An Architecture of Complexity: The Challenges of Radicalization of Islam and Islamization of Radicalism in Western Sahel

Violent extremism and Jihadism in Western Sahel are the result of interlocking conflicts. Civil strife and regional (or global) conflict form a nexus. Conflict becomes intractable. And the inability of government to resolve normal social tensions, let alone the challenges caused by the effects of climate change, youth unemployment, poverty and food insecurity, make them open to intervention by outside players motivated more by geopolitical calculations than local concerns. Foreign players can be divided in two main categories.

Firstly, Jihadists, by exploiting local situations, can make civil strife more deadly than their own actions. Secondly, global powers use Africa as a surrogate terrain for their global power play. As this paper argues, this architecture of complexity leads to the conclusion that there is no one terrorism in the Sahel but many and each requires a different approach. By the same token, the theoretical debate about whether we are witnessing a radicalization of Islam or an Islamization of Radicalism is irrelevant. This paper argues that there a continuum between the two extremes.

Marcel Kitissou

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Reflections on living and dying nations: Space and time in Africa geopolitcs

Reflections on living and dying nations: Space and time in Africa geopolitcs

International Journal of African Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, March 2021, pp. 14-23.

Marcel Kitissou


This paper is a reflection on the influence of time and space on Africa in geopolitics. It proposes that, while history, in the long-run is perceived as linear, in the short-term it is granular. To make sense of events, one must connect the dots between cluster of times. The analysis builds on the May 1898 statement of the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Lord Salisbury, assessing the geopolitics of his time as made of living nations and dying nations. He characterized the living nations as having the tendency to encroach on the territory of the dying ones. The statement implies a combination of geography and a reference to biological processes with implication of space and the vicissitudes of time involved. The processes of living and dying take time and imply occupying a space. As the living states encroach on the territory of the dying, borders become, beyond their internationally recognized physical demarcations, breathing, and living entities with expanding (or shrinking) virtual borders. This concept is referred to as peri-corporal space in the paper. To test this hypothesis, the United States’ international influence and the global status China now enjoys are analyzed. Also, the de facto Franco-African state (Françafrique lost its legitimacy due to a combination of events in the 1990s), as a typical case, is used to illustrate when, why, and how the expansion of one nation’s virtual border reduces the margin of action of other states.

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EndSARS Protest: More than a Call for Security Sector Reform in Nigeria?

By Maurice Ogbonnaya

Shortly after Nigeria’s 60th Independence Anniversary celebration on October 1, 2020, nationwide protests fueled by demands to reform a dreaded unit of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), broke out in several major cities across the country. Largely staged by the youth, and trending on social media, the #EndSARS protests started on October 5, 2020 following the killing of a young man in Ughelli, Delta State by operatives of SARS. By October 10, 2020, the street protests had spread across the country. The protests have also gone global with solidarity protests held in Accra, Frankfurt, London, Toronto, and Washington DC,1 attracting Nigerians in the diaspora and persons of note, including music and sports stars like Wizkid, Drake, Kanye West, Mesut Özil, and Alexander Iwobi,2 among others, demanding an end to police brutality in Nigeria.

The protests are the result of pent up frustrations following years of human rights violations, extortion, torture, brutality, and extra-judicial killings by SARS operatives and the police in general. Established as a special unit of the NPF under the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) in September 1992, SARS was formed to investigate, detain, and prosecute people suspected of involvement in high caliber crimes such as armed robbery, motor vehicle theft, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and illegal possession of firearms. In 2018, its operational jurisdiction was expanded to include cybercrime.3

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Deconstructing the Westernization of Africa: Pawn or Player in Global History?

This is a presentation by Marcel Kitissou at a symposium organized by the Department of Africana Studies at the University at Albany on October 23, 2019 in commemoration of “400 Years of Inequity” and of the celebration of the Department’s 50th anniversary. The main argument of the presentation is that, without the West, Africa would be less westernized (or at least in its own terms) but certainly more modernized. In Africa south of the Sahara, unlike any other parts of the world, the colonizer “decolonized” but never left. Therefore, “westernization,” as can be observed today, is not a free choice. With the constant presence, and constant control by the West (Francophone Africa particularly), Africa is more westernized than modernized. Westernization, in its current form in Africa, is likely to perpetuate dependency and prevent Africa from being a global power player as was the case in the past. Read more at

Deconstructing the Westernization of Africa

Lessons from countering the corona virus for war and violence – containment, common security and cooperation.

