In this excerpt of an interview accorded to the New African Magazine (May-June-July), which offers a space for debates and exchanges by the continent’s leading researchers and experts regarding international and African affairs, Dr. Bakary Sambe explained the importance of going beyond military solutions and insisting on a change in paradigm when countering violent extremism. Deploring the continued confusion amongst the countries of the Sahel in regards to public security policy as well as the differences between countering violent extremism and counter-terrorism, the Director of the Timbuktu Institute called for a more holistic approach to the Sahel crisis which necessitates inclusive strategies that address the “root of the problem” instead of being preoccupied with the “symptoms”. He also advocated for the empowerment of women and young people, rather than placing them within the confines of victimhood.


Counter-radicalization methods risk being ineffective; how should one effectively combat such a profound issue?


Our states are offered two choices: prevent violent extremism immediately by investing in education and social justice and addressing the structural frustrations that fuel jihadism, or waiting for an attack to come to fruition and -to no one’s benefit- intervene militarily for an undetermined amount of time, inefficiently, and with great risk of recreating the phenomena which we seek to combat. Europe and Africa have a common destiny. We are one, vulnerable, international community. We are equally at risk in Gao and the Burkinabe Oudalan as we are in Paris or London. It’s for this reason that inclusive strategies must be jointly constructed for a holistic approach to the phenomenon of extremism, as opposed to the cyclical military strategies that have shown their limits in Afghanistan, Mali, and the Lake Chad Basin.


In the Sahel, the military approach seems to far outweigh the common sense option- that of treating the problem. Finding answers to the poverty, precariousness and injustice which strike the populations of the Sahel for example. Why is that?


As long as the arrogance of injustice continues, the ignorance of those who feel victimized will continue to fuel violent rhetoric- to paraphrase an important religious leader in the Sahel. I’ve said before that a kalachnikov never vanquished an ideology. It is true that a military response is necessary to contain the threat in certain circumstances, but it will never make it disappear. It even poses the risk of being counterproductive. Recent studies in Mali highlight the poor perception of MINUSMA and Barkhane in the general population and also the political class. President Buhari promised an end to Boko Haram in December 2016, and has been resigned to negotiating with the extremist group. The socioeconomic conditions of marginalization and pauperization in Northern Nigeria are still intact. The root of the problem lies with inconsistencies in policies developed by our countries, or by the international community who neglects the necessary anthropological aspects and self criticism after a 40 year absence in the region which benefitted the peddlers of illusions and Salafism. It’s less about a lack of power than it is about a lack of will or prospective vision. Terrorism enacted an era of action under pressure, without taking into account the visions of partners in the global South.  In terms of the Sahel question, there is an enormous gap between the international approach and local perceptions. It’s time for a coordination of actions taken by Western powers and local initiatives, to avoid future conflicts of perception in the region.



Between fieldwork and conceptualization, you are trying to specify the “correct ways” in which to approach this subject, which is critical to stability in the Sahel…


The essence of terrorism is to be a long chain whose individual links may not be punishable by the law. Generally, we react only at the end of this chain, too late and inefficiently. Our state’s legislate retroactively and under pressure of an ongoing threat. In exchanges between State authorities, counter-terrorism is often conflated with a viable strategy to prevent violent extremism though the two are not the same. Faced with a complex phenomenon that does not even have a consensual definition, States remain complacent in their security based reaction and neglect the importance of equitable development and social justice. The G5 Sahel can be a useful tool if it is accorded more than military based content, and if it increases its presence in development and resilience. There must be a shift in paradigm and approach. It’s no coincidence that the United Nations strategy was reviewed in the articulation and identification of its priority axes, including inclusive and equitable growth, access to basic social services, climate and energy, and empowerment of women. What gives me the most hope amongst these initiatives is the will to involve women in countering violent extremism and to reduce their vulnerability, which will most likely happen through their economic empowerment.


Dr. Bakary Sambe is the Director of the Timbuktu Institute (Dakar), coordinator of the Observatory on radicalization and religious conflict in Africa, and political science professor with the Center for religious studies at the University of Gaston Berger of Saint Louis (Senegal). He accompanied the CellRad eatableishment within the G5 Sahel, and is currently implementing national strategies to counter violent extremism as part of the USAID Partner Projects for Peace (P4P) in West Africa.


