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Framing ‘the Jihad’ through Epistemic Disobedience: re-theorising causality and response to Islamist movements in West Africa.
Parts of West Africa from 2009 have witnessed a resurgence of Jihadist movements. This has led to warnings that Africa could be the “new front” in the post-9/11 ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWoT). Consequently, Jihadism in the region has attracted a lot of interests from various security actors. Despite this, there is still a lack of clarity in explaining the relevance of key causal factors—historical, socio-economic, geopolitical and ideational. This lack of clarity has important implications for the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism responses of both external actors and African governments. This project therefore rethinks Jihadist insurgencies in West Africa from two deconstructive, critical theoretical perspectives: Decoloniality and Critical Security Studies. The project uses a comparative study of the Nigerian insurgency “Boko Haram” and Mali’s Ansar ad-Deen to present a position that critically explains the causes of Jihadism in West Africa towards a more effective African response. The project relies on primary data from key informant/participant interviews, archival materials, secondary literature and ancillary sources. This data is interpreted using discourse analysis.
My project is important because it seeks to address a number of gaps in the current representation of Jihadist movements in West Africa. Current explanations of the nature and rise of Jihadism in West Africa have tended to ‘outsource’ the causes of this phenomenon to the Middle East through dominant “logics” of the GWoT. Critical counter-positions that seek to challenge dominant positions also appear to be somewhat reactionary and also overlook important dynamics. This lack of clarity defocuses the diagnosis of Jihadism in West Africa as it obscures the exact demarcations between local-global dynamics, material-ideological factors and historical-contemporary contexts. In the end, local African agency in the analysis of cause and response is largely denied, and policy responses that fundamentally derive from the local conditions of the African subject remain largely unexplored. Through challenging existing notions of Jihadism in West Africa, this project also addresses the social and political implications associated with hegemonic representations of Jihadism in Africa.