Panel 41

Terrorism and forced migration in Africa in the 21st century

Panel organiser: Delmas Tsafack, The Muntu Institute, Yaounde, Cameroon.


The relationship between migration and security concepts has regained its importance since early 21st century in Africa. Before this time, forced migration was caused by civil war, state violence, genocide, etc. Terrorism has created since this time lot of displacements in the continent. Millions of people have fled the territory controlled by terrorist and violent extremist groups. This situation forced African states to strengthen their migration policies. The fact that the perpetrators of the attacks were foreigners has left question marks in the minds as to the effectiveness of the border security and migration control systems. The trans-border and transnational characteristics of terrorism made it an important issue of mobility within and outside the African countries. We therefore have influx of international migrants in neighboring states and displaced people inside countries threatened by terrorism. These migrants can be terrorists and terrorists can be migrants in a number of ways. This calls researchers to reflect about the relationship between terrorism and migration in Africa.

The study of terrorism and the study of migration have been two separate fields. We lack in-depth studies on the interplay between the two phenomena especially in Africa. This panel aims at gathering research findings on this issue in Africa in order to participate to scholarly debates on the link between terrorism and migrations. Empirical case studies are highly recommended, but theoretical analysis of the phenomenon are also welcome. Proposals may include (but not limited) the following topics:

  • Causal relations between migration and terrorism
  • Management of terrorist refugees
  • Terrorism and its impact on security measures on people mobility within Africa
  • Borderland security and migration in the era of terrorism in Africa
  • Migration of African citizens to terrorist “caliphate”

Approved abstracts panel 41

Session 1

1. Boko Haram refugees and the challenges of management

Author:  Azeez Olaniyan, Department of Political Science, Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria.

The tragedy of Boko Haram is not only in the callous killing of people and destruction of property alone. It is also in the forceful displacement of millions of people, with far-reaching effects on the society. Specifically, the mayhem unleashed on northeastern Nigeria by Boko Haram resulted in the displacement of tens of thousands of people to neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic. Official figure released by the Nigerian state in 216 showed the presence 20,804 displaced Nigerians living in the Republic of Chad; 80,709 in the Republic of Cameroon; and 138,321 in the Republic of Niger. Although the success of military onslaught on the insurgency in the recent times has encouraged the return of some of the refugees to Nigeria, yet thousands till remain in different refugee camps in these countries. While attention is often focused on IDPs in Nigeria, Boko Haram refugees in these countries are yet to receive sufficient interrogation. What is their situation in these camps? What challenges confront the receiving states in managing the refugees? How do they secure them against elements of Boko Haram? What are the regional frameworks established to cater for refugees of this nature? What arrangements are in place to receive them back to Nigeria? This study interrogates these questionsand thus contribute to discourses on terrorism and migration.

2. Christian Missionary's Response to the Management of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): A Case Study of Uhogua IDP Camp, Edo State, Nigeria

Author: Daniel Olisa Iweze, Department of History & International Studies, University of Benin, Benin-City, Nigeria.

Boko Haram terrorist attacks in the Nigeria`s Northeast region since 2009 had caused the displacement of many civilians who fled their homes for safety in other areas. It was reported that over one million people were displaced by the insurgent`s onslaughts thereby making Nigeria to have the highest number of Internally Displaced Person in Africa and ranks third in the world. The displaced persons were resettled in twenty-two camps in Northeast states of Borno, Gombe, Taraba, Adamawa, Bauchi, Yobe and others which posed great challenge to the government. The poor management of the IDPs by the Nigeria`s authorities and its  agencies such as National Emergency Management Agency and National Commission for Refugees, Migration and Internally Displaced Persons has made it problematic for efficient resettlement, rehabilitation and reintegration of the IDPs into the society. The IDPs had suffered from acute deprivation, malnutrition, diseases, poor health care, education and other vulnerabilities such as  sexual exploitation, abuse, rape, insurgent’s physical attacks coupled with corrupt practices of government officials. It is view of these challenges that this paper examines the role of the International Christian Centre in the management of the IDPs in Uhogua, in Edo State, Southern Nigeria which hosts an estimated 2,421 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the Northeast and neighbouring countries through collaboration between the centre and some Christian clergies in the Northeast. This paper contends that despite the constraints, the Christian missionary had played immensurable role by complementing the government`s efforts in tackling the IDP menace especially the only IDP camp at Uhogua through the provision of education, skill acquisition, healthcare and empowerment of the youth and women and proper reintegration of the IDPs into the society.