Lessons from countering the corona virus for war and violence –
containment, common security and cooperation

Andreas Herberg-Rothe



The initial measures against the spread of the new corona-virus could be summarized by one word – containment of the virus and hindering its spreading.

The world is engulfed in the ‘Corona Virus’ pandemic. As national health
systems are being stretched to their limits, countries are closing their
borders, banning travel, and isolating themselves…all in an
international co-operative strategy to contain its spread and eliminate
this pandemic.

Andreas Herberg-Rothe sees valuable lessons in this international
co-operation to be used to contain war and violence. Taking a leaf out
of the broad ‘containment theory’ articulated by the late George Kennan
in an anonymous article published in 1947 in the FP magazine, Andreas
proposes a containment strategy for the world from the scourge of
terrorism, religious fanaticism, and wars for world dominance (both
proxy as well as interventions). This strategy for ‘common security’ can
succeed only if it respects pluralism of cultures, religions, and social
M Matheswaran.

The complex nature of conflicts in Africa needs to be considered in the design of better projects.


Rooting out corruption in the security sector will help the country address its growing terror threat.


Despite massive expenditure by the Nigerian government over the past decade, counter-terrorism operations by security forces have achieved limited success and the country is still ranked on the Global Terrorism Index as one of the states most affected by terrorism. Is the problem one of bad policy, strategy and tactics, or is corruption in the leadership ranks of the security forces also to blame?

It is estimated that terror groups have killed over 30 000 people in Nigeria since 2003, causing the displacement of more than 2.4 million people. These groups include Boko Haram, operating in the Lake Chad Basin region, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) and Ansaru, also called al-Qaeda in the Lands Beyond the Sahel.

In December 2019, ISWAP beheaded 11 Christian hostages to avenge the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by United States forces. In January this year the group killed the chairman of the Adamawa State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Lawan Andimi. It also kidnapped three university lecturers in Yola in eastern Nigeria, and carried out several coordinated attacks in Borno State.

Nigeria’s government allocated over N6.7 trillion to the security sector between 2010 and 2017 to strengthen its capacity for counter-terrorism operations. This amount doesn’t include extra budgetary allocations such as the US$1 billion the government borrowed in 2013 to fund counter-terrorism operations and the US$21 million approved for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in June 2015.

The secrecy surrounding military spending for counter-terrorism encourages misappropriation

Despite increased money for the security sector, counter-terrorism operations by the Nigerian military in collaboration with multilateral agencies such as the MNJTF of the Lake Chad Basin Commission have achieved limited success. The military did for a time succeed in pushing terrorist groups out of major cities, as was seen when the frequency of attacks in urban centres dropped between late 2015 and early 2018.

However, terror groups found operational bases in the large civilian populations in rural and remote areas from where they launched a barrage of attacks on poorly secured villages, military units and critical state infrastructure. After suffering a ‘technical defeat’ by the military in three local government areas in Borno State, a resurgence by extremists has given them control of these regions.

Why are Nigeria’s counter-terrorism operations failing? Some say it’s because of strategic and tactical imprecision due to poor intelligence and rivalry among security agencies involved in the operations. However, evidence suggests that corruption in counter-terrorism operations in Nigeria may also be to blame.

Conflict entrepreneurs within the hierarchy of military leadership and the ministries, departments and agencies in the security sector apparently use military funds meant for counter-terrorism operations to enrich themselves. Military spending is usually not audited due to its sensitive nature. The secrecy that surrounds it encourages misappropriation.

Unless conflict entrepreneurs are stopped, terrorism will continue in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin

Examples include the probe into the alleged diversion of US$2.1 billion meant for arms procurement by the Office of the National Security Adviser, and another N3.9 billion by the office of the Chief of Defence Staff, both in 2015.

In 2017, US$43 million cash meant for covert operations by the National Intelligence Agency was discovered in a private building in Lagos. And in 2018 there were investigations into US$1 billion that went missing after being appropriated to the Nigerian Army for arms procurement from the Excess Crude Account.

Conflict entrepreneurs in the security sector also allegedly operate through the award of fictitious procurement contracts, and illegal extra-military activities such as extortion and collusion with militants in illegal fishing in the Lake Chad area.

These activities undermine effective security force action by hollowing out the military’s capabilities. For instance, because they don’t procure by approval, and sometimes procurements aren’t even made, the military may be lacking in weapons and logistics, making it difficult to adequately counter terrorism.

