Militant Islamist violence in Africa surges – deaths up nearly 50%, events up 22% in a year

Militant Islamist violence in Africa set new records for violent events and fatalities this past year. This continues a relentless decade-long upward trend. To give a sense of the accelerating pace of this threat, both violent events and fatalities have almost doubled since 2019.

In a recent Africa Center for Strategic Studies analysis, we found that there were 6,859 episodes of violence involving militant Islamist groups in Africa in 2022. This is a 22% increase from 2021. Fatalities linked to these events shot up 48% to 19,109 deaths. This reflects a sharp rise in deaths per event.

Notably, the spike in violence was marked by a 68% increase in fatalities involving civilians. This figure is significant: these militant groups are not focused on winning hearts and minds so much as intimidating local populations into compliance.

This analysis draws from data compiled by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) – a non-profit data collection and crisis mapping organisation. It aggregates violent events from local and international news sources, as well as UN, government and NGO reports. The Africa Center then corroborates the data through independent sources. These include the jihadist monitoring group SITE Intelligence, the International Crisis Group and Stanford University’s Mapping Militants Project.

Having monitored the trends of Africa’s militant Islamist groups for many years, we are concerned by this spike. A more comprehensive and contextualised response is needed. This must integrate the efforts of local communities with those of national, regional and international actors.

Violence concentrated in Sahel and Somalia

The militant Islamist threat is not monolithic but comprised of over a dozen different militant groups. Each has distinct leadership, objectives, organisational structure, funding and supply of weapons.

They are motivated by a host of factors. These include: religious ideology, money, revenge against real and perceived government abuses, criminality, ethnic polarisation and political ambition.

The threat is concentrated in five theatres: the Sahel, Somalia, the Lake Chad Basin, northern Mozambique and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The Sahel and Somalia accounted for 77% of all such violent events in the past year.

Source: The Conversation