Radicalization in the Francophone Space PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ahmedou Ould - Abdallah, President, www.Centre4s.org   
Tuesday, 14 June 2016 01:57


Conference on the fight against terrorism and preventing violent radicalization

Paris, 6 to 8 June 2016,






A few observations


I have often wondered if terrorism were not an itinerant phenomenon. In other words, a mutant that moves from one continent to another and from one country to others.


In the 1960s, the Tupamaros brought turmoil to Latin America, then the Red Brigades did the same in Italy, the Baader Band in Germany and the Red Army in Japan. Thereafter, the Middle East and Asia regions have followed with their own brands of terrorists. Then it was Africa turn but in regional stages: Eastern, Northern, and now, the Sahel Sahara area.


There is, it seems, another specificity of terrorism. Terrorists were those radicals throwing bombs and shooting to kill soldiers and much more innocent civilians. Sentenced for terms in prisons for their murderous activities, these terrorists often appear, a few years later, as official guests of the very countries on which they had once inflicted severe human and material damages.


Therefore, the first point I want to make is that the question of terrorism is so complex that there is a need to know exactly what is discussed when addressing it. Facing such a controversial and passionate problem, the United Nations General Assembly, after years of debate and negotiation, ended up with an inventory of, not one, but 142 definitions of terrorism.


The second point to make is that since September 11, 2001, the whole debate on terrorism has fundamentally changed. Terrorism has taken on a global dimension as it seeks, through the use of armed violence, the appropriation of a religion and a culture to impose one system the world over. Hence the current turn of tragic events.


In this new context, what is the situation, especially in the Francophonie member states? Moreover, how much courage and how long it will take to stop the spiral of the losses of lives as well as the deconstruction of institutions and therefore of states?


The Francophonie and armed violence


An insidious radicalization, the basis of future recruitment for armed violence, is taking roots, day after day, throughout the whole Sahel. It affects the free movements and the security of peoples as it also undermines the safety of their territorial space.


Still, I believe that violent extremism has other causes, much deeper, than the mere religious factor.


In this regard, it is common to mention the following causes: the weak level of the education systems and the rapid and chaotic urbanization that facilitates excess behaviors in an almost total anonymity. The massive youth unemployment is often pointed to as another cause and so is the fast spread of information technology that provides a fast communication tool accessible to all. In addition, outside sources of funding, sometimes under the guise of charitable activities, are frequently mentioned.


The consensus around the causes of the gradual radicalization of societies, and not only that of the younger people, has however another explanation. It is called bad governance.


Rich, spiritually talking, and affiliated for centuries to great Sufi brotherhoods, the Sahel populations are known to be resilient and ascetic. Poverty does not push them towards radicalism. Several other factors do. These include primarily the perception and the reality of widespread injustice, the unpunished scourge of corruption and the gradual return to tribalism. All these factors weaken the authority of the states. All encourage, in minds, the rooting of radicalism as the '' solution ''.


 To many citizens, the state has, outside the official ceremonies, become an unassuming fiction. In more than one case, the fiction has turned into an informal state. But often a little feared state barely required for assistance and rarely respected by its citizens.


International indifference, and at best an unconvincing penchant for the status quo, limits the external pressures and actions conducive to a wider democratic space.


With few exceptions, governing political parties have, long ago, ceased to be a bridge between the people and their leaders. The opposition groups, due to the rare possibility of peaceful alternation to power, often turn to empty. They are increasingly supplanted by civil society organizations not yet recuperated by the authorities. Finally, believing themselves freed from the fear of a military coup, the national leaderships prepare, without necessarily wanting or knowing it, the bed of radical extremism.


Under the bored or indifferent eyes of the international community, the rise and the gradual entrenchment of violent extremism, find strength in that indigent governance.


Governance and jihadism


Almost two decades after the 2000 Bamako Declaration in favor of democracy, the OIF should again revisit the scene so as to demonstrate its relevance and also the need to update its content or modus operandi. That also is the same for the Saint Boniface Declaration 2006 on human security and conflict prevention.


 The struggle for a sound management of national resources, and against the marginalization of minorities and border areas populations, calls for responsible governance. Indeed the main ally of the jihadist, and also its best stimulus, remains poor governance.


Governance that helps to end the lawless gray areas remains the foundation of peace and prosperity. The notable decline in the quality of education and justice systems and the unhealthy practices in the economy discredit governments and fuel the violent extremism propaganda.


While, since Bamako, significant progress was made in the areas of human rights and freedom of expression, large gaps remain. That is the case especially of the political systems that are still lacking transparency in states management.


Relying only on their own resources, many countries do not have the capacity to deal with the ability and determination of radical movements. Acting, sometimes in cooperation with operators involved in various forms of trafficking, including in cigarettes and drugs, these radical groups often have the upper hand when confronting some of the seasoned security forces.


Fighting rebellions requires the use, or at least the threat of the use of police and army. However, to be most effective, a national army has to fulfill a number of conditions. Above all, it must be truly national, i.e. professional with recruitments and promotions based mainly on merit. People as well as soldiers must be able to recognize themselves in such an institution that reflects their own identities. The army would then able to guarantee the sustainability of the Nation. External military allies must help in this area.


However, even well trained, socially well integrated and well-equipped, an army can at best contain a terrorist threat. It can rarely destroy it. By sporadic actions, residual terrorism cells can always still manage to inflict great damage to a country.


More than elsewhere, in the Sahel, regional military alliances are essential to combat extremists. The problem is that it will take time and resources to establish or re-establish confidence between different national military establishments and also to agree on their operational priorities. By itself, this objective implies that responsible governance knows how to delegate tasks to those who are in charge of designing and executing them.


Finally, convinced that they are acting in the sense of History, extremists, especially the jihadists, believe that time is on their side. Austerity they apply to their budgets and to its execution, expose them to less stress than regular armies often mired in spending of dubious transparency.


To emerge victorious, governments must broaden their political base and thus their own legitimacy. Better governance in the principles, but more specifically in practice, is the best ingredient against violent extremism. 



Based in Nouakchott, the Centre’s area of intervention is the band of land stretching from Mauritania down to Guinea along the Atlantic coast and, across the savannah, to Chad and Sudan. The main issues it ADDRESSES are: defense and security of the Sahel Sahara; armed violence and terrorism; competition for oil, gas and uranium; irregular migrations within and outside the region; trafficking in human, cigarettes, drugs, etc; environmental and renewable energies. The main priority is to help the region and its international partners – public and private, as well as those from Civil Society organizations, Universities, Forums, and others Groups, to collaborate further in order to ensure security and prosperity of the Sahel.  

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