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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