Accepted Paper:

The birth of a Jihadi rural state on Lake Chad : Al Barnawi's ISWAP from theology to practice  


Vincent Foucher (CNRS)

Paper short abstract:

Using control of the natural resources of Lake Chad, Jihadi organisation ISWAP has built links to civilians, producing some form of statehood and drawing resources for its military successes. This process however comes with contradictions.

Paper long abstract:

Boko Haram has long been torn up by internal tensions. The greater pushback by the Nigerian state and allies from 2015 weakened the legitimacy of Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau, giving dissenters an occasion to break away under the flag of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP). Right after breaking away, ISWAP took over the area of Lake Chad, a vast rural area with prime resources - grazing lands, fertile land and fish. ISWAP has thought of itself, and has presented itself as more gentle than Shekau to civilians and to internal dissenters. It has claimed this more moderate attitude was theologically more correct. This paper, based on interviews with civilians familiar with the Lake and persons formerly associated with ISWAP, intends to explore the governance experience of ISWAP. There is ample evidence that ISWAP has behaved more gently than Shekau's faction. It has progressively become able to provide some services beyond gatekeeping the Lake resources. It is clear that this attitude has been politically more expedient, playing a part in ISWAP's consolidation of new networks and more solid resource bases, which have translated in greater military success. There are, however, some significant contradictions and tensions in ISWAP's governance - fine-tuning coercion is not easy, and trying to be more collegial can make it difficult to maintain coherence.

Panel Pol18
The rural frontiers of Jihad: militant careers, political economies and network governance in West and Central Africa