It is the lack of jobs more than religious ideology that allows jihadist groups and other violent extremists to attract more and more recruits in sub-Saharan Africa, the UN said on Tuesday (February 7th).
The findings of this survey of nearly 2,200 men and women challenge traditional assumptions about what drives people to violent extremism, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Lack of employment
UNDP relies on interviews conducted in 2021 and early 2022 in eight countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.
Nearly 1,200 respondents are former members of violent extremist groups, including volunteer recruits.
The majority of them belonged to some of the most important groups in the region, namely Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM, JNIM in Arabic), affiliated with Al-Qaeda. .
A quarter of volunteer recruits cited lack of job opportunity as the main reason for joining, a 92% increase from the findings of a similar 2017 study
. job opportunities are lacking, desperation pushes people to seize opportunities from anyone
,” said UNDP boss Achim Steiner at a press conference.
Just under a quarter (22%) said they wanted to join family or friends.
Religion is the third reason for membership, cited by 17% of people, a decrease of 57% compared to 2017. Some 40% of those questioned then cited religion as a key factor.
In addition, nearly half of respondents mentioned a specific triggering event prompting them to join these groups with almost three-quarters (71%) citing human rights violations, often committed by state security forces. , as “
their tipping point
Increase in attacks
Deaths from terrorism have declined over the past five years worldwide but attacks in sub-Saharan Africa have more than doubled since 2016, says the UNDP, which counts 4,155 attacks from 2017 to 2021, killing more than 18,400.
In 2021, nearly half of terrorism-related deaths were in this region, with more than a third in just four countries - Somalia, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali - making sub-Saharan Africa "
the new global epicenter of violent extremism
", according to Achim Steiner.
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UNDP observes, however, that the shift of activities by violent extremist groups from the Middle East and North Africa to sub-Saharan Africa has received relatively little attention from the international community, caught up in the crisis. climate, the Covid-19 pandemic, growing authoritarianism and the war in Ukraine.
We believe that there is an urgent need to try to draw the attention of the international community (...) to better understand how violent extremist groups manage to penetrate nations, states and communities
," Achim said. Steiner.
Security-focused counterterrorism responses are often costly and ineffective.
Unfortunately, investments in preventive approaches to violent extremism are woefully insufficient
,” commented Achim Steiner.
The report recommends greater investment in basic social services, child protection, education and quality livelihoods.
It also calls for scaling up possible exit routes for recruits and investing in community-based rehabilitation and reintegration services.
It is very important to invest in incentives, which promote disengagement
,” said Nirina Kiplagat, UNDP Regional Advisor for the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Africa.
It calls on local communities to play a central role in supporting sustainable pathways out of violent extremism, alongside amnesty programs put in place by governments.