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Poverty, unemployment push young Africans to extremism-study

Boko Haram has sent out four times as many child suicide bombers this year. ©All rights reserved

A United Nations study has revealed that many young Africans join extremist groups due to poverty and unemployment.

The study, titled “Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment,” which is the first of its kind in Africa profiled nearly 500 voluntary recruits to militant groups including al-Shabab and Boko Haram.

According to the study, finding a job is the most acute need of the recruit at the time of joining the group. It adds that 83 percent believe government looks out only for the interests of a few and that more than 75 percent have no trust in politicians or state security systems.

The report paints a picture of frustrated individuals, marginalised and neglected since childhood, with few economic prospects or outlets for civil participation and little trust in government to provide services or respect human rights.

Speaking on the importance of the study, Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, Africa director for the U.N. Development Program, said the study sounds the alarm that as a region, Africa’s vulnerability to violent extremism is deepening.


He said border regions and other peripheral areas in African nations are isolated and underserved by governments and there is an urgent need to focus on development in addressing security challenges.

In the study, more than half of the young Africans interviewed cited religion as a reason for joining an extremist group, but however stated that they understood little or nothing about their religion’s texts and interpretations.

It should be recalled that at least 400 civilians have been killed by Boko Haram since April 2017 in Cameroon and Nigeria amid a spike in suicide bombings, citing a recent report from Amnesty. In Cameroon alone, the rights group said at least 158 civilians died in Boko Haram strikes, with most suicide bombers being young women and girls.

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