3. Terrorism and mobility control in Cameroon in the era of Boko Haram insurgency

Author: Delmas Tsafack, The Muntu Institute, Yaounde, Cameroon.

Improving the ability to constrain terrorist movements also passes through mobility control. It is part of counterterrorism. As a subfield of counterterrorism, terrorist mobility encompasses the study of terrorist movements, and how to both counter and exploit them. Terrorism engenders the enhancement of security measures within and toward the borders of states threatened by terrorist attacks. Since the trigger of the Boko Haram insurgency, Cameroon has strengthened security measures concerning people and goods mobility. These measures concerned control at the entrance and within major cities and borderlands. Identification checkpoints were multiplied within the country. Mobility in cities of or from/to the Northern Cameroon was highly impacted. Major cities as Yaounde and Douala were also under surveillance. Vehicles entering these major cities and their passengers were screened by police officers. Based on observations and interviews of citizens and police/military officers concerned by security measures during their travel from one city to another or from Cameroon to abroad, this paper has the ambition to analyze security measures, concerning mobility, taken by Cameroonian authorities to counter the Boko Haram insurgency and their impact on the daily life of citizens. The paper will examine the modus operandi of these mobility controls due to Boko Haram and analyze the effectiveness of these measures. It concludes that mobility control in wartime is an important asset to counter the terrorist spread.

4. ‘‘African Borders in context of Antiterrorism. Evidence from forceful repatriations of Nigerian Refugees in Cameroon’’

Author: Mireille Manga, Department of International Politics, IRIC, University of Yaounde II, Cameroon.

What becomes African borders in context of Antiterrorism? Globalisation, which goes hand in hand with circulation, flows, cooperation and collaboration for international joint responsibilities, contrasts with multiple forced repatriation in the name of security, and on the contrary reveals many lines of breaking open and division. Contrary to the “end of territories” or their “deconstruction” as announced by some authors, contemporary borders tend to present human threats to security more than ever, as they simultaneously “unite” for cooperation and “divide”, for security and ”securitisation” of territories. In fact, the recent irregular collaboration of Cameroon and Nigeria’s governments, the sudden closures of Equato-Guinean borders, all like the strategies to limit the influx of migrants and refugees scared away by war as well as victims of political violence are at the core of this project.

The methodology is based on a purely qualitative approach, with which we intend to test the theoretical hypothesis of the consolidation of the policies of suspicion within a context of African States' war against terrorism, in line with the obligation to cooperate as requested by global governance purposes, while confronting topical issues resorting from actors’ discourses (governmental and non-governmental) and intersecting individual human rights and the political obligations of States, on the one hand, and the greatest strategic security concerns, on the other hand, with the help of conceptual tools drawn from the field of social representations.

5. Boko Haram and Population Displacements in the Lake Chad Basin: Counting the Cost of Food Security

Author:  Noah Echa Attah, Department of History and Diplomatic Studies, Federal University of Kashere, Gombe State, Nigeria.

The Lake Chad Basin has in the past one decade been grappling with terrorism by Boko Haram, especially in parts of Northeastern Nigeria, Northern Cameroon, Western Chad and Southeastern Niger. While the terrorist activities have led to loss of thousands of lives across these countries, an estimated 2,635,450 persons are reportedly displaced, out of which 2,444,814 are internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the remaining 190,636 persons crossed international borders as refugees. In Northeastern Nigeria alone, 1.8 million people are internally displaced with children constituting more than half of them. According to Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), more than 17,000 farmers have fled from Northeastern Nigeria since 2012. Population displacements as a result of the Boko Haram terrorism have disrupted agricultural, livestock and fishing activities as most of the displaced adults are predominantly peasant farmers who produced most of the staple foods. The situation has already limited the needed labour for food production, thereby aggravating poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. Also, herders fleeing from the conflicts have abandoned their livestock, a situation that has affected livestock markets and food security. Similarly, fishermen within the Lake Chad Basin have abandoned fishing for their lives with the attendant consequences on food security and livelihoods. Besides, arable land used for IDPs camps has further fragmented farmlands. Displaced people are therefore deprived of their livelihoods and mostly rely on the limited food reserves and resources of their host communities and other agencies. This paper will explore the complex dimensions of terrorism in the Lake Chad Basin Region in relations to displacements and the challenges of food security. It will critically examine how the terrorism-induced displacements have intensified existing contractions, characterized by food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation.