As part of IOM's many efforts in producing expertise that can be mobilized by public policies and actors in the international community, an innovative study was conducted on youth violence in the Zinder region in relation to the extremist phenomenon. This new study was led by Timbuktu Institute through its Observatory of Radicals and Religious Brotherhoods in Africa under the direction of Dr. Bakary Sambe 

As the most populated region in Niger, Zinder is facing strong demographic growth and must address the growing needs of a youth representing more than 70 per cent of the population in the region (National Institute of Statistics, 2015). This demography, combined with one of the lowest schooling rates in the country, caused a serious employment crisis and social integration difficulties for a significant number of young adults and teenagers in Zinder. Since 2010, the alternating political power issue in Niger has been widely discussed publicly and raised social claims linked to these issues.

In the city of Zinder, young people created informal groups to compensate for the State and authorities’ lack of social and integration frameworks. These informal youth groups, called fadas or palais, are identified as the main actors responsible for urban violence in Zinder.

These groups sometimes act as gangs, and are often involved in crime, violent protests, drug use and trafficking. Thus, the proximity of Zinder with Northern Nigeria – together with linguistics, family and ethnic ties, and with important flows of people and trade between the two regions – raise the question of the potential influence of the extremist group Boko Haram, present in North Nigeria, on Zinder’s youth. This question is even more important that young people have reported that Boko Haram recruiters have been approaching young people from the fadas and palais since 2012.

In addition, violent religious demonstrations in the city of Zinder recently led to the destruction of public buildings, places of worship and Christian homes, together with attacks against Christians or people perceived as such. The research aims therefore to understand whether there is a correlation between the conventional youth violence and violent extremism based on religious motives or the use of violence motivated by or based on religious grounds. Building from individual interviews with young people from the fadas and palais and members of the local population, this study reveals the influence of the violent extremist ideology on young people from Zinder. They often get a rudimentary or indirect knowledge of Islam, through relatives or the Internet. They are also exposed to radical religious messages that are spread through social networks, traded or sold on CDs and USB drivers on the local market or through informal networks. In addition, charismatic religious leaders are supporting the spread of a rigorist and violent vision of the religion through regional preaching.

The mosques and Koranic schools are playing a key role in the dissemination of these ideas, as the religious speech became tougher, and is now affecting more than just the religious aspect. Thus, the study reveals that these messages and sermons are playing an important role in the knowledge and attraction young people have for actions led by extremist groups like Boko Haram. Furthermore, a significant number of young people have a positive vision of these actions, which they justify as acts of defiance towards a system perceived as unfair, as the State policies are not supporting people’s aspirations and are viewed as inadequate. Violence is perceived as a means of pressure and assertion against a State seen as a repressive entity, while the religion is perceived as the only tool available for social regulation. In Zinder, where there are several religious movements, the study noticed the rise of the izala Salafists, a religious group opposed to the traditional Islam practiced in Niger and close to the Sufis and Malekites.

Furthermore, young people’s interest for these rigorist practices and interpretations of Islam can be explained as a form of self-development, an identity assertion and a quest for meaning for young people facing precariousness, a lack of socioeconomic opportunities and marginalization. Surveyed young people come from neighbourhoods deemed to be violent and stigmatized as such, with lack of basic infrastructure and where marginalized people (such as people with leprosy, disabled, deaf or blind people) have been displaced. Most of them are unemployed, or have seasonal jobs, and depend on the food and financial assistance from their families. The unemployment and precariousness of young people in Zinder’s palais and fadas thus push many away from the traditional patterns of self-fulfilment and social recognition, making them vulnerable to recruitment by extremist groups. Supporting strict religious groups also allows them to define themselves against the religious heritage of their parents and the rest of the society, and thus to build an original personal identity. Finally, these young people often participate in their neighbourhoods’ informal economy, through drug trafficking, prostitution or theft. For some of these young offenders, religious motives tend to socially legitimize violence, an offence punishable under criminal law.

By becoming “defenders” of the values and religious causes, they gain some social recognition. Overall, surveyed young people think that the factors explaining violent extremism are poverty, social exclusion and injustice, but they also argue that political and religious leaders play an important role in the indoctrination and manipulation of the youth, including through financial incentives. They also point out the role of the preaching centres and Koranic schools for spreading extremist and violent ideologies. Despite the distrust expressed towards the State, the majority of young people think that the State is the stakeholder that is most likely to prevent violent extremism, along with religious leaders. The authors made the following main recommendations:

  • Promoting local dialogue frameworks, especially for intergenerational dialogue;
  • Re-engaging the State in the most deprived neighbourhoods;
  • Implementing a mediation policy with the assistance of religious leaders;
  • Adding the prevention of violent extremism in advocacy policies;
  • Promoting the rehabilitating and reintegrating process of former violent perpetrators;
  • Developing policies for combating young people’s precarious conditions and poverty, in particular through implementing training centres and supporting entrepreneurship;
  • Implementing a conflict management system at the neighbourhood level; and • Creating recreational centres and youth development frameworks.

