Stopping Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs) in the Sahel: Guns, Votes, or Cash? Open Access
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This thesis analyzes the strategies implemented by state governments in the Sahel, foreign powers, and regional/international organizations to mitigate the growing threat of violent extremist organizations (VEOs) in the region. Current efforts to combat VEOs in the Sahel have generally involved three distinct dimensions: military operations, governance reforms, and economic development initiatives. Military responses to violent extremism aim to limit the operational capacities of VEOs through intelligence and resource raids, while protecting civilians in affected regions. Governance reforms refer to policies implemented by African states to address key political grievances that allow extremists to advance their anti-establishment narratives. Economic development and international aid are initiatives that aim to financially empower citizens in Sahel nations and reduce the economic attractiveness of VEO recruitment. These strategies will be evaluated with reference to three case studies, considering the operations of three major VEOs in the region: AQIM, Boko Haram, and Ansarul Islam. The evaluation criteria will include each VEO’s level of recruitment, the level of violence in the region, and the amount of governance-related grievances. The case study with the lowest levels of these criteria will be categorized as the optimal conflict mitigation against VEOs in the Sahel. The findings of the thesis conclude that the optimal strategy to stop VEOs in the Sahel must prioritize government capacity building and economic development, combined with short-term military operations to provide security to civilians and vulnerable communities.