Poverty, marginalization pushing African youth to violent extremism - UN
Deprivation and marginalization, underpinned by weak governance, are primary forces driving young Africans into violent extremism, according to a comprehensive new study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the first study of its kind.
Based on interviews with 495 voluntary recruits to extremist organizations such as Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, the new study also found that it is often perceived state violence or abuse of power that provides the final tipping point for the decision to join an extremist group.
“Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment” presents the results of a two-year UNDP Africa study on recruitment in the most prominent extremist groups in Africa.
The study reveals a picture of a frustrated individual, marginalized and neglected over the course of his life, starting in childhood.
With few economic prospects or outlets for meaningful civic participation that can bring about change, and little trust in the state to either provide services or respect human rights, the study suggests, such an individual could, upon witnessing or experiencing perceived abuse of power by the state, be tipped over the edge into extremism.
“This study sounds the alarm that as a region, Africa’s vulnerability to violent extremism is deepening,” said UNDP Africa Director Abdoulaye Mar Dieye at the launch Thursday at the United Nations headquarters.
“Borderlands and peripheral areas remain isolated and under-served. Institutional capacity in critical areas is struggling to keep pace with demand. More than half the population lives below the poverty line, including many chronically underemployed youth,” he added in a statement issued in Nairobi.
The study distils the conditions and factors that shape the dynamics of the recruitment process, prompting some individuals to gravitate toward extremism, where the vast majority of others do not.