Learning from the enemy? Jihadist power in Mali, and implications for security and development agendas

Abstract

This article explores how violent jihadist groups structure and expand their presence in Mali, and it suggests some policy implications for security and development. A theoretical framework is presented that combines rebel governance literature, with special reference to so-called jihadist proto-states, with an analysis of power revolving around three dimensions: cultural hegemony, political dominion, and force. This framework is applied to Mali. The complex galaxy of militant groups operating in the country is briefly introduced, with their coalitions and fragmentation, and the consequences of their activities on community security and livelihoods are outlined. An embryonic theory follows, that accounts for how militants project power and exert control over communities: not only with violence, but also through ideological struggles and service delivery. Jihadist successes, in Mali and beyond, largely result from skilful applications of these 3 dimensions of power, different yet mutually reinforcing. Policies aimed at countering violent jihad should likewise target all the 3 dimensions by going beyond armed counterterrorism, by engaging jihadists in ideological debates,and by promoting better forms of governance.

Keywords

Jihadism, Insurgency, Rebel governance, Power, Security & development, Mali, Sahel

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Authors

Gianfabrizio Ladini (Universiteit Antwerpen)

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0

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