Safe Havens Amidst the Jihadist Storm: How Leaders Spare Some Regions from Terrorist Violence in the Sahel
Better Evidence Project, Carter School, George Mason University
This study identifies what has helped the people of Amataltal in Niger and Dori in Burkina Faso maintain a relatively satisfactory level of peace and security amidst the jihadist storm that has been sweeping across the Sahara-Sahel region since 2011. To that end, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 36 key local actors selected through purposeful sampling techniques, with the help of local partner organizations, in Amataltal, Agadez, and Niamey in Niger, and Dori in Burkina Faso during the summer of 2021. The respondents were from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, including men, women, and youth leaders. One of the major findings is that the relative peace and security enjoyed by Dori, Amataltal, and the larger Agadez region resulted from a set of initiatives taken by local actors who understood that peace cannot be obtained only through military means, but also requires local solutions, involving local leaders and the whole population, to satisfactorily address security, development, and governance issues. The peace activism of local leaders, the commitment of the population to peace and social cohesion, the establishment of local infrastructures for peace (especially local peace committees), the vocational training and provision of economic opportunities to youth, and a more visible, positive presence of the government, have made a critical difference in terms of peace and security between Dori, Amataltal, and Agadez, and other localities affected by jihadist terrorism in Niger and Burkina Faso. There have been some significant obstacles and challenges: the lack of adequate financial and logistical resources to conduct their activities; difficulties of communicating, traveling, and mobilizing people; and the difficult relationships that local civil society actors and international partners often had with government officials whenever they took a critical stance. This study calls attention to the fact that local people are not only recipients of peacebuilding. They are, and can be, change agents and key actors for violence prevention and peacebuilding in their societies.
Niger, Burkina Faso, Terrorism, Resilience, Conflict Prevention, Youth-led peacebuilding, Interfaith Peacebuilding