Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Poverty not religion causes terrorism

 In 2021, nearly half of the global deaths attributed to terrorist groups took place in sub-Saharan Africa. Terrorist attacks in sub-Saharan Africa have more than doubled since 2016. But violent extremism has also spread or worsened in other parts of the continent, such as Mozambique.

A new report by the UN Development Programme surveyed thousands of people in eight African countries, including Mali, Nigeria and Somalia. Researchers interviewed more than 1,000 active or recent militants in the pioneering study.

The results suggest the most common factor driving people to join extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa is not religion, but poverty and the need for work. 

It found that a quarter of voluntary recruits to extremist organisations cited job opportunities as their reason for joining.  Militant groups pay salaries to fighters and almost all ensure the basic needs of their members are met. They also offer status and protection.  Islamic State, long seen as the most extreme of factions active in sub-Saharan Africa, has made efforts to win community support and recruits through provision of basic services such as food distribution, administration of justice and rudimentary healthcare.

Only 17% of respondents said that religion was the reason for joining radical groups, whereas 40% said poverty was their main motivation.

Education is also important, with one extra year of education significantly reducing a person's likelihood of joining an extremist group.

Human rights abuses committed by security forces were also among the most important drivers of recruitment to extremist groups in Africa.

Currently, about 70% of the United Nations counter-terrorism budget is spent helping states build capacity to combat terrorism, often through expanding and equipping security services, compared with just 24% that goes to “addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism”.

Achim Steiner, the UNDP administrator said: “Security-driven counter-terrorism responses are often costly and minimally effective, yet investments in preventive approaches to violent extremism are woefully inadequate..."

Rights abuses often ‘tipping point’ for extremist recruitment, UN study finds | Africa | The Guardian

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