 Download the Full report here :

L’émotion fut à son comble ce 30 avril à l’avenue Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar, demeure de son Excellence Monsieur Ahmed Khalifa Niasse. L’équipe de Timbuktu Institute, constituée de son directeur Monsieur Bakary Sambe, des chercheurs et stagiaires de l’institut, comblée de joie et de fierté, a voulu rendre visite à Monsieur Ahmed Khalifa Niasse et célébrer, avec lui, la reconnaissance qu’il venait de bénéficier de la part de l’une des plus prestigieuses écoles de par le monde.


À l’instar de tous les Sénégalais, Timbuktu Institute a  appris que le titre « Docteur Honoris Causa » a été décerné à Ahmed Khalifa Niasse par l’École de Commerce de Lyon. Mais à travers lui, c’est tout le peuple sénégalais qui a été récompensé. N’empêche qu’il fallait que cela passe par Monsieur Niasse, et seulement par lui. Lui le guide religieux, le Doomu Daara qui a surpassé, par la finesse de son esprit et la pertinence de ses analyses, des chercheurs parmi les plus réputés. De ce point de vue, ce titre est vu par Timbuktu Institute comme une sorte d’encouragement aux Domou Daara et aux arabisants qui ne devront plus souffrir d’un quelconque complexe d’infériorité.


La visite était aussi l’occasion de saluer l’homme d’action qu’il est et qui, par le biais de ses fondations et soutiens qu’il accorde aux plus démunis, fait preuve d’un humanisme dont le monde a aujourd’hui, et plus que jamais, besoin. À ce propos, l’équipe de Timbuktu Institute a profité de sa rencontre avec Ahmed Khalifa Niasse pour lui exprimer sa joie de voir le guide religieux signer la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Humanité dont il est, sur le continent noir, l’Ambassadeur.


De son côté, Son Excellence Monsieur Ahmed Khalifa Niasse, vêtu de son joli boubou rouge, a salué le travail de Timbuktu Institute après avoir remercié son Directeur ainsi que ses associés pour lui avoir fait l’amitié de lui rendre visite. Il les a aussi exhortés de continuer à promouvoir le dialogue, la paix et le culte de la connaissance pour faire face aux idées et tentatives extrémistes.


Convivialité et amitié, ces deux mots pourraient résumer cet après-midi du 30 avril qui a eu le mérite de solidifier les relations entre Timbuktu Institute et Monsieur Ahmed Khalifa Niasse, l’une des plus grandes fiertés de la nation sénégalaise.

L’Institut Timbuktu a décidemment fait de la lutte contre le terrorisme sienne. En effet, dans ce même cadre, l’institut a entrepris de former l’ensemble des professionnels de la presse locale et des radios communautaires du département de Mbour sur le thème central « Médias, sécurité et cohésion sociale : entre libertés, déontologie et responsabilité ».

Dans un communiqué parvenu à notre rédaction, les autorité de l’Institut ont indiqué l’objectif de cette formation organisée « en coopération entre Timbuktu Institute et la Fondation Konrad Adenauer est, notamment, d’offrir aux journalistes et reporters des radios communautaires les pré-requis de la notion de terrorisme, les exigences du traitement de l’information liée à l’extrémisme violent ainsi que les outils de renforcement de la paix et de la cohésion sociale dans une sous-région en pleine mutation géopolitique ».

Dans la foulée, la même source informe que cette session de formation qui aura lieu le mercredi 02 mai 2018 à 10H à l’hôtel Coco Beach de Mbour, en présence du représentant résident de la fondation Konrad Adenauer au Sénégal et nos invités sera l’occasion d'échanger sur les enjeux sécuritaires du Sahel et le traitement de l’information sur les questions de paix et de sécurité afin de contribuer à une meilleure cohésion sociale dans notre pays.

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​Le rapport 2018, de Timbuktu Institute classe à trois niveau les facteurs de la radicalisation des jeunes dans les zones frontalières sénégalo-mauritaniennes à savoir les tendances rassurantes, mitigées et préoccupantes.

Les résultats sur l'étude de perception pour mieux comprendre le phénomène sur les facteurs de radicalisation des jeunes dans les zones frontalières du Sénégal et de la Mauritanie (Rosso) ont été présentés vendredi. Et, pour une meilleure présentation des résultats de l’étude, Timbuktu Institute a procédé à une classification des tendances.  

