states. Beyond the animated public discourse, the tenor of securitisation has further necessitated the use of extraordinary means of refugee containment that include confinement in “camps”. Indeed, some camps have become politicised and militarised spaces where sections of refugee populations have developed extreme views and exerted political influence in their homelands and host states. Encampment therefore not only presents humanitarian concerns but also raises significant security challenges for host states and beyond. My research examines vulnerabilities to radicalisation in a camp environment that closely interacts with the global system.

The primary case study (among others) is Dadaab Refugee Complex, a camp in Kenya that predominantly hosts Somali refugees. In examining this problem, three interlocking formulations of encampment, a measure of securitisation, arise. The study traces the Somali migration trajectory from the homeland to the first host state, Kenya, and concludes the journey in the third countries of resettlement in the West. The conference paper will focus on the research methodology within the framework of constructivism. In addition, the paper will submit the methodological and ethical challenges of the study, and mitigating strategies.

Published Apr. 23, 2019 1:21 PM - Last modified June 12, 2019 10:41 AM