Research project

Jihadist Governance in the Sahel (JIGOV-Sahel)

2020 - 2024 (Ongoing) Project number: 302440

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.  


The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway, FRIPRO.  

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