Jihadi insurgencies in the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin are now based in rural areas, kept away from the cities by the security response. The panel examines the traits and sustainability of the frontier societies the Jihadis have tried to create in these areas.
Stronger security responses have kept West African Jihadi movements away from core urban areas. In the Sahel, Jihadis have expanded beyond their initial presence in northern Mali, growing roots in rural areas from central Mali to Burkina Faso and Niger. They have exploited local grievances and disorders to promote rural insurgencies, drawing from various communities and developing forms of local governance, from security and education to land-use management. As for Boko Haram, it broke up as a result of the 2015 pushback from the Nigerian state and its allies, but has kept fighting from its rural strongholds. From the Sambisa forest and Gwoza hills, Abubakar Shekau has maintained an organisation based on extreme sectarianism, plunder and capture. The other faction, the Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP), has taken another direction, spreading networks beyond its Lake Chad stronghold. Not without contradictions, it has recreated a resource base by taxing and exerting social control while offering economic opportunities, health and education services and dispute management to communities. This panel intends to bring researches on the forms taken by West African Jihadi insurgencies, how they navigate the web formed by local communities, how they recruit and govern. Are Jihadi groups the latest form of frontier societies described by Igor Kopytoff as typical of the longue durée of West African history? Can they produce new societies and identities or are they fatally flawed, doomed to crumble under the weight of their own contradictions, of the local power games and of counter-insurgency?