The United Nations (UN) has revealed that bad governance was the major force behind the rise of extremist groups around Africa, including Nigeria’s Boko Haram.
The UN also mentioned poverty and marginalization as important factors driving the radicalization of young Africans.
This was contained in a new study published on Thursday.
The study’s conclusions were arrived at following interviews of 495 former members of terrorist organisations such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram, the Shabaab in Somalia, and the Islamic State in Sudan.
According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP), 33,300 people were killed in attacks by violent extremists in Africa between 2011 and the start of 2016.
It said Boko Haram alone was responsible for at least 17,000 deaths and the displacement of more than 2.8 million people, leading to a humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region.
The two-year study stated that the most likely recruit for jihadists was “a frustrated individual, marginalised and neglected over the course of his life, starting in childhood”.
Youths faced with limited economic and job prospects combined with little trust in the government to provide opportunities, especially in remote, border areas, were likely to be susceptible to conversion, the report found.
Interestingly, the UNDP found that less than half of those interviewed cited religion as a motivating factor.
More than half (57 percent) of the voluntary recruits admitted to understanding “little to nothing of the religious texts or interpretations, or not reading religious texts at all”.
However, nearly 71 percent said government action such as the arrest or killing of a family member was often the tipping point for their decision to join.
UNDP Africa director, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, said the study’s findings should be a wake-up call for governments across the continent to improve governance for their citizens.
“Delivering services, strengthening institutions, creating pathways to economic empowerment — these are development issues.
“There is an urgent need to bring a stronger development focus to security challenges”, he stated at the launch of the report in New York.
Regardless of the initial reasons for joining jihadist groups, the study indicated that a large number of those questioned were disillusioned by their experience.
One-third of respondents said they were never paid, with some saying they never found the wife they were promised, while others ended up regretting the violence and destruction they contributed to.
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