AFRICA: Mapping Islamic militancy – past, present and future

Published this month, this is a must read for anyone working in government, counter terrorism, intelligence, private security, NGOs in Africa.

To understand the resurgence of jihadist groups in Africa, it is necessary to understand something of the history of radical Islamic ideology. This paper (link below) gives historical background information and highlights the various forms of Islam in the different regions of Africa. It seeks to illustrate how global developments have had an impact on the practice of Islam in Africa. It explores the rise of the House of Saud and Wahhabism and the influence of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 on political Islam in Africa and the emergence of militant groups in Africa. The paper profiles a significant number of jihadist groups in Africa (27 groups) focusing on their origin, ideology, leadership, activities, affiliation and impact on Christians in the different regions and globally.

The paper argues that military successes against al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Ansar al-Dine, AQIM, and the Islamic State group (IS) are not sufficient indicators of the defeat of the jihadist cause in Africa. This is because ideology can only be combated by ideology. Military successes are valuable in that they ensure that the state can protect the right to religious freedom. However, if nothing is done to counter radical Islamic ideology through an equally aggressive spreading of tolerant religious ideology, the suppressed radical ideologues and militants will simply remain dormant until a small opening for continued action emerges. They then re-embark on the intolerant jihadist journey to make the world the House of Islam. Because of the weak governments in the Sahel and Maghreb, Islamic militants will continue to have safe havens at their disposal in these regions. The lack of an effective central government in Somalia will continue to make it the source of instability in East and Horn of Africa. The problem of Islamist ideology and enterprises will therefore continue to trouble the African Continent until a comprehensive strategy is adopted.

Author: Yonas Dembele Commissioned by World Watch Research (WWR), Open Doors International, Netherlands

For the full document, please click here