Sur les tendances rassurantes, le document stipule que «les jeunes de Rosso résistent encore majoritairement à la percée des mouvements développant un discours plus ou moins radical et rejettent les discours appelant à la violence». Et, «les jeunes de cette localité restent très attachés, à une écrasante majorité, aux confréries soufies qui assurent un travail d’encadrement social à travers les dahiras (cellules confrériques) et autres organisations dépendantes ; ce qui expliquerait la faible présence de mouvements extrémistes», révèle-t-il. 

En ce qui concerne les tendances mitigées, Timbuktu Institute qui a fait appel à la méthodologie de l’enquête CAP (Connaissances, Attitudes et Pratiques), informe qu’ «il y a une vraie méconnaissance du phénomène de l’extrémisme violent chez les jeunes de Rosso. Cela pourrait s’expliquer par un déficit d’information et un accès difficile aux médias ainsi qu’à l’absence d’actions de sensibilisation de la part de l’Etat et de la société civile». 

Poursuivant, elle souligne que : «les mêmes signaux de vulnérabilité économique et de précarité sociale (chômage, pauvreté, exclusion sociale) notés en banlieue dakaroise lors de notre précédente étude, se retrouvent chez ces jeunes d’une localité reculée présentant toutes les caractéristiques d’une marginalisation territoriale».  

Pour la troisième catégorie de cette classification, à savoir les «tendances préoccupantes»,  l’Institut renseigne que : «le phénomène général de dualité du système éducatif sénégalais se retrouve nettement dans cette région. Cette situation fait persister un sentiment d’exclusion et de marginalisation des jeunes scolarisés dans les écoles religieuses et dans le système dit « arabo-islamique». 

Dans ce rapport, Timbuktu Institute à formuler des recommandations pour lutter contre ces menaces. Pour elle, il faut entre autres «s’attaquer aux causes profondes de la précarité à travers une politique efficiente de promotion de l’emploi des jeunes". Elle signale par ailleurs, que : «cette étude a donné des résultants plus rassurants en termes de résilience par rapport à ceux constatés lors du rapport de 2016 dans la banlieue Dakar».  

Timbuktu Institute a invité «les organes de presse à la vigilance par rapport à certains chiffres avancés et sans fondements dans ce rapport qu’il met à la disposition des chercheurs, des décideurs comme des médias pour une exploitation la plus objective et transparente». 


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Bakary Sambe, le directeur exécutif du ‘’Timbuktu Institute’’, un centre dédié à la ‘’lutte contre l’extrémisme‘’, a appelé, vendredi, à Dakar, à ‘’une réflexion nationale sérieuse‘’ sur la qualité du ‘’leadership religieux‘’ et le basculement de certains jeunes dans l’‘’extrémisme violent‘’.
‘’Après le procès que nous sommes en train de vivre au Sénégal, il faudra une réflexion nationale sérieuse sur deux questions importantes, pour savoir ce que le leadership religieux n’a pas fait pour que les jeunes disent qu’ils vont aller apprendre l’islam au Nigeria ou chez Aboubakar Shekau (le leader du groupe djihadiste Boko Haram, Ndlr)’’, a dit M. Sambe.

Le second volet de cette ‘’réflexion nationale’’ doit porter sur les causes du ‘’désespoir’’ poussant des jeunes à ‘’basculer dans l’extrémisme violent’’, selon cet enseignant-chercheur de l’Université Gaston-Berger de Saint-Louis. 

Bakary Sambe s’exprimait en marge d’un atelier de restitution des résultats d’une étude du ‘’Timbuktu Institute’’ sur ‘’les facteurs de radicalisation et la perception du terrorisme chez les jeunes dans les zones frontalières du Sénégal et de la Mauritanie’’.
Il faut trouver des réponses à ces ‘’questions’’, avec ‘’une politique éducative cohérente, un système de production d’emplois pour les jeunes et la prise en compte des [questions religieuses]’’, a-t-il ajouté.
‘’Les résultats de cette étude ont été beaucoup plus rassurants que ceux qui avaient été obtenus dans la banlieue dakaroise il y a deux ans. Mais ils posent un certain nombre de questions, parmi lesquelles le niveau d’information très insuffisant des jeunes sur ce phénomène (les facteurs de radicalisation)’’, a souligné M. Sambe. 

Il estime que l’Etat du Sénégal doit ‘’aller vers la sensibilisation’’ des jeunes, ‘’pour qu’ils ne soient pas la proie des recruteurs’’ des filières djihadistes.