The goal of this rubric is to filter and promote the recent scholarship on Africa coming from the leading IR and Area Studies journals. The Regional Security Knowledge Hub team periodically refreshes the list, in winter, spring, summer and autumn. If you are interested in getting updates on the new content, please subscribe to our newsletter.



Involution and Symbiosis: The Self-perpetuating Conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo“, by Arrow Jason Stearns, International Affairs,98(3): 873–891 (2022).

Literature on conflict duration emphasizes the importance of material factors, commitment problems and information asymmetries. Using the case study of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and drawing on interviews with 138 sources involved in the conflict, this article advances a theory of conflict duration that highlights the role that interests, identities and the social anchorage of belligerents play. Together, they explain how the conflict in the Congo has become an end in itself for belligerents, carried forward by its own momentum. This article describes the key factors: a proliferation of actors, the rise of a military bourgeoisie, the involution of interests, and the symbiosis of belligerents. A similar argument can be applied to other protracted conflicts in large and weak states. This understanding of conflict has repercussions for policy, as it suggests that there is no inherent link between elite political settlements and stability. It pushes away from the technocratic approach to institution-building to centre the role of the state and political culture in debates over peacebuilding. 

The Impact of (Counter-)terrorism on Public (In)Security in Nigeria: A Vernacular Analysis“, by Akinyemi Oyawale, Security Dialogue, 53(5): 420–437 (2022).

This article examines the impact of (counter-)terrorism on public (in)security in Nigeria through engaging with non-elite understandings of ongoing conflicts in the northeast. Through 41 in-depth interviews carried out during a four-month fieldwork exercise with internally displaced persons in Nigeria, the article contributes to current (counter-)terrorism research on Nigeria and Africa by examining the lived experiences of non-traditional security ‘practitioners’, thus enriching current debates about ‘deepening’ and ‘broadening’ the security concept within critical security studies. The images of security that emerge show that the public in Nigeria adopt two main discursive devices, that is, a story and an interpretative repertoire, to discursively position themselves in relation to Boko Haram, the state and societal discourses and practices. Two discourses are prominent, namely a ‘(counter-)terrorist people’ discourse and a ‘kafir’ or ‘infidel’ discourse, which are constructed around ‘ethnic’ and ‘religious’ identities. This vernacular study of public understandings of (counter-)terrorism in Nigeria achieves three primary objectives: (i) it serves to invigorate debates around the meaning and practice of (in)security in Nigeria, (ii) it expands public (in)security debates on Africa, and (iii) it enriches vernacular research debate through foregrounding the experiences of groups and individuals who experience insecurity in their everyday lives. 

Explaining the Rise of Jihadism in Africa: The Crucial Case of the Islamic State of the Greater Sahara“, by Luca Raineri, Terrorism and Political Violence, 34 (8): 1632-1646 (2022).

While jihadism appears to be on the rise in Africa, the explanations of violent extremist groups’ capacity to foment jihadi insurgencies and mobilize recruits remain poorly understood. Recent studies have challenged the assumption that the rise of jihadism in Africa is the result of poor governance in areas of limited state reach, highlighting instead the significance of the (perception of) abuses perpetrated by state authorities. Looking at collective action and its structural determinants, it is rather state action—and not the lack thereof—that best explains the capacity of mobilization of jihadi insurgencies in African borderlands. In order to test this theory in a least-likely case, the article explores the genealogy and evolution of the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), mobilizing extensive qualitative evidence. Borrowing the analytical framework from civil war studies, it argues that the contentious political dynamics observed in Niger’s borderlands amount to a case of symmetric non-conventional warfare, where abuses perpetrated by state proxies trigger an escalation of homegrown terrorism. It therefore supplies a further specification of the theories investigating the complex interplay between the processes of jihadi mobilization/rebel governance and the practices of counter-terrorism in weak states. 

A Shrinking Humanitarian Space: Peacekeeping Stabilization Projects and Violence in Mali” by Melanie Sauter, International Peacekeeping, 29 (4): 624-649 (2022).

