Accepted Paper:

Disentangling African Insurgent Ideologies  


Kai Thaler (Harvard University)
Jason Warner

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the different elements composing African insurgent group ideologies. We develop a matrix to classify groups and compare ideological similarities and differences regarding desired religious, political, social, and/or economic changes, and organizations’ targets for violence.

Paper long abstract:

Ideology has been an important guiding force among African insurgent groups, yet it is often hard to disentangle what exactly different groups want, the origins of their ideological principles and resultant goals, and how exactly groups differ from one another across ideological components. The inability of academics and policy analysts to disentangle the often unclear or overlapping elements of African insurgent ideologies has frequently hampered engagement with and counteraction of groups by national governments and international actors. This paper introduces a new analytic device, the African Insurgent Ideology Matrix (AIIM), to help academics and policymakers distinguish the main ideological differences and similarities that characterize African insurgent groups, in order to improve understanding and to more effectively craft strategies to prevent and reduce violence in both domestic and transnational contexts. The AIIM draws distinctions between groups based on their expressed ideological goals regarding desired religious, political, social, and/or economic changes, and how these goals are manifested in their choice of targets for violence. To introduce the AIIM and demonstrate its analytic utility, we code the ideologies of 54 insurgent groups active on the African continent during the decade of 2004-2013, and offer empirical case examples.

Panel P044
Ideology and Armed Struggle in Contemporary Africa