NAIROBI, Kenya ( Associated Press) — The new global epicenter of violent Islamic extremism is in the sub-Saharan African region, where people are increasingly coming together for economic rather than religious reasons, according to a new report from the United Nations Development Program.
Nearly 92% of new recruits join radical militias to improve their standard of living, compared with the motivation of those interviewed for the previous report published in 2017, the UNDP report published on Tuesday said.
He said the lives of many Africans have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, high inflation and climate change.
Furthermore, according to the report, the number of incorporations due to religious reasons has decreased by 57%.
About 2,200 people were interviewed in eight African countries Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan to prepare the report. UNDP explained that more than 1,000 interviewees are former members of violent extremist groups, recruited both voluntarily and forcibly.
Since 2017, at least 4,155 attacks have been documented across Africa, the report said, with 18,417 people killed in these attacks and Somalia being the country with the most fatalities.
The Somali government is launching its biggest offensive against the al-Shabaab group in more than a decade.
The interviewees came from various extremist militias from across the continent, including Boko Haram in Nigeria; Al Shabaab in Somalia, which is loyal to al Qaeda in West Africa, and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, or JNIM, an affiliate of the Islamic State group.
“Sub-Saharan Africa is set to become the new global epicenter of violent extremism, accounting for 48% of worldwide terrorism deaths in 2021,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said at a press conference ahead of the report’s launch.
This rise in extremism on the continent “not only negatively impacts lives, security and peace, but also threatens to reverse hard-won development gains for generations to come.”
According to Steiner, military operations to stamp out extremism are not being successful.
Associated Press writer Chindu Asadu in Lagos, Nigeria contributed to this report.