Why extremist militias are on the rise in the West African Sahel | DW News

published on July 9, 2020

The Sahel is dry hot and vast so it'sdifficult to govern and that providesroom for criminals who've traffickedpeople weapons and drugs for yearsstill it was once safe enough to hostart and musical festivals and motorsportevents now much of it is a danger zone

The conflict that is more widely knownfrom the Sahel is the Boko Haraminsurgency in the lake Chad basin that'sin its tenth year now with the group andits splinter factions still posing astubborn threat

Further west another potent challengethere's j'ni m which is linked with alQaeda and its rival is G s the localaffiliate of the so-called Islamic stateboth are active in Mali Burkina Faso andNisha since 2016 attacks on civilians

And the military in these countries haveincreased fivefold the UN says theviolence has left 5 million children inthe Sahel needing humanitarian aidregional leaders and their internationalpartners have largely employed an armed

Response which they plan to expandFrance is leading the way but on theground not many support this formercolonial power in Mali there are 15,000UN peacekeepers but with a limited scopewhile they can put on a show of force

Their mandate does not allow them to goon the offensive and fight the armedgroups France has pushed for localaction and backed a multinational forceby the affected Nations is called g5Sahel made up of troops from Mauritania

Mali Burkina FasoNisha and Chad but some donors have notdelivered on funding and others are notconvinced that this force is thesolutionMolly's government has struggled in the

Battlefield and now it thinks a moreeffective option might be to sit downand talk things out with the extremistleaders this despite opposition fromFrance but with limited militarystrength and a feeble track record of

Development the government appearscornered and desperate much like itsneighboursnow Molly has been most affected by thecrisis and it's the country where it allbegan in 2012 separatists and groups

Linked to al-qaeda took over thenorthern part of the country militaryefforts to flush the mouse wereunsuccessful and now barely a decadelater armed groups are popping up inother parts of Mali today much of the

Conflict has been between the country'stwo dominant ethnic groups the MuslimFulani and the Dogon thus anew refugeecamp on the outskirts of Mali's capitalBamako around 200 hunts for about athousand people seeking safety from

Attacks by the Dogon people in the eastof the country the refugees are fullerherdsmen mostly Muslims like ZakariaDiallo the hatred between the fula andthe Dogon peoples runs deep thistroubles acharya Diallo there was a

Dispute in mandarin then they talked itout but now the evil in our midst hasreached the village children their ownparents can no longer influence them theyoung people have taken up arms also thesoldiers don't draw distinctions anymore

Every single fool a child they see theyregard as a jihadi seeing Muslimchildren as jihadis it's a widespreadattitude among soldiers and the societyhere regarding an entire ethnic group asthe enemy it's hard to know why it

Started on the Dogon side of town asimilar picture emerges they feel caughtin a spiral of violence after massacresin their villages they too wereinternally displaced and forced to fleewho knew telly lost everything she now

Depends on handouts they killed tenpeople in a single day the next day theykilled five on the third day they cameback and took our livestock cattle goatseverything in the name the people ofMali are not just afraid for their lives

They're fed up with the weak economy agovernment they see as corrupt teacherswho don't teach tens of thousands havetaken to the streets Muslim clericrotten wood nickel is a leading memberof the Opposition exactly what we've

Denounced we can't be complacent aboutthe government leaders who got us intothis situation it has to stop the headof state is mainly responsible MahmoudEko is someone who may be able to helpthe international community bring peace

To Malithe French army and UN troops includingsome from Germany's armed forces cannotachieve it on their own at the tablewith me now is Tommy or ladee PO he'sour resident expert on extremism on the

Continent Tommy it's good to see you wehave just seen a report about thesituation of Mali we know that this is abroader situation in the region that isdeteriorating how did we get here wellit's complex and Mali has had these

Problems for a long time has hadsecurity problems particularly in thenorth there has been a disconnect a kindof lack of understanding between thegovernment in Bamako and people in thenorth of the country who where there's a

Lot of inequality and there have beengroups there for many years who havebeen clamoring for even autonomy butthose issues those socio-politicalissues have now been overshadowed oreven overlap with these jihadist

Problems we're seeing today because it'svolatile they've been arms and so jihadigroups have seen it fit that this is thekind of environment they can operate inand that's why they have come in but theproblem is that unlike the groups

