This article was originally published by the African Center for Strategic Studies on 11 January 2017.
In January 2013, Hamadou Kouffa led Islamist forces from northern Mali south toward Konna and Diabaly, an act that precipitated an African and French intervention eventually driving the militants out of entrenched positions. Two years later, Kouffa reemerged on the international scene at the head of the newly founded Macina Liberation Front (Front de Libération du Macina, FLM). Since January 2015, Kouffa’s group has claimed responsibility for several attacks in central Mali, including assassinations of local political figures and security forces, as well as the destruction of an ‘idolatrous’ mausoleum.
In its goals and methods, FLM resembles other Islamist terrorists operating in the Sahel and Sahara, such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). What makes the FLM different is the attempt to rally nomadic Fulani herdsmen to its cause. Kouffa, a Fulani marabout, communicates to FLM members in the Fulani language, and the name Macina harkens back to a nineteenth-century Fulani state based in central Mali and governed under Islamic law.
Courtesy by Thomas Hawk / Flickr
This article originally appeared in swisspeace’s à propos No. 148 which is published by swisspeace in November 2016.
In the wake of the 9/11 attack, members of the international community responded in a heavy handed and militarized way to terrorism and adopted a counter terrorism (CT) approach. Yet, terrorist attacks and fatalities have dramatically increased and more powerful terrorist groups have been created. With the emergence of the prevention of violent extremism (PVE) approach, a greater emphasis is now given to so-called “soft” alternatives. However, the question remains whether it is a change in content or just a semantic shift.
Multinational organizations and donor countries have been engaged in various counter terrorism (CT) initiatives particularly since the 9/11 terrorist attack as part of the Global War on Terror (GWOT). This simplistic approach viewed terrorism as a form of criminal and subversive activity that targeted the West and its values. However, CT practices increasingly showed a proclivity for grave violations of human rights and international law. Some countries have also manipulated CT measures to silence political opposition and criticism. The acts committed by US security personnel in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the widespread practice of illegal detentions and renditions, decades of arrest without charge in Guantanamo are all manifestations of the failures of this approach. Terrorist attacks and fatalities have dramatically increased, more powerful terrorist groups have been created, the landmass controlled by terrorist groups has expanded, the number of foreign fighters crossing borders to join terrorist groups has surged, and terrorist attacks have reached new heights of cruelty and depravity in the last few years.
This article was originally published by Saferworld on 26 July 2016.
The US Department of State and USAID have laid out how American development and diplomacy agencies will work together to reduce violent extremism abroad. David Alpher urges caution in the melding of development and security agendas – a prospect that risks undermining the objectives of both.
The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda has grown so rapidly in American policy that, “at this point,” one government official jokes, “even the lunch ladies in the cafeteria are doing CVE.” The White House held a head-of-state level summit on the subject in 2015, and the State Department recently merged its CVE and counter-terrorism work into one combined bureau—but until May 2016, the term had never been officially uttered by USAID. Alternative phrasing like The Development Response to Violent Extremism, for example—the title of the last USAID report on the subject — helped insulate American development and peacebuilding efforts from the securitized aspects of the rapidly growing CVE agenda.
The Department of State & USAID Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism – released at the end of May, officially changed all that. The strategy sets out how American development and diplomacy will work together to help to reduce violent extremism. Navigating this cooperation is a complicated and at times dangerous path, and following the upcoming election, the next US administration will have a good deal of work ahead to decide whether it is really progress or not. My thoughts on that are here.