While the peacekeeping mission in Mali is the deadliest active mission, aid workers are not a prominent target. This is puzzling because humanitarians argue that integrated missions aligning political, military and humanitarian goals impede their security. I argue that the fallacy of integrated peacekeeping missions is that the humanitarian space shrinks due to rising insecurity. This takes place when integrated missions blur the lines between civilian and military action and when they politicize humanitarian aid through biased mandates. I test the argument by comparing new data on peacekeeping stabilization projects with other aid projects, using a matched wake analysis that estimates a difference-in-difference model with sliding spatio-temporal windows. I find that peacekeeping stabilization activities increase violence against civilians on the ground in the short term, which ultimately decreases humanitarian access. Paradoxically, the UN names lack of humanitarian access as a key challenge to protecting civilians, but contributes to the access challenge itself. 

Cows, Charcoal, and Cocaine: Al-Shabaab’s Criminal Activities in the Horn of Africa“, by Katharine Petrich, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, 45 (5-6): 479-500 (2022).

Contrary to historical terrorism scholarship, terrorist groups can strategically diversify into a variety of criminal activities without losing their core ideology or support among the civilian population. This pattern is demonstrated by the evolutionary arc of al-Shabaab, which grew from a small subset of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union to the most violent political actor in the Horn of Africa, able to conduct terrorist attacks as far afield as Kenya, Djibouti, and Ethiopia. Al-Shabaab has been highly successful in creating a narrative of truth and justice provision while simultaneously exploiting the Somali population and engaging in criminal activity. For the group, criminal activity and crime networks serve two primary purposes: as a funding mechanism and as an avenue for recruitment. Using ethnographic fieldwork and process tracing, I find that the group’s criminal activities throughout the Horn of Africa have made the group significantly more resilient to counterterrorism and counterinsurgency campaigns, extending both its lifespan and operational capability. 

Regional Integration Alongside Securitisation? The Statebuilding Ambitions of ECOWAS States in Migration Cooperation” by Melissa Mouthaan, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 16 (3): 328-348 (2022).

Why have population monitoring, migration control and surveillance become a significant area of common ground in EU-African migration cooperation? This article examines the securitisation of borders in the West Africa region. It finds that state actors in Senegal and Ghana perceive the technocratic solutions that arise from this cooperation as useful in attaining domestic governance and statebuilding goals, and have presented the ECOWAS regional integration agenda and border securitisation project as congruent. This article proposes that the depoliticised nature of security cooperation, alongside specific features of the domestic policymaking contexts, allows the circumvention of domestic critique of securitisation.

Russia’s Return to Africa: A Renewed Challenge to the West?“, by Roger E. Kanet and Dina Moulioukovab, Post-Soviet Affairs 38 (5): 427-439 (2022).

We track the major developments in Soviet-African relations as a prelude to recently revived Russian policy. Russian policy today is much less ideological than that of the Soviet Union and relies more on the establishment of mutually beneficial economic relations. Soviet/Russian policy in Africa over six decades has been motivated by more than by traditional security concerns. In the case of the former, the effort to encourage and speed up a global communist revolution, along with geopolitical competition with the US and the West were central. Now, although geopolitical competition remains an element of Russian policy, the major interest has been markets for exports and access to energy and minerals as part of the goal of re-establishing Russia as a major global power.

Reassessing Africa’s New Post-Coup Landscape“, by Sebastian Elischer and Benjamin N. Lawrance, African Studies Review 65 (1): 1-7 (2022).

Between 2020 and 2022, sub-Saharan Africa witnessed a substantial increase in the number of military coups. The military interventions in Guinea (September 2021), Mali (August 2020 and May 2021), Chad (April 2021), Sudan (April 2019 and October 2021), and Burkina Faso (January 2022) contributed to democratic backsliding and authoritarianism on the continent. In addition, Niger (March 2021) and Guinea Bissau (February 2022) saw failed coup attempts. As a result of these five coups and two failed coup attempts, media reports now ask whether coups are making a comeback in Africa. As the extant literature about civil-military relations in Africa reveals, military coups were never absent. But the recent number and frequency of coups has led to a greater awareness of the threat that militaries pose to civilian rulers from the Atlantic coast (Guinea) to the Red Sea (Sudan).

Climate Change, Human Insecurity and Conflict Dynamics in the Lake Chad Region“, by Stanley Ehiane and Philani Moyo, Journal of Asian and African Studies, 57 (8): 1677–1689 (2022).

