AFRICA DEBATE: What attracts young Africans to militant groups?

Boko Haram Leader

Boko Haram Leader

Taking on from an article published by the BBC, it has become obvious that Islamist militants have established a significant foothold in parts of Africa in recent years.

But what is the appeal of radicalism to young men in the continent and its diaspora? Africa has moved on a great deal from its image as a continent ravaged by wars and internecine rivalries. The last decade has seen many countries enjoy the twin boon of political stability and sustained economic growth.

But, amid this backdrop of positive developments, unrest caused by Islamist militants has become a recurring theme.

In Nigeria – the continent’s most populous country – militant group Boko Haram has waged a terror campaign in recent years.

The wave of bombings that have plagued the country since 2010 recently prompted the country’s President, Goodluck Jonathan, to declare a state of emergency in the three north-eastern states where the group has been most active.

Nearby Mali is in the grip of an unprecedented political crisis after a coup in March 2012 created a political vacuum that enabled Islamist rebel factions, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), to seize control of much of the north.

bodies in kanoThat prompted France and a number of African nations to send thousands of troops in a bid to secure the country.

And, with Somali insurgent group al-Shabab mounting attacks in neighbouring Kenya and Uganda, some international commentators have expressed fears about a so-called arc of instability stretching across North Africa and the Sahel, from Mauritania in the west of the continent through Niger to Somalia in the east.

So, what appeal do such militant groups hold for young men and boys?

In Kaduna, northern Nigeria, one 32-year-old who did not want to be named, suggested that the lure of financial rewards rather than political ideology make it tempting to join Boko Haram.

Explaining that life had been “difficult” since he graduated from a business administration course seven years ago, he told the BBC: “I’ve been trying to get a job. It’s been so difficult and the government isn’t helping.

“I feel so devastated that sometimes I feel like doing something bad.

“I thought of joining Boko Haram so that I might be lucky to be granted amnesty – then I would enjoy the same things the Niger Delta militants enjoyed when they were granted amnesty. At least with that I could get a job.

“The rate of unemployment is a threat to security.”

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

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