Understanding insurgent margins in Kenya, Nigeria and Mali

Understanding insurgent margins in Kenya, Nigeria and Mali

In recent years, violent insurgency has gripped the margins of Kenya, Mali and Nigeria. Militant Islamist groups have attacked civilian populations, state security personnel and political-administrative officials, spreading insecurity across large areas and exploiting the mistrust between societies at the margins and central authorities. More attention needs to be focused on the role of local political, economic and social conditions in the areas where attacks are taking place, and a long-term solution to addressing violence in each country must involve resolving long-standing political grievances, a legacy of past state violence towards minority populations, and intra-regional inequality.

Recommendations: In order to strengthen security and understand and address the violent insurgency taking place in these countries there needs to be:

  • greater sensitivity within analysis and policy responses to intra-regional inequality
  • increased attention focused on the ‘localisation of jihad’ rather than the broader global Islamic agenda, and how conflict is rooted in a longer struggle at the margins against forms of marginalisation and repression, which exist alongside various provincial rivalries and divisions
  • more initiatives that promote bottom-up inclusive development that reach out to marginalised regional, religious and ethnic groups and address issues of inequality
  • concerted efforts to make the most of considerable opportunities in new governance arrangements including devolution to address both historic as well as emerging drivers of conflict and violence such as land and resource rights, and the radicalisation of young people
  • an urgent move towards placing civilian protection at the core of security responses. Heavy-handed security approaches that appear to rely on ethnic or religious profiling, and abuses by the security forces including unlawful killings and house-to-house sweeps, risk even worse violence


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