Corruption has undermined effective security force action by hollowing out the military’s capabilities

Despite huge financial allocations for arms procurement and logistics supplies, military sources blame the death of 83 soldiers in a 2016 Boko Haram ambush and a similar 2018 attack on the 157 Task Force Battalion in Metele, Borno State, on equipment shortfalls, poor weapons and logistics supplies, and low morale among combatant officers, who sometimes aren’t paid. Over 118 soldiers including the battalion commander died in the attack.

This failure of counter-terrorism operations may account for the resurgence of terror attacks in Nigeria’s north-east, especially Borno State. And despite significant financial allocations for these efforts, the terror threat in Nigeria remains huge.

Questions need to be asked about whether counter-terrorism funding is being used wisely, and whether the operations themselves are effective. Unless Nigeria’s government stops the activities of conflict entrepreneurs, violent extremism will probably remain a major security threat in Nigeria and across the Lake Chad Basin region.

To do this, the state needs to strengthen legal and institutional frameworks for dealing with corrupt practices in the security sector, especially in counter-terrorism operations. It also needs to investigate and prosecute those who have taken advantage of their positions in the counter-terrorism campaign to enrich themselves.

Most fundamentally, a strategic change in the leadership of the military may be needed, along with a rethink of the excessive militarisation of counter-terrorism operations in the country’s north-east zone.

Maurice Ogbonnaya, Senior Research Consultant, ISS Pretoria

In South Africa, Daily Maverick has exclusive rights to re-publish ISS Today articles. For media based outside South Africa and queries about our re-publishing policy, email us.


Ouattara, Macron Announce the End of CFA Franc

In an article published in  Africa Times on December 22, 2019 by AT editor, we learned that Presidents Ouattara and Macron announced the end of the CFA franc.

Ouattara and Macron

Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, speaking alongside his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, announced the reform of the long-disputed CFA franc on Saturday, a currency that is used in eight nations in West Africa.

To read more please go click on the link below.

Below is an analysis by Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim. As a reminder, the article below represents the work of the author. It has not been reviewed by the entire Sahel Consortium and does not represent the position of the organization.

Why France Kidnapped West Africa’s Eco Currency

Jibrin Ibrahim, Deepening Democracy, Daily Trust, 27th December 2019

Last Saturday, France, through the instrumentality of their most faithful poodle in West Africa, Alasane Ouattara kidnapped the West African currency that was to be launched next year for the 15 countries in the region. In a press conference in Abidjan, Presidents Macron and Ouattara announced that the 8 West African countries using the CFA Franc currency would adopt the Eco as their new currency next year. The announcement was done the day ECOWAS was meeting for a final adoption of Eco, also decided for 2020. The French move breaks up the 30-year struggle by ECOWAS to establish a regional currency to promote trade and development. What France has done is that it takes over the responsibility of establishing and even printing the new currency and presents the other countries in the region with a fait accompli. France is also keeping the new currency attached to the Euro and therefore aligning it with its colonial interest as it has always done with the CFA. This means that the other seven West African countries can only join on conditions established by France. The implication is that Nigeria is essentially kept out of the currency because the country will not accept the conditionalities established by France.

The long delay in establishing the Eco has been caused by the inability of the 15 ECOWAS countries to meet the convergence criteria they set for themselves. These are that the inflation rate of less than 5 percent is maintained. The budget deficit is not more than 3 percent of GDP and that each country has enough foreign reserves to cover at least 3 months of imports. The problem now is after failing to meet these conditions over the past two decades, the eight countries have now adopted the currency without meeting them. This means economics has been set aside for political reasons. There are three political factors that motivated the French decision to take over the baby ECOWAS has had great difficulty in delivering.

The first reason is that over the past five years, a successful campaign has been on-going castigating the CFA Franc as the instrument through which France maintains total control over the economic affairs of its colonies – the argument being economic decolonization never occurred. The Francophone countries have to keep 50 percent of the foreign reserves permanently with the French treasury and they cannot make international transactions without going through Paris. There were demonstrations that French board members in the West African (French) Central Bank must be removed, which is the reason that France has finally agreed that it will not have direct representatives in the Eco Central Bank. What France is trying to do now is to argue that the “colonial” CFA Franc established is now dead and the Eco is a new currency that is not French controlled. It’s the biggest lie of the year.

The second political reason is related to recent developments on the war on terror in the Sahel. It will be recalled that on 11 January 2013, French warplanes attacked jihadist convoys that were advancing on Bamako, Mali’s capital. The jihadists were already in control of two thirds of Malian territory having successfully defeated and evicted the Malian army from northern Mali. Initially, the three jihadist groups involved, namely Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), its offshoot The Movement for the Oneness of Jihad (MUJAO by its French acronym) and Ansar Dine were confident that they would takeover Bamako but the French stopped them. I visited Mali shortly after and France was super popular in Mali and ordinary people were flying the French flags in their houses and cars.

