Accepted Paper:

Militant and defectors trajectories in Jihadi rural insurgencies of Central Sahel (Central Mali, Mali Niger-Border)  


Julien Gavelle (CASOA)
Jean-Herve Jezequel (University of Bordeaux)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores logics of militant engagement and defection within Jihadi groups as well as forms of local governance that Jihadi groups project on territories. The paper focusses on different Katiba or Jihadi groups of Central Sahel, more specifically Central Mali and the Mali-Niger Border.

Paper long abstract:

In the first part, this paper explores the way individuals chose to join (or are coerced into) Jihadi groups in different insurgency spots of Central Sahel (more specifically Central Mali and the Mali-Niger Border). Although it stresses how reconstructing individual trajectories help understand the complexity and diversity of militant engagements, it also raises questions about the limitations of field interviews as the exclusive or dominant source/methodology to make sense of Jihadi militancy. It points at the crucial need to re-contextualize individual trajectories into longer and broader historical dynamics to make sense of Jihadi recent expansion in central Sahel. Avoiding the clich├ęs of Jihadi barbaric terror, the paper also explores some of the dilemmas that jihadi groups face with both intending to deploy their specific national/transnational agenda and trying to strengthen their local, recent and still fragile rural roots. Trajectories of voluntary membership or forced integration must also be analyzed in the light of these alternative governance processes and social and security regulation services that are proposed in these katibas to fill state failures or the weakening of traditional legitimacy. But listening to renegades and defectors formerly volunteers who run away from these katiba reveals just as much a disappointed range of expectations as the often multiple motivations that cross these initial adhesions including for example quests for more autonomy still unfulfilled or the desire to strengthen the micro-territorial sovereignty of the chiefdoms of origin of these militant.

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