Mass Displacement and Violent Extremism in the Sahel: A Vicious Circle?

Méryl Demuynck 15 Aug 2022
 
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Keywords: violent extremism, Sahel, IDPs, refugees, displacement, migration, counter-terrorism

With the Sahel crisis entering its tenth year, the indiscriminate violence faced by local populations trapped between various al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated organisations, other non-state armed groups, and counter-terrorism operations, is forcing ever-growing numbers of civilians to flee, resulting in over 2.8 million people being forcibly displaced across Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. Frequently representing the only coping strategy available, displacement however exposes internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees to even more precarious situations, while also raising important challenges for their host communities. Through an initial exploration of the complex interconnections between mass displacement and violent extremism, this policy brief aims to assess how displacement simultaneously constitutes one of the most tangible symptoms as well as a potentially aggravating factor of the Sahel crisis. More specifically, it considers the potential for mass displacement, which results from rising (extremist) violence, to perpetuate conditions conducive to violent extremism by increasing local tensions and grievances that have been known to be exploited by violent extremist groups.

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Related Readings:

Boeke, Sergei. Pathways Out of the Quagmire? Perspectives for Al-Qaeda in the Sahel. Research Paper, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 24 August 2021.

Demuynck, M. and Coleman, J. Political Upheaval and Counter-Terrorism in Burkina Faso: Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Perspective, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 1 February 2022.

Demuynck, M. and Coleman, J. Customary Leaders and Terrorism in the Sahel: Co-opted, Coerced, or Killed? Perspective, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 6 April 2022.

Bacon, T., Doctor C., A., Warner, J. A Global Strategy to Address the Islamic State in Africa. Perspective, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 29 June 2022.

D’Amato, S. and Baldaro, E. Counter-Terrorism in the Sahel: Increased Instability and Political Tensions. Perspective, The International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, 7 July 2022.

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