Over the past few years however, France became very unpopular in the Sahel because of widespread belief that they were pretending to fight the jihadists in public but supporting them in secret. People are saying with their vast array of drones, planes and satellite cover, how are convoys of hundreds of terrorists able to drive over hundreds of kilometres and attack soldiers without warning from the French. These attacks have been happening with increasing regularity and devastating effect. President Macron has been very angry that Sahelians were criticizing his country and ordered the Presidents of the five Sahelian countries to report to Pau in southern France to be told off for not convincing their citizens that France was a good friend. The meeting which was to hold this December has been postponed to January following the killing of 71 soldiers in Niger by the jihadists. France is therefore using the Eco currency launch as a public relations gimmick to rebuild its battered image.

The third political motive for the Eco move is to ensure that Nigeria is permanently kept out of the currency. As Professor Ibrahim Gambari has always said, France has always defined itself as the main power block in Africa and so has always seen Nigeria’s self-definition as an African power as a threat to its interests. It is therefore surprising that Nigeria, which is the main target of this French action has been quiet about what is going on. Meanwhile, the French are trying to woo Ghana to join Eco so as to completely isolate Nigeria. The fact that Nigeria has closed its borders with its three Francophone neighbours also created conditions to push the Francophone countries to join this plot against Nigeria.  In this tenth year of the battle against Boko Haram in which France is a major player with troops, planes and drones on the ground, understanding the French role in West Africa is very important and my hope is that we have a strong working group following the issues.

Jibrin Ibrahim, PhD
Senior Fellow, Centre for Democracy and Development
Abuja, Nigeria



What does Russia really want from Africa?

In this article published by Africa in Focus (the Brookings Institution) on November 14, 2019, Dr. Jideofor Adibe raised several questions: “Last month’s Russia-Africa summit—the first of its kind—ended with the usual optics and photo-ops, but also spawned $12.5 billion in business deals, largely in arms and grains. Beyond the splashy show of unity and camaraderie, the summit also raised a number of questions—namely, what does Russia really want from Africa? How will Africa’s traditional allies, especially the United States, respond to Russia’s newfound love for the continent? And, does Russia have what it takes to compete with China in Africa?”

A visitor examines a Russian rocket-propelled grenade launcher RPG-29 during the Russia-Africa Economic Forum Exhibition on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa Summit and Economic Forum in the Black sea resort of Sochi, Russia, October 24, 2019. Sergei Chirikov/Pool via REUTERS - RC1A50BA75C0

and commented: “It will be simplistic to frame the just-concluded Russia-Africa summit as a copy-cat jamboree organized by Russia to latch on the bandwagon of the increasingly fashionable trend of organizing and institutionalizing Africa summits by countries like China, India, Japan, France, and the United States. The truth is that, since the 2000s, there has been a noticeable re-awakening of Russia’s interest in Africa. Indeed, between 2005 and 2015, Africa’s trade with Russia grew by 185 percent, and Russia has several reasons to engage Africa more intensely.”

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What does Russia really want from Africa?

Assessment of French Intervention in the Sahel Region, 2013-2019

In an article  published by  Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options on August 12, 2019, Hannah Richards assesses France’s military operations in the Sahel during the 2013-2019 period. The author concludes that:

“Although the overall contribution of Barkhane to the stability of the Sahel is as yet unclear, France’s military commitment remains steadfast. When viewed in the context of its historic engagement with the region, the implications of a permanent French presence are vast. As such, a nuanced understanding of the different narratives at play will be increasingly important in determining whether French intervention is ultimately regarded as a success or failure.”

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The Sahel in flames: A publication by The New Humanitarian (Formerly IRIN News)

On May 31, 2019 The New Humanitarian (formerly IRIN News) published an article that might be of interest for our readers: “The Sahel in flames.”

The article begins with these findings:

The civilian toll in numbers

  • Civilian fatalities rose 7,000 percent in Burkina Faso, 500 percent in Niger, and 300 percent in Mali compared to the previous year
  • 440,000 people displaced by conflict, a five-fold increase over the previous year
  • 1.8 million people face food insecurity
  • 5.1 million people require humanitarian assistance
  • 157 men, women, and children killed in March in one attack in Mali

To read more, click on the link below: