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The Geography of Conflict in North and West Africa

image of The Geography of Conflict in North and West Africa

African governments are increasingly confronted with new forms of political violence. The situation is particularly worrying in the Sahara-Sahel where violence is on the rise. This degrading security situation has prompted African countries and their partners to intervene militarily to stabilise the region and to prevent the spread of extremism and violence against civilians. However, these initiatives face many obstacles due to the transnational nature and geography of violence. Tensions regionalise across state borders when armed groups, defeated by counter-insurgency efforts, relocate to other countries. This study maps the evolution of violence across North and West Africa, with a particular focus on Mali, Lake Chad and Libya. In the regions experiencing the highest levels of political insecurity, it identifies whether and how conflicts tend to cluster or spread, potentially across national borders. The work is based on a new spatial indicator of political violence designed to assess the long-term evolution of conflicts and provide policy options.

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Conflicts and military interventions in North and West Africa

Chapter 1 highlights the increasing complexity of conflict in North and West Africa. It shows that the geography of conflict is obscured by a large number of belligerents and their divergent political strategies. While violence is on the increase, it remains unclear whether violent organisations are intensifying their efforts in particular localities, spreading insecurity to a growing number of regions, or relocating under the pressure of government forces. The new Spatial Conflict Dynamics indicator (SCDi) introduced in this chapter contributes to address these pressing questions by examining both the intensity and spatial distribution of political violence in the region since 1997. It shows that violence is increasingly targeting civilians and border regions. The indicator also suggests that foreign and multinational interventions have reduced the intensity of violence in North and West Africa in the short-term without, however, resulting in a durable peace.

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