Session 2

1. Migration in Oriental Africa and terrorist activities of Al Shaabab : Equilibrium of the African horn between order and disorder

Author: Claude Bekombo Jabea, The Muntu Institute and University of Yaoundé II- CERDEPS, Cameroon.

Migrations in Oriental Africa are subject to the security constraints because of the
terrorist activities of the Al Shaabab group in this very wide area of Africa. The spacing is so huge in this area of Africa that the boundaries are difficult to control and for that favorable for the mobility of this terrorist group while jeopardizing “legal or normal” population mobility. Due to his geographical particularities the oriental African space is the turning point of terrorism. It’s the base of the Al Shabaab terrorist group who is trying to impose a worldwide jihad. Their transnational attacks in oriental Africa are the specificity of this terrorist group, because their casualties can be seen in Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea and Uganda. So their actions have shifted from local environment to become an international terrorism concern. The quest of this paper is to enlighten the reaction of the oriental African countries to address mobility challenges of the population and the terrorist attacks of the Shabaabs. It will find to identify if the respect of frontiers (migrations) and sovereignty of States have a major role to play in their collective or individual behavior in the battle against Al Shaabab.

The interest of this study will be to identify and draw the scope of the reaction of the oriental
African States in their fight to secure mobility to population in their fight against the Al Shaabab group.  Is this reaction structured (order) or there’s no harmony (disorder).

2. Migrating to Jihadi Utopia Next Door: Kenyan Militants, Territoriality and Remaking of a Regional Terror Group in Somalian Conflict

Author: Halkano Abdi Wario, Volkswagen Foundation and Egerton University, Kenya.

Way before unilateral incursion of Somalia and subsequent ouster of al-Shabaab terrorist group from Kismayu and other key towns by Kenya Defence Force in October 2011, young men especially from Nairobi’s low-income suburb of Majengo radicalised by local and national discourses of urban disenfranchisement and marginality underwent gradual but exponential migration to Somalia as al-Shabaab jihadists. Since then they have featured as a distinct and largest group of non-Somalian fighters within the rank and file of the al-Qaeda linked jihadi outfit and even hold middle cadre positions. The paper is based on analysis of the jihadists’ Swahili language magazine Gaidi Mtaani and audio-visual materials produced by Kenyan militants and their Somalian counterparts and group and individual interviews in Nairobi and Mombasa conducted in 2017/18. It interrogates history, trends and enticing rationale ofKenyan militants joining al-Shabaab, explore spatial imagination of Somalia as puritan utopia in materialities produced by the group and finally examine impact of Kenyan fighters on the terror groups self promotion and internationalisation of its jihadist agenda in the Horn of Africa region. This paper hopes to contribute to empirical analysis of dynamism of inter-Africa jihadi migrations and subsequent configurations of citizen-state and regional stability and transnationalisation of enduring intra-state conflicts.

3. Somali Somali or Kenyan Somali: A Case Study of the Nexus Between Migration and Radicalization in Kenya

Author: Josephine Atieno Ochiel, Parisian Laboratory of Social Psychology, University of Paris, Nanterre, France.