Climate change impacts on human development have been an issue of global concern in the past few decades. Over the past few years, there is increasing interest on the impacts of climate change on conflict, peace and security in Africa. This paper explores the extent to which climate change impacts and attendant effects on environmental resources are drivers of some of the conflicts in the Lake Chad region, specifically in Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. It applies the human security theory to establish the interface between climate impacts, human insecurity and local conflicts. We find that reduced access to natural resources such as fertile land, water and pasture is undermining the livelihoods of vulnerable people and communities in the Lake Chad region, which triggered recurrent conflicts.


Autumn 2021


Falling Short or Rising above the Fray? Rising Powers and Security Force Assistance to Africa, by Pedro Seabra, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, published online 24 September 2021.

Abstract: Despite an increase in rising powers providing security force assistance (SFA) to Africa, the expertise and the capabilities made available by these countries remain insufficiently explored. What different solutions, if any, are brought forward? And how does their overall record fare against previous experiences across the continent? By exploring Brazilian and Chinese efforts in Namibia as well as Chinese and Indian overtures towards Mozambique, I argue that rising powers tend to be more invested in a long-term socializing agenda than in immediate capacitation results. This, in turn, justifies their inroads in sectorial niches, as gateways for durable outcomes over time.


Operation Safe Corridor Programme and Reintegration of Ex-Boko Haram Fighters in Nigeria, by Michael I Ugwueze, Elias C Ngwu, Freedom C Onuoha,  Journal of Asian and African Studies, published online 11 October 2021.

Abstract: The devastation of lives, livelihood and property in Nigeria caused by over a decade of insurgency by the Boko Haram terrorists is a subject of security, policy, humanitarian and academic concern. Several counter-measures have been adopted by both state and non-state actors to combat the insurgency with limited successes recorded. Consequently, studies have examined several efforts taken by the Nigerian government toward ending the Boko Haram insurgency, including the challenges confronting such efforts. However, Nigeria’s de-radicalization, rehabilitation and reintegration programme for ex-Boko Haram fighters, known as Operation Safe Corridor, has received marginal attention in literature. The Operation Safe Corridor programme which was established in September 2015 is aimed at de-radicalizing, rehabilitating and reintegrating repentant Boko Haram insurgents into society. Using a field survey method involving key informant interviews and focus group discussions as well as documentary reports, this article examines the progress and pitfalls of the Operation Safe Corridor programme. It argues that the failure to mainstream the concerns of local communities both in policy and programming of Operation Safe Corridor severely undermines the prospect of successful and effective reintegration of ex-Boko Haram fighters. The article concludes that if this gap is not addressed, the programme will succeed in terms of the number of ex-combatants graduating from it but will fail in terms of reintegrating the graduating ex-combatants into society. This poses significant risks to both Boko Haram defectors and society at large.


The limitations of international law at the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission and its implications for future conflict, by John R. Campbell, Journal of Eastern African Studies, published online 15 October 2021.

Abstract: This paper examines the litigation strategies adopted by Eritrea and Ethiopia before the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission convened at The Permanent Commission of Arbitration at The Hague between 2001 and 2009. I pursue insights from the work of Laura Nader concerning how, through binding arbitration, the international community imposes its power on disputing parties as opposed to allowing their competing legal claims to be fairly decided. The claims examined by this paper concern who started the border war and that Ethiopia denationalized ‘Eritrean’ nationals and unlawfully deprived them of their property. I conclude that the PCA’s decisions on Eritrea and Ethiopia were flawed and that its deliberations need to be viewed in a much wider political context; furthermore its decisions contributed to further political instability in the Horn of Africa.


What Do We See When Looking at China’s Engagements in Africa? An Analysis of Mainstream Academic Perspectives, by Jin Ding, Christoph Ratz, Manfred Max Bergman, Journal of Contemporary China, published online 21 August 2021.

Abstract: Since China initiated the Go Out (走出去战略) policy in 1999, its increasing presence and influence in Africa have led to controversial debates among scholars. This article systematizes the different perspectives on the relationship between Africa and China in the contemporary academic literature, and how these debates differ from representations of Africa’s relations with Western actors. Based on Content Configuration Analysis, the results indicate that China in Africa is constructed in relation to Africa and the West. Academic papers tend to impose a Western perspective on China’s involvement with Africa, most notably marked by neo-colonialism and development cooperation. This research highlights the shortcomings, limitations, and risks of this Eurocentric approach, and outlines alternatives to better understand China’s engagement in and with Africa.



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