Jihadist Governance in the Sahel (JIGOV-Sahel)

2020 - 2024 (Ongoing) Project number: 302440
Research project
This project is about jihadist insurgent governance in West Africa's Sahel region.

In spite of concerted international and regional engagement to contain the spread of jihadist insurgencies, the security situation continues to deteriorate in West Africa’s Sahel region. This project analyses jihadist insurgent governance in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.

Jihadist insurgents are usually considered to be "Islamist terrorists" who rule through brutal violence and who finance their activities through criminal networks. Rarely are they considered to ‘govern’. However, scattered evidence from the Sahel suggests that contrary to conventional wisdom, the picture is not so one-dimensional. Our ongoing research suggests that jihadist insurgents do govern, and the way they do so varies between groups. They may use coercion, provide minimal services like mobile courts, intervene strategically in rights-based conflicts over resources, and develop social bonds with communities.

We will undertake across and within-case comparison of a number of understudied jihadist insurgencies in the region. In doing so, we aim to challenge dominant narratives about jihadist insurgencies, and contribute to building a better evidence-base to inform policymakers and practitioners. Thus, our ambition is to significantly shift the state of the art on rebel governance.

JIGOV-Sahel will incorporate bottom-up perspectives from local communities through fieldwork and partnerships. Our findings will be carefully disseminated to a wide range of stakeholders, including local peacebuilding and development actors, policymakers, as well as to the general public in Norway, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria. We will produce a series of academic articles, policy briefs and organise seminars in policy and academic settings. Finally, we will develop a photo-essay and organise several exhibitions to share our findings to broader audiences.  

Publications from project partners:

Niagalé Bagayoko (2022): 'Explaining the failure of internationally-supported defence and security reforms in Sahelian states', Conflict, Security & Development, 22:3, 243-269.

Related projects at NUPI:

Preventing Violent Extremism in the Balkans and the MENA: Strengthening Resilience in Enabling Environments (PREVEX)

Fragile states and violent entrepreneurs: conflict, climate, refugees (FRAGVENT)

Funding program

The Research Council of Norway, FRIPRO


Publication : Rapport
Screenshot 2022-05-24 at 11.04.57.png

L’architecture de sécurité intérieure burkinabé face à la gestion d’une crise multidimensionnelle

  • Niagalé Bagayoko
  • Mahamoudou Savadogo
The military response has been the main focus to address the multidimensional crisis that the Sahel has been going through since 2012. However, it is ...
Publication : Working paper
Screenshot 2022-05-30 at 09.53.37.png

Rebel governance? A literature review of Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa Province

The literature on rebel governance has fundamentally challenged the idea that ‘governance’ is the sole prerogative of ‘government’. Despite important ...
Publication : Report

Reviewing Jihadist Governance in the Sahel

The ways in which jihadist insurgents in the Sahel govern is rarely considered in the academic literature. They have often been portrayed as ‘Islamic ...
Publication : Popular scientific article

The Sahel’s jihadists don’t all govern alike: context matters

The way jihadist insurgents in the Sahel governs differs between but also within groups. Jihadists do not follow strict ideological templates for imposing ...

Project Manager

Conflict  Insurgencies  Fragile states  Africa

ARGA represented by Dr. Abdoul Cissé (also partner in PREVEX, FRAGVENT, among others)

University of Oxford, represented by Professor Stathis Kalyvas

Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), represented by Dr. Idayat Hassan

African Security Sector Network (ASSN), represented by Dr. Niagelé Bagayoko

Tue 22 Jun 2021
Time: 11:00 Europe/Oslo
Location: Microsoft Teams

Jihadist Governance in the Sahel

Often depicted as “Islamic terrorists”, jihadist insurgent governance has rarely been systematically researched in the academic literature. In this seminar, we will discuss what the research tells us about how jihadists govern and why their governance differs not only between different groups but a1