Clamouring for autonomy you cannot sitdown or at least conventionally sit downwith jihadist groups and try and debateand try and negotiate a way forward okayTobythese extremist groups they've they've

Been growing stronger over the lastdecade how have they been able to dothis well they have the space in in inthe north of Mali or at least across theSahel at many parts of the Sahel theyhave the space they have the difficult

Terrain they have the the problems wherepeople there's a lot of poverty and sopeople are not necessarily against thempeople are not necessarily for thegovernment that the residents of theseareas and so these jihadists can play on

Those sentiments as well to get allieswithin communities because they have apresence everywhere you know even knowthese places sometimes better than thegovernment does and so they're able tooperate I carry out hit-and-run attacks

Against against the government againstthe military and that way they can notbe found and so it's a very difficultproblem and and what they've then doneis that as they build their spreadthey're also playing on for example

Ethnic elements a you know dealing withdifferent ethnic groups and playing oncertain those hatreds we see betweencertain groups and playing on that andthat then sort of gets them more supportand more more of a spread across this

Region so we've seen this problem movefrom Mali from the north of Mali go downto the center central parts of Maliacross the border into Burkina Faso evenseeing the edge of Ivory Coast is beingattacked at the moment so that shows

Just how delicate this is but havingsaid all of that right this is not justan Africa problem if you look past theMiddle East if you look past what'shappening for example in Syria the Sahelis the other major hotspot for terror

And the rest of the world is worriedthat the main world powers are worriedand that's why for example if you lookat the peace peaking peacekeepingmission in Mali that's the only one thathas attracted some of the world's top

Powers you're talking about the Dutchyou're talking about the Germans who'vegot massive contingents in there becausethey want to use that as a way of getintelligence for example we see theFrench obviously have have got their

Thousands of troops in the Sahel as wellthe US has built a drone base in Asiaand is operating there so for examplerecently we saw the French army kill atop commander of al Qaeda in northernMali and they used American intelligence

To do that so we see that a lot of thesecountries are worried that this is notjust a problem happening somewhere overthere far away but this is the problemthat can spiral and breed jihadis whocan come in and and be a threat on their

Own Shores and so the world is worriedabout this but this is the phenomenonthat's not just limited to the Sahelwe're seeing the rise of jihadism EastAfrica the Horn of Africa we're seeingeven in southern Africa for example

South of Tanzania north of Mozambiquethat area has also become a breedingground for jihadists and late you'veseen the the Mozambican jihadists goingon the rampage to a point wave and thegovernment they're shrugging and is

Looking for outside help all rightTomi illegible as ever our residentexpert on extremism on the continentthank you for that thank youthere are thousands of jihadi fightersin the region and that brings us to the

Question were asking today why are somany young people being lured into thesemilitant groups in a moment we'll hearfrom a former fighter about his personalreasons but first have a listen to whatother people in Africa think I think

Every team boils down to poverty theyare reportedly treated nicely by thesegroups they use urban negligence theIslamic notion of fire jeez it'sunemployment frustration Prentiss filledin your responsibilities young people

Feel that they are being left out theyare not being held we traced the andignorance education there's ignorant ofwhat the religion is all about becauseof lack of understanding of what thetournament of Islam is they don't know

The right in the adream because theBible said my people very because theluck at wisdom I don't know I don't denyof resources or on equal distribution ofthe national cake extrajudicial killingis the driver to take you to join this

Malicious group is because ofunemployment in Kenya we have manyeducated people an example exhibit a Iam a degree holder I have friends whoare doctors accountants who arearchitects engineers who are unemployed

So the voices of people there now we goto Mombasa Kenya where we miss a formeral-shabaab fighter who's now turned hislife aroundwe hear in his own words why he gotinvolved with the jihadists in the first

PlaceMohammedan boo Fort nearly two years forthe terrorist group the former Christianconverted to Islam and went to Somaliaas a foreign fighter now he speaks outfor the first time about his

Radicalization and how he got away fromal-shabaab for security reasons we needto cover his real identitypoverty I come from it's a bit hush likeyou see you have kids they don't go toschool you eat like one meal a day a

Major issue that disturbing youth thereis unemployment lack of jobs drugaddiction you know stealing because theyI don't have jobs do you have to justsit around wait for whatever will come aterrorist recruiter promised Mohammed