Some international borders in Africa have been described as nothing more than a line drawn in thesand and stretching for hundreds of miles. Kenya shares such a border with
Somalia resulting in an influx of Somali refugees through the northeastern region predominantly occupied by Kenyan Somalis. Unfortunately, this section of the country has been sidelined by successive governments and a common joke goes that it is not part of Kenya. It is often difficult for a Somali youth to obtain identification documents, making it impossible for them to get employment occasioning a lack of opportunity and poverty among them. The arrival of Somali refugees in the midst of such a disenfranchised Kenyan Somali youth population is believed to lead to the importation of Somali-grown terrorism, thanks to Al-Shabaab. The Kenyan youth are thought to resort to violent extremism in order to vent their frustrations with government. Indeed, terrorism in Kenya has been linked to the structural alienation of [certain] populations, discrimination and poverty. This paper that culminates from a desk review of empirical studies and analyses on terrorism in Kenya attempts to draw the nexus between immigration of Somali refugees and radicalization in Kenya by synthesizing the amalgamation of these issues.

4. Radicalization and migration of Sudanese youth to the terrorist caliphate: Policies and challenges

Author: Salma Abdalla, Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway.

Recently, Sudan has witnessed increasing number of young Sudanese who joined the Islamic State and they migrated to the terrorist caliphate. There are number of motivation that lead Sudanese youth to migrate to terrorist caliphate including push and pull factors. The push factors of this transnational jihad include feelings of alienation, isolation and identity questions among young Sudanese. Many young people are easy target for
radicalization because of an increasing feeling that Muslim countries are under attack by western powers. There is also lack of trust in the international community’s role to realize justice; therefore, growing number of young Sudanese are attracted to migrate to terrorist caliphate, which is seen as utopia. It appears the images of everyday life in the caliphate is appealing for many Sudanese youth and attracts them to migrate there, as it provides them feelings of brotherhood/sisterhood and belonging. The terrorist caliphate seems to offer these young Sudanese a spiritual purpose, humanitarian cause as well as it empower them. For counterterrorism efforts and policymaking, this paper proposes to focus on the root causes of the process of migration of Sudanese youth to terrorist caliphate and the paper poses the following question: what makes young Sudanese vulnerable to migrate to terrorist caliphate? What kind of messages and narratives do terrorist recruiters utilizes to radicalize/brainwash these young Sudanese to entice them to migrate to the terrorist caliphate? What types of media are being used in the recruitment process? Is it cyber or/and face-to-face communication? Who are these recruiters? This paper will give especial attention to both the bottom-up and top-down radicalization and migration processes of the young Sudanese, because apparently not all of the youth are passive victims of the terrorist’s indoctrination, rather many of them are also active supporters of the terrorist caliphate ideals.

5. Terrorism, Forced-Displacement and Local Development: On the Socioeconomic Impacts of Hosting Refugees in Cameroon

Author: Thérèse F. Azeng, FSEG, The University of Yaoundé 2, Cameroon.

Because of the political instability in its neighbouring countries, Cameroon has been confronted with a complex humanitarian crisis due to thousands of people seeking refuge. The various conflicts in Chad, the socio-political crisis in the Central African Republic and the rise of the Nigerian terrorist sect Boko Haram have resulted in the mass influx of refugees in Cameroon. In early 2018, the number of forcibly displaced people in Cameroon reached almost 665,947. Currently, the Far North region of Cameroon hosts approximately 96,283 coming from Nigeria─ due to violence perpetrated by Boko Haram in North-Eastern Nigeria, as well as cross-border raids and suicide bombing attacks in Cameroon.

The number of refugees displaced by armed conflicts, natural disasters or terrorism is on the rise all over the world. Thus, refugee and forced migration issues have dominated recent political debates. In addition, terrorist acts by Boko Haram have attracted enormous scholarly attention in recent years. However, academic literature shows that economic impacts of refugees on their host countries are controversial and little understood. The controversy is mainly due to lack of data and methodological considerations on impact evaluation methods. In one hand, refugees are perceived as a burden for the host country, putting pressure on public budget and service provision. In the other hand, refugees are considered as great contributors to local development, as they provide skills and resources, and spur production capacity and consumption demand.

The purpose of this paper is to address the socioeconomic impacts of refugees displaced by terrorism in Cameroon. Migration, whether voluntary or forced, has always been a characteristic of individual and collective human behaviour. Refugee flows and human displacement have been a feature, and consequence, of conflict within and between societies. This paper provides a comprehensive analysis of refugee migration, with emphasis on the terrorism context.

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