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West Africa Project

The Citizenship Initiative is in the first year of a three year study in West Africa. The study examines the social dynamics and mechanisms that facilitate, or are hostile to, the development of groups like Al Qaeda and other forms of violent Islamist militancy in areas with high levels of tribalism or deep ethnic fractionalization. The study will focus on two such case-studies in West Africa. First with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and other Islamist groups in northern Mali, home of the Tuareg, and second in the northeastern Nigerian state of Bornu, home of the Kanuri people, and the violent Islamist group Boko Haram, while drawing on comparisons with other states in Nigeria. The study examines, inter alia, to what extent changes, whether driven by endogenous factors or brought about by exogenous causes like globalization, in traditional hierarchical social authority systems have facilitated or proved resilient to the growth of violent extremism within tribal or fractionalized societies.