$500 monthly to fight in Somalia heaccepted like many others he saw hisrecruitment as a job the only way toflee from poverty Mohammed was thentrained in Mombasa and sent to Somaliayou know when you start to shoot the

Adrenaline comes into the body you startto shoot even at the dog at the carteven shoot at a woman there's one time Iremember there was a pregnant from awoman the woman was dead I could see ababy crying mommy mommy mommy mommy

Ask myself is this rightMohammed managed to escape al-shabaabbut he was wounded back in Kenya he wasgiven amnesty Mohammed is now supportingthe authorities that was the maincondition for his amnesty he now wants

Others about the risks there is nothinglike holy war in the Quran find a goodshare I will teach you and fast stayaway from people who you might think youknow a Muslim and they have money butyou don't know where the income comes

From but as long as poverty prevailsthere will be young Africans who followthe call of money I'm now joined by mutaru mo moany Mukti he's from the WestAfrican center of counter extremism andhe joins me from the Ghanaian capital

Accra welcome to DW news Africa we'vebeen hearing that poverty is one of themain reasons young people are joiningterror groups do you think then that theresponse to the crisis from governmentsand other partners is too militaristic

And not addressing the real problem wellthe problem power of terrorism in Africagenerally it's a product of or amanifestation of the frustrations andanguish of youth who have generally lostfaith in their states and the state's

Ability to ensure they provide alegitimate means of livelihood for themyou see a significant number of youngpeople who are unemployed you knowaffected by several other challenges andso poverty is one of the single biggest

Fattest but it's not the whole story theother factors that lead immediatelyrelate to dysfunctional societies peoplewho come from dysfunctional socialbackgrounds you know complemented byissues of poverty unemployment you know

Inequality andnegative religious or political idealsso poverty it's just one of them and soto successfully counter terrorism orthis current wave of violent extremismwe need to ensure we have a holistic you

Know comprehensive approach to dealingwith the drivers of radicalization andviolent extremism right so another thingis for for the for the young fighterswho do return to society there is thisconversation about do we give them

Amnesty or or do we just concentrate onrehabilitating them and withoutnecessarily imposing punitive measuresie prison where do you stand on thatwell no any one particular case is asame you know every single case is

Unique and so for you to ensure I meanto provide amnesty for in a so-calledrepentant you know fighters we need toanalyze case by case basis there areindividuals we need to assess them todetermine what they would still pose a

Threat to society when they are put backinto society you need to ensure you turnthoroughly examine this in order toavoid you know escalating the problemseven when you undergo amnesty programsand so it has to be determined by

Case-by-case depending on the profile ofthe individual or individuals involvedbut yes it's important to ensure that wetake people to amnesty rehabilitationthe radicalization program a kind ofprogram that helps revise or reverse the

Outlook in life and ensure that wepractically enhance the ability to fendfor themselves in terms of learningskills you know empowerment skills thatcan you know provide livelihoods forthem when they get back into society so

What does it take to rehabilitatesomebody we often quote things likereintegrating people into society butfrom the work that you're doing which iswhat you do on a daily what does it taketo actually rehabilitate somebody and

Put them back into society you firstneed to analyze the presence assess theperson's own vulnerabilities and thefact that that led the person to thatpoint and once you're able to determinewas it as a reserve

Of negative religious ideals versus as alot of poverty is as a result of a senseof marginalization or inequality ordysfunctional social factors in thissociety once we were to determine thatyou go back you know you went back was

To reverse that trend to ensure that heis adequately put in the position wherehe can positively participate in societyso this young guy 21 years we had to gothrough his you know his past and assessthis factors we realized that through

The geological ization process he wascommitted and willing to go back toschool we helped him go back to schoolwe paid for his schooling and everythingrelated to schooling two years afterthat he graduated from school and is

Currently working in journalism with themedia house that is what it means to getsomebody positively back into society toensure that they are positivecontributors to society the localizationis a very complex task that that

Requires discipline to totally examineeach individual's keys to be able to getthem possibly back into society if youdon't get this right you are actuallyundermining and putting this generalsociety at risk

Okay that is muchas room una multa he'sfrom the West African center of counterextremism thank you so much for yourinsights and of course we continue tohope that your work continues that morepeople will be brought back into society

Successfully thank you and as always wewould love to hear your thoughts on thistopic if you're watching this onlinewrite in the comments section or you canget in touch with me directly my twitterhandle is at mundo seven

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