Violent extremism and militarization in the Sahel region: challenges and prospects
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The upswing in acts of violent extremism in Africa has added to the many peace and security challenges facing the continent. The rise in violent extremism has been particularly pronounced in the Sahel region. Military intervention has constituted a key component of a number of security responses to conflicts in the Sahel. These interventions have substantively increased the presence of foreign forces on the African continent. Although these forces undoubtedly assist in augmenting the capacity of states in the Sahel to provide security, they also generate other challenges, such as: competing agendas; dependence; buttressing fragile states; and increased militarisation. This article provides context on the rise in violent extremism and militarisation in the Sahel and highlights the complexity and multiplicity of actors and challenges. It contends that: development challenges in the largely fragile states of the Sahel have created the opportunity structure' for violent extremism to take root; that the overtly militarised responses have not been able to stem the tide of violent extremism; and that these militarised responses may also be fuelling it. Much more attention should be diverted to the lack of human security, as well as governance challenges. Moreover, the dominance of securitised responses, particularly that of militarisation, must be balanced with peacebuilding approaches that engage communities and violent extremists in dialogue or negotiations, respectively, and must produce transformed state-society relations.